Covid-19 Updates

The Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, and Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas are committed to providing up-to-date information and guidance to our early learning community to address concerns. The health and safety of our School Readiness (SR) and Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) students, families, providers and staff is of utmost importance. This information will be updated as necessary while our communities mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

The below precautions and changes will be taken until further notice, as recommended by the above entities.

Contact staff with questions or concerns at 727-548-1439 or info@elcpinellas.org.

We are pleased to announce that we will be reopening our Clearwater office starting September 21st. Appointments and access to the self-service kiosks will be limited in order to observe social distancing. We will continue to offer appointments over the phone and virtually. The ELC field staff will also start conducting in-person consultations for a max of 15 minutes a session upon request from providers.

 The ELC is taking added precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Appointments only – You must call the ELC office (727-400-4411) and schedule an eligibility appointment.

Self-service kiosk – Families may use the self-service kiosk to upload documents on a limited basis.

Must wear a mask – Guests/staff must wear a mask at all times in the office/building.

Temperature checks conducted on all guests upon entry.

Enforcing social distancing – Guest must stay a safe distance (at least 6 feet apart) from other individuals.                Lobby capacity will be limited.

Practice respiratory etiquette – Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or inner elbow.

Avoid touching your face – particularly eyes, nose and mouth with hands.

Use hand sanitizer – Whenever it is not possible to wash your hands, please use one of the designated hand sanitizer stations throughout the office/building.

For Families
We continue to serve families and providers via email, telephone, and online.

The Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, and Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas are committed to providing up-to-date information and guidance to our early learning community to address concerns. The health and safety of our School Readiness (SR) and Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) students, families, providers and staff is of utmost importance. This information will be updated as necessary while our communities mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Contact staff with questions or concerns at 727-400-4411 or info@elcpinellas.org.

Policy Waivers Include:

  • Voluntary PreK Attendance: VPK providers will be reimbursed based on enrollment after the students’ first day of attendance through the September service period. This includes child absences and intermittent closures due to COVID-19. Beginning October 1. providers will be paid in accordance with the VPK Uniform Attendance Rule.
  • Parent copayments for School Readiness Families: Waiving parent copayments regardless of income, effective through October 31, 2020. Providers may still charge applicable differentials. Note: Parent copayments do not apply to Emergency Care Scholarships (BG1-ESS).
  • School Readiness Attendance: SR Providers will be reimbursed based on enrollment after the student’s first day of attendance through the September service period based this includes child absences and intermittent closures due to COVID-19.  
  • Full Time School Age Care: Eligible school age children participating in PCS Online or PCS Virtual School, may attend a School Readiness program full-time.
  • School Readiness Eligibility Redetermination extensions have ended. Redetermination will be processed as scheduled. Parents/guardians are notified by email via the Family Portal of impending deadlines.
  • Expanding purpose for care to establish School Readiness eligibility and for families applying to the waitlist. Effective May 13 through September 30, 2020.
    • Documented “Job search” can be used as a purpose for care.
    • The 20 hour per week of work/education requirements for initial eligibility are suspended.
  • Emergency Care Scholarship Information:
    • First responders and essential health care workers families will receive services with a valid referral issued in three-month increments as long as the provisions of the executive order remain in effect.
    • No new referrals will be accepted after July 31, 2020. First responders and essential health care workers families receiving ESS services prior to July 31, 2020, may continue to receive services upon employer referral renewal as long as the provisions of the executive order remain in effect or OEL otherwise determines an end date for the program. Eligible families must renew their Emergency Care Scholarship prior to the expiration of their current referral.
    • If a referral is not renewed and the family’s income is less than 85% of the State Median Income, the family will have three months to re-establish eligibility to continue to receive child care services. Families with higher incomes will no longer be able to participate, as the state focuses on serving those families with the highest need.

FAMILY -FAQ

The Department of Education has approved flexible, innovative options for some VPK providers.  These options are limited. If you are not comfortable having your child physically attend a VPK program we encourage you to talk to your VPK provider. VPK programs offered through private preschools are not required to operate on the public school calendar. This means providers can modify their start dates or add additional classes that start later in the year.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no restriction on how many times a child may reenroll in another VPK program. When a child reenrolls more than once, it is called a subsequent reenrollment exemption.

Yes. We recognize parents may need alternative care arrangements. Keep in mind, if you choose to transfer, you may lose your spot at your original provider. Please note, if your child is attending a program that has been instructed to quarantine by the Pinellas County Department of Health, your transfer may be delayed.

School Readiness Parent and guardians can obtain a transfer form from our website. Please fax in your transfer form to 727-400-4486. Within 2 business days, you must log into your family portal account (https://familyservices.floridaearlylearning.com/Account/Login). It is your responsibility to sign the payment certificate in order to complete the process and ensure proper payments to the new provider.

Please click here for a full list or contact our Child Care Resource and Referral (CCRR) department at (727) 400 - 4411. Please option 3, then select option 3 again to speak to our staff.

All School Readiness (SR) parent fees will be waived, effective April 1 to September 30. Providers may still charge applicable differentials.

Note: Parent copayments do not apply to Emergency Care Scholarships (BG1-ESS).

School Readiness providers are reimbursed for up to 10 child absences in a month. The first three absences are automatically excused. The 4th and 5th absences require documentation from the parent or doctor. The 6th through 10th absences require a doctor’s note to be eligible for payment.

Yes. Our offices and lobbies are closed, but we continue to serve families virtually. Parents and Guardians can call 727-400-4411 to schedule a phone/online interview. Please confirm your selected childcare site is open and accepting children before scheduling an appointment. 

Yes. We are continually enrolling children from the waiting list based upon the availability of funds. Eligible children attending VPK can “jump” the waitlist and enroll in School Readiness or Prek All Day with no waiting.

Yes. If your referral is ending and Florida is still in a state of emergency due to COVID-19, your employer can submit a Renewal referral. Renewal referrals must be submitted prior to the expiration in order to continue services.

 

Examples of documentation for job search include submitted application for reemployment assistance, receipt of reemployment assistance or a completed job search form used for reemployment assistance services from the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

Examples of documentation for a reduction in hours include employer verification or paystubs showing a reduction in hours due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Documentation the parent is furloughed or on temporary layoff as defined by DOE is also sufficient to establish purpose for care with less than 20 hours of employment and/or education activity.

Families that initially qualify for School Readiness with “job search” as a purpose for care will be given 3 months initially to establish a different purpose for care.

  1. Families that qualify for School Readiness with less than 20 hours of work and/or education activities will be given 3 months to establish a purpose for care meeting the minimum hour requirements.

More Resources

General Information [Florida Department of Health] 

Up-to-date facts and figures about the Coronavirus in Florida. Includes this interactive map to examine specific counties and track progression over time.  

 Fact-Checking Misinformation [World Health Organization] 

The World Health Organization (WHO) corrects many of the misconceptions surrounding the Coronavirus such as interaction with the weather, potential causes, and dietary interactions.  

Compiled below are a variety of different services, resources, and guides to help ease discomfort for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to update this information in the coming days and weeks as the situation evolves.  

Internet & Phone Services [FL Department of Education] 

To help families access various resources, a number of companies are offering heavily discounted or free services for individuals that qualify. AT&T is offering new customers 2 months of free home WiFi service. T-Mobile has suspended data-limits and late-fees. These and offerings from Microsoft, Verizon, Comcast, Spectrum, and more are listed here.  

Florida State University Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy

The COVID 19 pandemic offers a critical opportunity to share your unique skills in coping with stress and trauma. Many of us and the families we serve may be shifting through the stages of change and grief----denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance---about this pandemic. You may be adjusting to telehealth and virtual visits but know that our families need your reassurance and help in regulating and coping. To help, we’ve compiled many great resources. Visit our page.

NAEYC

Our hearts go out to all who have been infected by COVID-19 and those whose lives have been disrupted by this pandemic.  We are particularly concerned about the significant impacts this public health crisis is likely to have on our nation's child care and early learning programs, including educators, families, and children. We’ve compiled these online resources to provide information from NAEYC and a few national health and educational organizations. Visit our page.

Meals at schools [Pinellas County Schools] 

The Food and Nutrition Team will be distributing some free meals, breakfast, and lunch,  at nine schools this week for Pinellas County Schools students ages 18 and younger. A list of food distribution locations is here.  

Food Pantry Locator [Food Finder] 

Via mobile app or website, foodfinder.us quickly and easily locates a number of different food pantries in an area. Simply input a zip-code to generate a list of pantries with address, phone and more.  

Getting Groceries During Quarantine [EatRight.org] 

To help limit potential exposure time, have a grocery list ready before heading to the store, and focus on foods with longer shelf-lives such as flour, grains, canned goods to help reduce the number of trips needed and maintain social distancing.  

More Tips & Resources [EatRight.org] 

To help keep meals nutritional throughout the pandemic, eatright.org offers several articles on such topics as minimizing food waste, making family cooking fun, properly cleaning ingredients and more. 

Summer Meals [Summer BreakSpot]
Summer BreakSpot provides nutritious meals at no cost to children 18 and under while school is out for the summer. Meal sites are located at parks, libraries and churches and offer breakfasts, lunches, snacks or supper. Text FLKIDSMEALS to 211-211 to find the closest Summer BreakSpot. Or call 2-1-1 and ask the operator.

Employment opportunities around Tampa Bay [WFLA] 

From Dollar General to PepsiCo, many local companies are hiring hundreds of new staff.  

Reemployment Assistance [Florida Department of Economic Opportunity]  

Individuals laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period and those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with the Coronavirus may qualify for temporary wage replacement.  

Employer Paid Leave Requirements [Families First Response Act] 

Details on Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical leave for employees impacted by the Coronavirus.

Florida Blue extends access to members 

Many members who have coverage through their employer are able to have a teladoc appointment for $0 cost-share. Further, they are waiving copays and deductibles related to the medical test for the virus and extending prescription refill limits in certain circumstances.

Price Gouging Hotline [State of Florida] 

If you experience a case of someone charging drastically inflated prices for items such as hand sanitizer or medical masks, reports can be made by calling 866-966-7226. More info here.

Early Learning At Home

A Child-Friendly Book about the Coronavirus [California State University] 

Developed with the aim to discuss the complex issues surrounding the Coronavirus, self-quarantine, and social distancing. With colorful illustrations, gentle wording, and advice to parents, this free book is a great way to facilitate a conversation about the coronavirus.  

Home Literacy Checklist [ReadingRockets.org]  

Reading Rockets is a resource for early literacy programs and activities. Linked is a checklist to help determine how the current environment at home promotes strong literacy and pre-literacy.  

Toddler Practice Guides for Parents [Center For Early Literacy Learning] 

The Centre for Early Literacy Learning (CELL) has a number of different activities and interactive videos for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, to help them follow a story’s narrative.  

Celebrities Reading Children's Books [Storyline Online] 

For moments when there is a lot on the plate and making time to read is difficult, StoryLine comes in handy. Used by teachers in classrooms and nurses in hospitals’ pediatric wards, children across the country watch celebrities read a wide range of classic children's books.

Community Recovery and Resilience Fund [Pinellas Community Foundation] 

Recently created to focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable of Pinellas County’s population through organizations best aligned to meet their needs. 

Childhood Hunger Relief Fund [Pinellas Community Foundation]  

Provides direct benefit to organizations helping hungry and food-insecure children in our community. 

St. Pete Free Clinic 

Updating current needs throughout the day due to the heavy use. Serving hundreds everyday.  

Tarpon Springs Shepherd Center 

Providing support and assistance to families in north Pinellas areas.  

Donations Needed To Help Fight COVID [Pinellas County] 

Pinellas County officials are asking for donations to help meet the needs of emergency workers. The link has a list of needed items and where to donate.

For Providers
We have heard from many of you and understand the uncertainty and stress you are under. After making your programs your life’s work, we can only imagine what you must be feeling considering the challenges you are facing. We know just how much you care about the children in your programs, their families and your dedicated staff.

The Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, and Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas are committed to providing up-to-date information and guidance to our Early Learning Community to address concerns. The health and safety of our School Readiness (SR) and Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) students, families, providers and staff is of utmost importance. This information will be updated as necessary while our communities mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Contact staff with questions or concerns at 727-400-4411 or info@elcpinellas.org.

Policy Waivers Include:

  • Voluntary PreK Attendance: VPK providers will be reimbursed based on enrollment after the students’ first day of attendance through the September service period. This includes child absences and intermittent closures due to COVID-19. Beginning October 1, 2020, providers will be paid in accordance with the VPK Uniform Attendance Rule (e.g. “80/20 rule”)
  • Reimbursement for Full Time Care: SR providers offering full-time services for school age children not attending brick and mortar schools, will be reimbursed the approved full-time school-age rate. In this case, providers should change the unit of care from part-time to full-time when reporting attendance in EFS Mod.
  • Parent co-pays for all eligible School Readiness families, regardless of their income, are waived through October 31, 2020.
    • Providers will be reimbursed the full rate.
    • This includes children both absent and present.
    • Providers may still charge applicable differentials.
  • Extending deadline to implement an approved School Readiness curriculum until September 30, 2020. 
  • Open School Readiness providers will be paid based on child enrollment effective through September 30, 2020. Effective October 1, 2020, providers will be paid based on attendance, but will be reimbursed for an additional 6 absences per SR child. SR providers will be reimbursed for up to 16 total absences in the month without documentation as this was waived in an DOE executive order. Documentation for absences will not be required. Please note, the absence reporting requirements in Rule 6M-4.500(4)(a)-(d), F.A.C., have not been waived. Providers are still required to report excessive absences. 
  • VPK Flexible Innovative Options: Face-to-Face is most ideal for a developmentally appropriate learning experience. However, we recognize that we are not in ideal circumstances. Ultimately, it is up to parents to make the best decision they can for their child and families. We simply want to ensure they have options available to meet their needs. See the 2020-21 VPK Flexible Option Guidance Highlights for additional details. Please keep in mind that flexibility in VPK is not limited to online learning options.
    • Children can delay enrollment in the VPK program. (Absences are not paid until after the first date of attendance.)
    • Providers can modify their calendar to delay the start of their VPK program.
    • Providers can add additional classes later in the year that run for a longer day.
    • Providers could even stagger the start dates within a classroom; effectively creating two VPK classes on separate calendars. This option allows parent flexibility in choosing what is best for their child. It allows providers to provide an receive compensation for the full VPK BSA. Most importantly, this flexible innovative option allows children to receive the maximum benefit of 540 face-to-face hours of VPK instruction.
  • Extending timelines for provider quality improvement plans and reports.

PROVIDER – FAQ

Intermittent closures recommended by PDOH Epidemiology due to COVID-19 exposure will be reimbursed by School Readiness in accordance with Reimbursement During Emergency Closures rule.

  1. If you are open and the child is absent, mark absences in the Provider Services Portal per usual. Indicate D for reason “Absence due to Disaster”; comments and documentation are not required. The system will allow you to mark more than 10 absences.
  2. If you are closed due to COVID-19 exposure, you should report closures to tfetzer@elcpinellas.org. ELC staff will enter the closure into the system. COVID closure days will be indicated with an *. If you are required to close a single classroom, mark the * for just the children impacted.
  3. When your attendance rosters are correct, submit the completed attendance roster to the coalition. Note: It may take some time for ELC to enter closure days.
  4. Also submit any completed sign-in/out sheets for children who attended. These can be uploaded into portal or faxed to 727-400-4472.

 

In accordance with the Uniform Attendance Policy for Funding the VPK Program, Temporary Closures Caused by Emergency Circumstances:

  1. A student is considered to have attended all VPK program hours offered during a temporary closure caused by emergency circumstances for a combined total of five (5) instructional days for each VPK class if the private provider or school district submits notification in writing to the coalition the dates which the provider was closed.
    1. A closure is temporary if the provider resumes instruction following the closure.
    2. A closure is caused by emergency circumstances when a state of emergency is declared by federal, state or local officials for the area in which the provider is located.
  2. A temporary closure caused by emergency circumstances is not payable for any student who does not attend a VPK instructional day following the closure.
  3. A private provider or school district shall revise its class schedule to restore VPK instructional days which are lost due to temporary closures caused by emergency circumstances in excess of a total of five (5) instructional days for a VPK class.
  4. A private provider or school district may revise its class schedule to restore the instructional days lost as a result of a temporary closure caused by emergency circumstances instead of accepting payment for a temporary closure.

Private providers will submit their signed assurances, with the requested additional information, through EFS Mod, to the Office of Early Learning (OEL) and their local early learning coalition (ELC) for review and approval.

Yes. You can find a complete list of free and low cost trainings HERE.

Not at this time. In order to limit exposure to our providers, children and staff, we have suspended all site visits. However, we continue to be available for online and telephone consultation. We will do our best to assist in any way we can.

    1. Make sure all parents and families know that they should remain home if they are ill. It is flu season, so every fever is not a sign of COVID-19.
    2. Provide childcare in stable groups of 10 or fewer (inclusive of childcare providers for the group); children and childcare providers should not change from one group to another; if more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room.
    3. Groups should not mix or interact with each other, or have access to or use the same objects, materials, or surfaces without sanitation.
    4. All play equipment used by one group of children should be cleaned and sanitized before use by another group of children.
    5. Any child or employee exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 illness shall not be allowed to stay in the childcare facility.
    6. Screen children upon arrival for fevers.
    7. Be sure you are stressing the importance of handwashing. Everyone that comes through your doors should be washing their hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available. Encourage coughing and sneezing into the crook of the elbow, or a tissue that can be discarded.
    8. Clean and sanitize door knobs, computer keyboards, touch screens, tabletops, toys and other surfaces that are touched often. Clean all eating surfaces before and after use. Ensure play space is cleaned thoroughly upon closing every night in preparation for the next day of business.

External Resources

Employer Paid Leave Requirements [Families First Response Act] 

Details on Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical leave for employees impacted by the Coronavirus.  

Reemployment Assistance [Florida Department of Economic Opportunity]  

Individuals laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period and those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with the Coronavirus may qualify for temporary wage replacement.  

General Information [Florida Department of Health]
Up-to-date facts and figures about the Coronavirus in Florida. Includes this interactive map to examine specific counties and track progression over time.  

Fact-Checking Misinformation [World Health Organization]
The World Health Organization (WHO) corrects many of the misconceptions surrounding the Coronavirus such as interaction with the weather, potential causes, and dietary interactions.  

Compiled below are a variety of different services, resources, and guides to help ease discomfort for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to update this information in the coming days and weeks as the situation evolves. 

Price Gouging Hotline [State of Florida]
If you experience a case of someone charging drastically inflated prices for items such as hand sanitizer or medical masks, reports can be made by calling 866-966-7226. More info here.  

Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities [CDC]
Exceptionally detailed information about sanitization best practices. Most disinfectants are currently believed to kill the Coronavirus, meaning that “most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. 

Office of Early Learning Activity Plans 
These lesson plans, based on the Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards: 4 Years Old to Kindergarten (2017), are designed to help develop the skills that 4-year-old children should know and be able to do by the end of their prekindergarten year. There are targeted standards for 4-year-old children included in each lesson plan.

The National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations (NCPMI) Resource Page
NCPMI is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs to improve and support the capacity of state systems and local programs to implement an early childhood multi-tiered system of support to improve the social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes of young children with, and at risk for, developmental disabilities or delays.

General Resources

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