The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) announced last week revised Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety outlining expectations for child care providers as the Commonwealth continues to navigate reopening child care programs in the COVID-19 environment.
Effective Sept. 1, these new requirements align with guidance previously issued by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and ease restrictions on classroom group sizes and ratios. They allow limited on-site services for children with special needs to occur safely in child care facilities. The updates will provide flexibility for programs, while providing necessary space to maintain physical distancing between children.
The Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety, developed in coordination with medical experts as well as child care providers from across the Commonwealth, apply to all child and youth serving programs, including home-based child care and center-based child care.
“While we all must remain vigilant against the transmission of COVID-19, the updates to our requirements will ensure children and families can remain healthy and safe when relying on child care to go to work,” said Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy. “We are confident in our providers’ ability to continue safely meeting the needs of children and families in their communities while supporting children’s learning and development.”
The Department’s mission in reopening child care is to increase access to child and youth serving programs while continuing to protect children and staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19. EEC and the Department of Public Health (DPH) are working closely with stakeholders and experts in the field of epidemiology and pediatrics to develop solutions that balance the needs of children and families with public health and safety.
The Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety include, but are not limited to:
•Returning center-based classroom group sizes to pre-pandemic limits.
•Allowing home-based child care providers flexibility in their maximum group size when their own children are at home and engaged in virtual learning.
Governor Baker issued an Executive Order requiring all early education centers and family childcare providers to close on March 23 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) also issued emergency procedures to open Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs during the COVID-19 outbreak to give priority access for families of emergency personnel, medical staff, and others critical to confronting COVID-19.
Child care programs began the reopening process on June 22 when the Commonwealth moved to Step 2 of Phase 2. Providers had to submit plans to reopen to ensure they were prepared to implement the health and safety requirements. Before child care was temporarily closed by Executive Order in March, Massachusetts had approximately 8,200 licensed child care programs in operation. To date, more than 5,300 child care programs have reopened, and another 1,000 are currently completing their health and safety plans to be approved to reopen.