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Opening of School 2020-21 Preschool Through 3rd Grade
Questions and answers are related to the Colorado Preschool Program, Preschool Special Education, and Child Find for children from birth through age 5 during Safer At Home and Beyond.
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State-Funded Preschool Guidance Related to Instructional Hours and Attendance
State-Funded Preschool Guidance Related to Instructional Hours and Attendance
In collaboration with stakeholders in the field and partners across the Department, this preschool-specific guidance is intended to build on broader CDE guidance while providing preschool specific considerations. Please note, the italicized font in this guidance are direct quotes from the CDE Policy on Instructional Hours and Attendance for the 2020-21 school year.
What does state law say about school calendars?
State law requires each local school board to annually adopt a district calendar that includes a minimum of 160 student contact days and allows local boards flexibility in changing that calendar as a result of emergency closings or unforeseen circumstances. C.R.S. 22-32-109(1)(n)(II)(B).
If we implement remote learning days, how will this affect our student contact days?
For the 2020-21 academic year, student contact days may include remote learning days as implemented as a result of public health and safety measures. In order to count a remote learning day as a student contact day, the following criteria must be met:
- the local board must have adopted (via board policy, board resolution, or another governance document) a definition of “educational process” that includes remote learning; and
- the district must have documented (in board policy, handbooks, or other guidance) an explanation of the ways in which teacher-pupil instruction and contact time will occur outside the classroom during remote learning days.
We encourage the local preschool district advisory council to advise the school board on this topic for preschool.
How many hours are required for teacher-pupil contact?
State law requires each school schedule to include a minimum number of hours of planned teacher-pupil instruction and teacher-pupil contact during the school year. For the Colorado Preschool Program the minimum requirements are 720 hours for full-day and 360 hours for half-day. Caregivers and teachers of young children in preschool play an important role in creating a coordinated approach to learning and development. Research and widely accepted strategies show that meaningful learning experiences occur during engagement through play, exploration, and inquiry in ways that support the whole child. As a result, we recommend that hours for this age group be conducted in person, when at all possible.
Programs are expected to make a good faith effort to ensure that whatever combination of in-person and/or remote learning they implement during the year allows teachers to cover the same academic content as they would have covered under the in-person schedule. Districts will need to determine the equivalent amount of teacher-pupil instruction and contact time associated with the remote learning being delivered. See the Addendum to the Audit Resource Guide for more information on instructional hours and equivalencies.
How is remote learning defined?
For the 2020-21 school year only, local boards may define “the educational process” as including instruction delivered electronically and independent, remote work time for students that is directed and monitored by a qualified teacher.
If districts will be including remote learning in the determination for funding, they will need to adopt local policy specifically to address the implementation of remote learning during the 2020-21 academic year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is recommended that the definition of educational process be differentiated by grade-level, therefore this will look different for a preschooler than an older child, particularly since learning and instruction rarely occur independently for this grade level. See the Stay-At-Home FAQs for Remote Learning examples for the preschool grade level.
Qualified teachers for preschool are defined by the local board and/or minimally by the child care licensing rules.
How are students counted in pupil membership?
In order to be counted in pupil membership, a student must be enrolled and in attendance. 1 CCR 301-39, section 5.04(1). A district can demonstrate student attendance if the student attends school for all or any portion of the pupil enrollment count date or the alternative count date, or if the student is absent on the pupil enrollment date or the alternative count date (for any reason), the student must establish attendance during the current school year prior to the pupil enrollment count date, and resume attendance within 30 days following the pupil enrollment count date (while also not having withdrawn from the district during that time period). 1 CCR 301-39, section 2254-R-5.03(1). For the 2020-21 school year, districts may alter their district attendance policies and the way in which attendance is documented for remote learning, as described in the district’s “educational process” definition.
How might local attendance policies for 2020-21 be defined for preschool, considering the possibility of non-classroom based instruction?
For the 2020-21 school year, districts may choose to amend their attendance policies to expand the way in which attendance may be documented, so long as students in attendance are still “engaged in the educational process” as defined by the district.
Districts will have flexibility in how they calculate and collect student attendance information in 2020-21, but will still be expected to submit attendance information for the spring 2021 Attendance Snapshot data collection. Districts should consider processes for documenting attendance in a way that incorporates remote-learning attendance within its student information system.
What are some viable ideas for documenting attendance for remote instruction in preschool?
Districts may choose to track and count attendance based on presence during in-person instruction, as well as assignments completed at home, logging into an online learning platform, or other methods of tracking attendance during remote learning.
Programs are expected to record attendance (at a minimum) once daily during remote learning days. Some of these other methods may include the following ideas: Consider using a parent or caregiver report each day or week based on information that teachers communicate about the learning experiences and activities aligned to the curriculum. These activities are “checked off” by parents as they engage in this learning with their children. The district may want to consider altering family agreements/expectations to include descriptions of ways in which families will be expected to engage/participate in the event of remote learning.
For preschool, it is important to consider that many working families may not be able to consistently participate due to work requirements or other situations. Consider ways preschoolers can be counted for attendance that lessens the burden for parents as they will be in charge of ensuring their preschooler is in attendance. Some options to consider in this situation is tracking when parents or caregivers pick up the weekly packet, when they log in to an online story time or circle time, when they respond to a text, email or phone call, etc.
Restarting Preschool Programming
Every classroom in which children receive CPP funding must have a valid child care center license from the Office of Early Childhood at the Department of Human Services (C.R.S. 22-28-108 (1)(a)). Please reach out to your licensing specialist, or local public health partners, with questions, if needed.
Is the guidance in the Safer at Home EO recommended or required?
The public health order implements the requirements from Executive Order D 2020 044 Safer at Home, and the guidance materials then provide additional explanation. Reading the public health order carefully will provide a better understanding of what is required, and unless the terms used are optional, such as may, urged or encouraged, the actions listed in the public health order are required.
What are the current group size requirements?
CPP class size limit continues to be 16 unless there is a smaller group size requirement put in place by the local health authority which has jurisdiction over your program.
Governor Polis announced that certain child care providers in Colorado may return to their regular licensed group size and licensed capacity, as stated in Colorado child care licensing rules beginning Thursday, June 4, 2020. Please see the Office of Early Childhood General and Operational Questions for more information.
Should the maximum number of children in a classroom be reduced by public health orders, how should CPP proceed?
A rule was passed by the State Board of Education in July which allows for a CPP classroom to increase the adult-child ratio from one to eight (1:8) to one to ten (1:10) (2228-R 6.04.1.a), when needed to operate in accordance with public health guidelines and safety measures.
Should children and providers wear masks and gloves in child care facilities?
Updated information regarding masks in child care facilities can be found on the CDPHE page related to schools and child care facilities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed the COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry. The purpose of this guidance is to support education, public health, local leadership, and pediatricians collaborating with schools in creating policies for school re-entry that foster the overall health of children, adolescents, staff, and communities and are based on available evidence.
How do we ensure that our in-person (classroom-based) preschool instruction meets the additional COVID health and safety requirements?
The Office of Early Childhood, in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, created A Resource Guide for Child Care Providers During COVID-19.
The current safer at home rules recommend that groups of children are kept together with the same staff when possible. In other words, groups should remain consistent and should not be combined throughout the day. For more information see Thinking Through Class Composition and Teacher Assignment When Reopening and the Framework and Toolkit for Planning for the 2020-21 School Year for School and District Leaders.
What should be considered when a family has chosen to defer preschool enrollment because they are uncertain if instruction and programming will occur live or remote?
Good communication with families is even more important in these uncertain times. Update and revise district and school websites so they can be easily navigated by families, and provide relevant, timely information. The National P-3 Center makes these suggestions to help with enrollment:
- Host a drive-through or on-line registration process
- Explore new modes of communicating with families (e.g., text messaging; social media) to keep them updated of changes to schedules/plans
What are some critical tasks that I can do to help with reopening preschool?
These ideas are from the webinar: Preparing for Re-Opening: The Administrator’s Role in Taking Control When Things Seem Out of Control, by Jennifer Fiechtner, M.A. and Kay M. Albrecht, Ph.D.
- Update health and sanitation policies
- Strengthen communication systems
- Use familiar two-way communications with families
- Update and confirm accuracy of emergency contact information
- Focus on a positive work environment for staff
- Check in with staff more often
- Attend to staff health well-being
- Develop back-up plans for staffing challenges
- Create an emotionally supportive environment for children
- Anticipate an uptick in children’s challenging behavior
- Develop plans for your own self-care
What the guidelines are regarding home visits for this school year?
Conducting home visits for preschool is encouraged. However, if you conduct visits in person this fall, follow the guidelines set by your district and local health department. If staff or families are uneasy about in-person visits at this time, consider conducting home visits virtually, or perhaps meet in a public, open space (such as a park) to meet, following social distancing recommendations. The most important element of a home visit is to provide an opportunity to make connections with the child and family outside of school.
Can CARES funding be used for preschool expenses?
Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) can be used for allowable preschool expenditures. CDE’s guidance document will be updated to reflect this.
Expectations for remote learning provided by contracted preschools, including Head Start, should be consistent with what district-based classrooms are providing to students to promote equitable access between children enrolled in district classrooms and children enrolled at contracted sites. Remember, children enrolled at community/contracted sites are enrolled in a district’s preschool program.
In case of a pandemic related closure, please refer to health department recommendations. You will want to address situations in which the district program may close and community child care providers remain open, or vice versa. Families will need to decide whether or not to send their child to an open program. If closures occur, to the extent possible, districts will be encouraged to continue payment of contracted preschool providers, whether or not state-funded preschoolers are attending programs in person, as long as the families have access to the district’s remote learning program. Districts should follow contracts that are in place with partner providers, and should review and amend those contracts, as necessary.
Does Preschool Special Education have any specific requirements for children who have an IEP for in-person or remote learning?
Yes, there are many considerations for children with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for both in-person learning and remote learning. You can learn more at the Special Education and COVID-19 FAQs from the Office of Special Education at CDE or by checking with your Special Education Director.
How do special education teachers and related service providers work with children and maintain social distancing?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states in COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry that students receiving special education services may be more negatively affected by distance-learning and may be disproportionately impacted by interruptions in regular education. Individual needs of children vary due to the nature of their disability. Attempts to meet physical distancing guidelines should meet the needs of the individual child and may require creative solutions, often on a case-by-case basis.
In preschool, the relative impact of physical distancing among children is likely small based on current evidence, however adult physical distancing from one another, adults wearing face coverings, and cohorting are high priority strategies.1 Here are some considerations for itinerant providers:
- Per the Reopening of Schools Policy Guidance from CDE, special service providers do not need to be included in the teacher-to-classroom ratios. These providers should minimize contact with non-client students and other adults in classrooms.
- Use a primary service provider model with a transdisciplinary team approach in our current situation so that only one provider enters the classroom cohort in service of children on IEPs.
- Essential service providers should be assigned to as few classrooms as possible. This may mean that children with IEPs are grouped into blended classrooms in a manner that minimizes the number of classrooms the service provider visits. However, classrooms must have 50% or fewer children with IEPs versus children without IEPs.
- All interactions between adults related to collaboration on service delivery outlined in the IEP should happen outside the classroom virtually or with adults maintaining strict social distancing at all times.
- Practice universal precautions, including good hand hygiene and infection prevention that includes mask wearing at all times. The governor has announced that medical grade masks will be provided by the state to school employees this school year.
Will Results Matter assessments change for 20-21?
No, Colorado requires preschool programs receiving state or federal education funds to participate in Results Matter assessment. Programs will finalize online data in the checkpoint period as expected. Please see the Results Matter Calendar for dates.
If our program offers some or all remote instruction, how can observation data be collected?
- Documentation - Documentation can include typed notes, digital photos (of work samples or activities), voice recordings, video recordings. This can be achieved through notes during virtual meetings, one-on-one conversations with children and activities parents submit.
- Families - Families are important partners in the assessment process. Consider how documentation might be collected from families through an interview process.
- MyTeachingStrategies® Family is an online family portal and mobile app that gives families another connection to their child’s classroom. Through MyTeachingStrategies®, families and teachers can share documentation, weekly plans, reports, activities, and more.
- COR@Home is designed to strengthen the connection between home and school. COR@Home makes it easy for families to engage with the educational process and share wonderful moments of student learning with teachers.
If in-person preschool programming cannot occur due to COVID, what should remote learning look like in preschool?
Unless a local health department determines otherwise, preschool programming should be offered in person for families who choose to enroll. To fully support every child’s development and learning across all domains and content areas, to the extent possible, on-site opportunities should be prioritized.
If remote learning is needed again due to health concerns, see the Stay-At-Home FAQs for remote learning examples for the preschool grade level.
What can we do to make the fall transition successful?
Connections between teachers in preschool and kindergarten and between teachers and families were disrupted during the spring of 2020 due to COVID closures. Here are some ideas from the National P-3 Center to assist with transitions:
- Consider replicating traditional transition events as virtual experiences (e.g., virtual classroom/elementary school tours; on-line meet-and-greets with Kindergarten teachers).
- Explore options for staggered or delayed starting schedules in the fall, creating time and opportunity for Kindergarteners to ease into the school year.
- Discuss the pros and cons of looping models for teachers.
- Conduct the Kindergarten Entry Assessment in 1:1 appointments that meet health/safety guidelines.
- Offering a virtual orientation video from the elementary school principal to address common questions kindergarten students and parents might have.3
- Gathering data, such as assessment data, progress reports from the pre-K year, or anecdotal information about a student's strengths and areas to work on and sharing that information electronically between pre-K and kindergarten teachers3.
- Seeking out families in the community who may need extra support to enroll their child and finding out what they need for their child to thrive in kindergarten3.
- A RESOURCE GUIDE FOR CHILD CARE PROVIDERS DURING COVID-19 - Colorado Office of Early Childhood. Use this guide to update your program's practices in response to COVID-19.
- “At-Home” Teaching and Learning in PreK-3rd Grade - National P-3 Center. The purpose of this document is to provide guidance specifically focused on the early grades (PreK-3rd grade) for virtual learning.
- Balancing Online/Remote and In-Person Learning for Young Children - Agency & Young Children Research Collective. Schools and districts are trying to figure out how best to support parents and continue children’s academic progress while they are away from school. Here are some principles of early childhood learning that could help shape how schools and districts approach daily or weekly support for children and families.
- Children and Media Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics - American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides policies, information, advice, and resources about families’ and children’s interactions with various forms of media.
- Colorado Office of Early Childhood Resources - Office of Early Childhood. Divisions of Early Care and Learning Frequently Asked Questions, COVID-19.
- COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry - American Academy of Pediatrics. The purpose of this guidance is to support education, public health, local leadership, and pediatricians collaborating with schools in creating policies for school re-entry that foster the overall health of children, adolescents, staff, and communities and are based on available evidence.
- Making Connections. There's No Such Thing as Online Preschool - NAEYC. Preschool is about relationships and the learning that happens between children and teachers and among the children themselves. While there are tools online that can support children’s learning, the reality is that there is no online equivalent to preschool.
- Public health guidance & resources for COVID-19 - Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Safer at Home: Child Care Facilities - Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- School-based PreK, Kindergarten, and the Early Grades: Pandemic-related Planning - National P-3 Center. This document covers the following topics related to the current context as states and school districts begin to navigate plans for fall 2020 and beyond.
- The Leadership Team’s Guide for Re-Opening Programs - National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations. This document is designed to guide the Program Leadership Team around considerations for supporting children, families, and staff as they return to the program. The guidance includes Pyramid Model practices you know and encourages you to think about those strategies from a trauma-informed perspective
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020, June 25). COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry..https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-planning-considerations-return-to-in-person-education-in-schools/
Connecticut State Department of Education. (2020, July 28). Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together. https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/SDE/COVID-19/CTReopeningSchools.pdf
Loewenberg, A., & Bornfreund, L. (2020, July 24). Supporting Smooth Transitions into Kindergarten During the COVID-19 Pandemic. New America. https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/supporting-smooth-transitions-kindergarten-during-covid-19-pandemic/