The provincial government has launched an online screening tool to help parents and students understand whether it is OK for them to attend classes.

The online tool is optional. It takes parents or students through a series of questions to help determine whether they may have COVID-19 or whether they may have recently been exposed to COVID-19.

The screening tool asks simple questions, such as whether the student has recently been exposed to someone who has tested positive, and whether they have a fever or other symptoms.

The test then provides an advisory about whether it is safe to go to school or whether a student should stay home or seek testing for COVID-19.

The results of the self-screening assessment can then be downloaded as a PDF and printed off. The province says the online tool does not collect any personal health information.

The test only takes a minute or two to complete and the province says it will help students, parents and teachers better understand whether it is safe for them to go to school.

Announcing the free tool at a news conference Wednesday, Premier Doug Ford urged everyone attending a school setting to make use of it.

“Please use this tool to help with screening your child for symptoms before they go to school every day,” Ford said. “Teachers and school staff should also use this tool to screen themselves before they come to school. If someone is sick, even with mild symptoms, they should stay home. It's absolutely critical.”

Ford also urged employers to be understanding if parents need to stay home or leave work to pull their kids from school due to COVID-19 exposure.

Local school boards in some jurisdictions have launched their own online self-assessment tools and some of them, including the Toronto District School Board, are requiring proof of daily screening before students are allowed to attend classes.

“It's just another step we're taking to improve the safety of our schools,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Wednesday, adding that it will give parents “some clear instruction” on whether their child should be going to school.

“If you have COVID-19 symptoms, please stay home and seek public health advice,” Lecce said.

The new screening tool comes as thousands of kids across the province return to in-person classes, and also as a growing number of schools report COVID-19 cases.

Lecce noted that the province also recently launched a website listing daycare centres and publicly-funded schools where there have been COVID-19 cases.  The site does not track COVID-19 cases at private schools. As of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, it listed 41 school-related cases.

The province released its COVID Alert app earlier this summer. The app uses Bluetooth technology to let people know whether they have been in recent proximity of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.