As part of the commonwealth’s response to the Novel Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) issued guidance to assist all local education agencies (LEAs) with developing and implementing local Health and Safety Plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Health and Safety Plans must take into consideration unique factors of each LEA related to the impacts of COVID-19 and local health conditions. Health and Safety Plans must include a plan to communicate to their enrolled families how the LEA will mitigate risk and outline strategies to prevent virus transmission. PDE’s guidance allows LEAs to consider flexible attendance policies for students and staff as a mitigation strategy to prevent virus transmission and ensure a healthy school environment. PDE’s guidance also allows LEAs to consider in-person, remote instruction, or a hybrid of the two options.
As Pennsylvania LEAs and private schools are finalizing and announcing plans for the 2020-21 academic school year, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) is becoming increasingly aware that many school districts are implementing hybrid or full remote instruction models for the 2020-21 school year. These announcements have raised questions about this coming school year and how families with children enrolled in Kindergarten or beyond will be supported if they need expanded child care.
The most common questions coming into the office are:
1. Can school age children enroll in child care if their schools have announced moving to part-time or full-time remote instruction?
- Yes, during the 2020-21 school year, children whose schools have announced various schedule changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can enroll in child care. If the district has announced that children will not attend school for face to face instruction, then working families can enroll children in child care during those days.
2. Will OCDEL revise the school-age blended rate for children attending child care during the portion of the day, that has typically been considered “school hours”?
- OCDEL and the Department of Human Services intend to support children’s enrollment to the greatest extent possible. We are working to issue a policy announcement clarifying the response to this question further. Currently Pennsylvania and many other states are waiting for clarification from the federal Office of Child Care. The Office of Child Care anticipates providing guidance to states next week.
3. Will non-licensed programs be able to serve school age children?
- Yes. Enrollment in a licensed child care facility is preferred, however, part-day school age programs will be able to enroll school-age children during the 2020-21 school year. Enrolled children must be kindergarten age or older. A separate targeted announcement will be issued to provide guidance on notifying the Department of operations during COVID-19.
Over the next few weeks, OCDEL will continue to share information and responses to questions. Until then, I hope this brief update allows programs to move forward with plans for the upcoming year.
Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning