Canadian Schools Have Been Preparing for a Pandemic for Years

The media makes it seem like schools and teachers around the world have been scrambling to ensure teaching and learning continuity for students. Meanwhile, in Canada, school district administrators, principals and teachers, went into their archives to find the plans that were developed for just such an emergency. You see, way back in 2003 Canada was hit hard by SARS. We learned a great deal from it and somewhere in our collective psyche, we knew it wasn’t going to be the only pandemic. As a result, school districts and boards across Canada began asking themselves, how do we prepare for a pandemic? No one had any clear answers, but they developed plans, just in case. Here are a sampling of just a few of these pandemic planning guides produced across Canada, many of them from school districts or boards. I have included the year of publication, so you can see how far back we have been publishing guidance for school administrators and teachers about how to prepare for a pandemic — These guides date back to 2005 and there were more I could not retrieve because the websites are now defunct.

All the documents I’ve shared in this post had live links to the plans at the time I wrote this post.

British Columbia

Pandemic Response Framework: and Pandemic Planning Guidelines for School Districts, British Columbia Ministry of Education (2009)

Pandemic Response Plan, School District No. 78 (Fraser-Cascade), British Columbia (BC) – 2009 

British Columbia Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan: Guidelines for Planning, Response and Recovery (2005)


Pandemic Response Plan – Horizon School Division (2009)


A Guide for School Board Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (2015)


Pandemic Influenza: Preparedness Guidelines for Manitoba School Divisions and Schools (K-12) (2007)


Pandemic Action Plan, Northwest Catholic District School Board (2009)

Renfrew County & District Pandemic Influenza Plan: A Planning Guide for Housing, Residential and Social Service Providers (2006)

Toronto Pandemic Influenza Plan: Appendix 1.2 — A Planning Guide for Schools (2007)

Atlantic Canada

Two educators from Nova Scotia, Howard & Howard (2012) published a great article on elementary school teachers’ experience with H1N1.

Canada’s doctors published years ago about how to ensure Canada’s children were safe during a pandemic (see Langley, 2006).

And Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam? Well, she has been leading research teams on publications about pandemics in Canada since 2005, too.

So don’t believe the hype. In true Canadian style, we have been quietly and modestly preparing for this for years… So, when Canadian schools and universities make decisions about what they’re going to do for the fall 2020 semester and beyond, trust us when we say that we may not have all the answers, but we sure have been thinking about all this for a long time.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

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