Back to School Means What for Providers?

We are hearing that providers are making adjustments to their business policies and program offerings to accommodate health and safety considerations raised by COVID-19 for summer care with success, but questions have begun to arise again looking at what “back to school” is going to look like and that impact on care.

Family child care programs are unique and no one solution will be right for everyone. The information in this post is presented to provide general information and links to resources, so you can make the right decision for your program. As we all know information keeps being updated as more is learned about COVID-19. We will continue to do our best to post updated information in our “COVID-19” section of the website menu.

First, any changes you make to policies need to be relayed to each child’s legal guardians. Whether you do this verbally or written, be sure to get a signature indicating they have been informed. This can easily be done on one signature sheet that you maintain in your records. For providers that provide their handbook in hard copy you do not need to reprint your whole handbook for these changes, you can provide an addendum. For those that handle their handbook in a digital format, you also need to have a record of legal guardian sign-off.

It is recommended to keep each policy as clear and simple as possible. In keeping the language as general as possible, you do not need to change it continually. Providers have been asking if they need a separate COVID-19 policy. We continue to suggest you look at your existing illness management policy. Many providers will find their existing policy will cover COVID-19. We also suggest you consider that COVID-19 may not be an isolated health situation and that we have other known community illnesses, such as seasonal flu, whooping cough, and TB. Tom Copeland refers to “public health emergency” language in an April ’20 post about payments during COVID-19. Such language meets that idea of being general, yet clear, and could be used in an illness management policy.

In regards to exclusion from school and bus, we understand schools will be working from the symptoms in the image below. They will definitely be using “most common”, but we have also heard they will be looking at all the listed symptoms. Again it’s good to directly check with any school you have children attending.

Family child care programs are small businesses and have the right to decide their own policies and practices. FCC programs are not schools, but having knowledge of what children will be experiencing in school is important. Having this knowledge also strengthens your relationship with your care children and families. As providers we are often a primary resource for our families. Here is the link to the Maine Department of Education website that provides information on what public schools are going to be required to do to open, to address safe practices, to address a case of COVID-19. Here are some bullet points pull from the complete opening framework:

COVID-19 Pre-Screening Tool for School Attendance ~ DOE provided for distribution to families

The following information is from a 7/29/20 news release by Pender Makin, Commissioner, Maine DOE:

RED – YELLOW – GREEN
On Friday, July 31, Maine CDC will provide us with a breakdown of relative community health risk levels per county, and we will be posting this on the MDOE COVID-19 webpage. The color-coded list of counties is generated by Maine CDC’s team of medical/health officials, epidemiologists, and researchers and is based on several data points using a rolling 2-week average; the county risk levels will be updated every 2 weeks thereafter.  (This might be a good link for providers to access to stay informed about what is happening within the communities of their care families.)

If the requirements, including physical distancing of 3-6’ for students and 6’ for adults, exceed the capacity of your schools and facilities, you will need to implement a hybrid model to reduce the number of students who attend school at the same time, even in a “green” county designation.  (Here’s the first impact on scheduling care slots that providers are concerned about. The other question is impact change when all are at distance learning.)

How schools are able to open and remain open could impact you financially. While providers have been working to figure out fees and payment through the spring and summer around COVID-19 issues, with school opening we are hearing additional concerns. Providers are questioning care slot usage, waivers, and fee levels (especially for changing care that cannot be scheduled). Again there is no clear cut answer around handling fee payment as each program’s situation is unique. We encourage you think about questions such as:

  • Are you the primary income source for your family?
  • What is the minimum income needed to maintain your business and support your family?
  • What savings cushion do you have?
  • What is the known financial situation for your client families? Essential worker, paid working at home, subsidy, etc.
  • What are you comfortable enforcing payment policy wise?

As you work through what solutions work best for your program, we encourage you to read Tom Copeland’s April 1, 2020 post: Can Providers Require Parents to Pay During This Crisis?.