Support for School Readiness and VPK Providers: COVID-19
April 22, 2020
April 22, 2020
Dear SR and VPK Providers:
First of all, we would like to thank you for your dedication in serving our young children as well as providing support for families during this time. The health and safety of our children, families, and providers’ staff is of utmost importance.
CARES Act Support for Early Care and Education
The federal CARES Act was recently passed and designed to provide relief for Florida’s school readiness providers and families. Funds are allowed to be used to:
- Provide continued payments to providers due to decreased enrollment or closure – Implemented in March for both School Readiness and VPK programs.
- Provide child care assistance to first responders and health care workers without income limits – Implemented in April.
- Support all providers to maintain or resume operations – Planning.
We will provide more information as soon as it is available.
Maintaining a Safe and Clean Environment
Whether you are open, closed or planning to reopen, the following resources will be of assistance:
- Centers for Disease Control - Supplemental Guidance for Child Care Programs that Remain Open.
- Florida Department of Children and Families – Child Care Services.
- Centers for Disease Control – Caring for Children.
- Centers for Disease – Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-COV-2.
In addition, DCF has posted Guidance for Child Care Providers that is available here.
Reimbursements for School Readiness and VPK Programs
You were notified that for March and April, you will be reimbursed based on enrollment rather than attendance. This is an effort to help financially support your day-to-day operations, including paying teachers’ wages or incentives to retain your work force. Based on your current School Readiness and VPK enrollments, we understand that these funds alone may not be sufficient to cover all of your payroll expenses, but are expecting that these funds, in part, be allocated to wages or bonuses to retain your staff. The CARES Act encourages states to place conditions on continue payments to child care centers. OEL will require the following:
- For providers that are closed, you will be required to complete an online survey monthly that will ask information related to your closure and certify that you are using some of the funds received to pay the wages or incentives to your VPK and SR staff. We anticipate that the first survey will be available the first week of May. We will work with your coalition to provide you with the results of your survey as soon as possible.
- For providers that are open, no additional action is required at this time.
A reminder that beginning in April, NO parent co-payments should be collected from ANY school readiness family.
School Readiness: Increasing Access to Child Care for First Responders and Health Care Workers
We have worked with your early learning coalition to expand our current referral process to include children of first responders and health care workers, ages birth – 13. If you have a current contract for school readiness services, you may be eligible to offer these services and receive a bonus for serving these children. We will have more details on the bonus for serving these children soon. Current information is available here and here. Please remember that these parents are not to be charged parent co-payments.
School Readiness: Access to Ages and Stages Questionnaire
School Readiness providers who remain open are welcome to administer the Ages and Stages Questionnaire.
VPK: Access to VPK Assessment
VPK providers who remain open are welcome to administer AP3 to VPK children in attendance during the testing window; however, it is not required. If you choose to administer AP3 you should:
- Enter the results into the Online Reporting System on the Bright Beginnings Website.
- Mark children as “Did Not Participate” in the Online Reporting System for children who are absent during the AP3 testing window.
- Contact the VPK Assessment Helpdesk at firstname.lastname@example.org with any specific questions about the VPK Assessment and the Online Reporting System.
There are a lot of early learning resources for family engagement: birth - five posted here. One of the newest items is the Office of Early Learning’s Online Supports and Resources for Families here. We hope you find these helpful as you continue to connect with your parents and families.
The Department of Education and the Office of Early Learning remain committed to providing up-to-date information and guidance to our early learning community to address concerns of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The health and safety of our children, families, and providers’ staff continues to be of utmost importance.
Again, we appreciate your commitment to care for all of Florida’s children.
Shan Goff, Executive Director, Office of Early Learning