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.
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:

  • Suspending ALL terminations of School Readiness eligibility, effective March 15 through August 15, 2020.
  • Granting additional 45-day extensions for ALL re-determinations and waitlist renewals for School Readiness eligibility, from the clients’ re-determination date, effective March 15 through August 15, 2020.
  • Waiving parent co-pays for School Readiness families, regardless of income. Providers may still charge applicable differentials. This will go into effect April 1 until August 31.
    • Redeterminations will be processed with correct parent fees. These fees will not be applied during the waiver period.
  • Waiving required documentation for School Readiness child absences, effective March 1 until further notice. This will be reevaluated every two weeks.
  • Expanding purpose for care to establish School Readiness eligibility and for families applying to the waitlist. Effective May 13 through September 30, 2020.*
    • “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 responder and essential health care worker 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 worker families receiving 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.
    • 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

Not currently. The Department of Education is exploring this possibility. In the meantime if your not comfortable having your child physically attend a VPK program we encourage you to talk to your VPK provider about delayed start date.

The VPK program does not currently allow for a virtual option. You can choose to delay enrolling your child in a VPK program.

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 August 31. You may be responsible for a payment differential if you normally pay this.

Yes. Attendance rules for School Readiness programs have been temporarily waived to give more flexibility for families. Open providers will be paid for all active enrollments regardless of attendance.

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.

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

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:

  • Suspending SR and VPK provider contract monitoring by coalitions through June 30, 2020.
  • Extending deadline to implement an approved School Readiness curriculum until September 30, 2020. 
  • Reimbursing open providers for School Readiness based on enrollment. Effective March 1-August 31, 2020
    • Open providers will be paid for active enrollment in SR unless a child transfers to different provider.
    • Child Absences – The absence rules for SR and VPK have been temporarily waived. That means providers do not have to worry about the 10 day limit. Additionally, absence documentation will not be required during this time. .
    • Intermittent closures due to COVID-19 exposure will be paid.
    • Providers who remained closed for the entire months of May, June and July 2020 are ineligible for payment for the July service period. Payments will resume upon reopening.
  • Waiving parent co-pays for all eligible School Readiness families, regardless of their income, effective April 1 through August 31.
    • Providers will be reimbursed the full rate; parent fees will not be deducted from a provider’s payment.
    • This includes children both absent and present.
    • This does not affect rate differentials charged by some providers.
  • Extending timelines for provider quality improvement plans and reports.
  • Waiving accountability implications of the Fall 2020 kindergarten screening for VPK providers. In turn, 2019-20 VPK Readiness Rates will not be calculated.

PROVIDER – FAQ

Currently, we are working with OEL and the Department of Education to explore instructional options to give families choices. Programs may begin their VPK Classrooms as scheduled or choose to delay the start of their programs to take advantage of any options that are presented when finalized. VPK programs must still have 4 children enrolled to begin instruction.

Intermittent closures recommended by PDOH Epidemiology due to COVID-19 exposure will be reimbursed by School Readiness. ELC is awaiting guidance from OEL regarding VPK closures.

 

  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 a 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 *.
  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 7274004472.

Yes. You will be paid for active enrollments in SR regardless of attendance.

VPK absences will be paid according to the Uniform Attendance Policy for Funding the VPK Program.

That is an individual business decision. Several providers have indicated that they are closing to students but staff will be reporting to work. They are planning to do extensive cleaning & sanitizing, lesson planning and professional development.

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.

Yes. Eligible children attending FT School Readiness care will be reimbursed at the FT rate.

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. 

General Resources

 

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