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Stronger Together: Early Learning and Care

Part of Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools. Created through the Reopening Schools Task Force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices.

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Early learning and care (ELC) programs are critical to the California economy. Many essential workers have children who require supervision and care while they perform their essential functions in the community. These children need a safe, quality environment with rich learning experiences and responsive interactions while their parents work.

Many school districts have ELC programs located on the school site that serve infants and toddlers or preschoolers during the day or operate as before or after school programs. The majority of these programs have contracts to provide care that are overseen by the CDE Early Learning and Care Division (ELCD) while other schools might operate an Early Head Start or Head Start program or use Title 1 funds for early learning.

Local school systems may want to consider reopening ELC programs on their campuses even if other classrooms remain closed in order to ensure families in their communities have adequate care for their children while they are at work. (See the CDC guidance [The preceding link is no longer available] and additional guidance from CDSS as available for more information about making the decision to reopen.)

As LEA ELC programs make decisions about whether and how to reopen in adherence to local and state health directives, they should ensure compliance with all program requirements. To ensure the health and safety of staff and children, programs should utilize resources developed by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and by ELCD outlining new regulations and operating procedures.

LEA ELC program providers will need to be well-resourced with cleaning and medical supplies, paying specific attention to handwashing stations, use of PPE by staff—face coverings at a minimum, and disinfecting procedures for all shared surfaces and materials, including toys and other manipulatives. (See MB 20-06 and PIN 20-06-CCP External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) for additional guidance.) All staff and children should minimally undergo temperature checks at the start of each day and appropriate actions should be taken as health concerns including, but not limited to, a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or known exposures to COVID-19 arise.

LEA ELC program providers should also take steps to ensure their ability to maintain reasonable physical distancing prior to reopening, including the following:

  • Adhering, to the extent possible, to best practices guidance issued by the CDSS and ELCD regarding group size and ratios while also maintaining contractual requirements, unless waived.
  • Instituting procedures to ensure children are grouped in the same configuration, with the same staff throughout the day and restrict mixing between groups. This may require reconfiguring the physical space (e.g., deconstructing centers to ensure access to all types of activities for all children) or moving children between physical spaces throughout the day.
  • Closing or repurposing communal spaces such as cafeterias and libraries while implementing physical distancing procedures. Such spaces may offer opportunities for reconfiguring to support smaller groups of children.
  • Maximizing outdoor time for children in accordance with schedules to rotate use and allow for cleaning of any shared materials or equipment.
  • Utilizing head-to-toe placement of children and creating physical barriers, as needed, to protect children and ensure distancing during naptimes.
  • Staggering arrival and pick-up times to limit direct contact with and between parents and caregivers to the greatest extent possible and creating processes such as curb pick-up or different doors for entering and exiting to the greatest extent possible.

For additional guidance on implementing physical distancing with young children, see recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) External link opens in new window or tab., recommendations from the University of California San Francisco Child Care Health Center External link opens in new window or tab., and guidance in MB 20-06.

ELCD will continue to support contractors who are unable to reopen and supplement providers who do reopen as funding and Executive Orders prevail. (See MB 20-11 and MB 20-06.)

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Questions:   California Department of Education |
Last Reviewed: Monday, December 6, 2021
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