Childcare centers can reopen June 1
Childcare centers can begin to reopen on June 1 and summer day camps will be able to operate this summer, Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday.
But with gatherings of more than 10 still prohibited for the time being, Secretary of Education Dan French said that schools should think creatively about alternatives to traditional high school graduation ceremonies.
“For planning purposes, schools should expect that larger group gatherings will not be permitted prior to the end of the school year,” he said.
The announcements come as Scott has gradually started to loosen restrictions and allowed more Vermonters to go back to work. Scott said childcare is an important component as the state reopens.
“I know that there are many who are worried they won’t be able to return to a job because schools and childcare providers are closed,” he said during the press conference. “It’s one of the ripple effects that we have to be sensitive to, and aware of.”
Scott ordered childcare facilities to shut down in mid-March as the state began to close down prevent the spread of COVID-19, though childcare options have continued to be available for essential workers through the crisis. Many parents in Addison County have struggled balancing daycare and work.
The latest announcement from the governor will allow childcare centers to reopen next month, but they won’t go back to business as usual. Members of the administration said at the press conference that there will be guidelines for health and hygiene, and caps on capacity in line with public health recommendations.
Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said that the cap for childcare centers is currently 10 students.
“We are continuing looking at that guidance in order to see if there’s opportunities to increase that number because we realize that in some cases, that’s not going to be viable for some of the operations,” Smith said.
Child care providers typically operate on razor-thin margins, and the state has been covering the tuition payments centers would have otherwise received from families during the closure period.
Those payments will stop at the end of May, Smith said, but “restart” grants will be available from the state to help childcare providers and summer camps re-open safely.
Providers have expressed concerns about being able to operate in the black if they must have reduced classroom sizes in order to meet health guidelines, and Smith acknowledged as much.
“We know that meeting all the new health and safety expectations will be a financial challenge,” he said.
The governor said the state would set about $6 million aside for grants to help childcare facilities reopen. State officials said guidance on these funds would be available next week.
Child care providers will be allowed to start bringing staff back starting May 18 to make preparations.
Updated guidance from the Department of Health about what precautions childcare centers should take is expected next week, Smith said.
The state will also work with programs struggling to acquire the necessary hygiene and cleaning supplies, he added, and a hotline set up during the crisis to connect providers with public health officials at the Department of Health will remain open. Child care workers, meanwhile, will also be included in the state’s expanded testing program.
“We will offer testing to anybody that desires it in these specific programs,” Smith said, referring to summer day camps and childcare centers.
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