The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is listening. So the field has to keep talking.

Last week, EEC released reopening guidelines, a 32-page document outlining minimum requirements for health and safety. Almost immediately, early educators and child care providers raised a number of concerns.

In response, EEC has updated its guidelines.

“I know there is uncertainty and anxiety. I assure you EEC’s approach is meant to be supportive. We intend for providers to be having conversations with parents—collaborating together on how to put in place protective measures that meet children’s developmental needs as well as keep staff and families safe,” EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy said in a letter to the field.

“Please note that all programs may choose when to reopen. It will remain up to individual programs to assess their readiness to implement the reopening requirements.”

EEC’s “Reopening Process Overview” provides a three-point timeline.

To help programs reopen, EEC has made several substantial changes to its reopening requirements. Among them:

“…programs will no longer be required to conduct daily temperature checks. After discussions with the COVID-19 Command Center’s Medical Advisory Committee, including infectious disease experts, it became clear that the number of both false positive and false negative results made this an unreliable requirement to assess daily health status.”

And as a frequently asked questions document explains, the new guidelines have removed the requirement for “a maximum group size for children + adults, so programs can establish the staffing plan that makes the most sense for their program.”

EEC has also released additional guidelines for family child care providers that address health screenings, sanitation, program capacity, and social distancing.

EEC is inviting programs to submit their “Intent to Open” through a 7-question online form. The information will be critical for EEC planning and preparations.

Here at Strategies for Children, we know that providers are uncertain and anxious about reopening and eager to have the best safety information, so we will continue to collect feedback from the field and share it with EEC.

Questions for which we are seeking answers include:

• What impact will these guidelines have on programs that serve children with special education needs?

• How much liability will programs shoulder in their efforts to keep children safe? Should programs ask parents to sign waivers?

• What happens if early educators and providers opt to remain on unemployment insurance because it pays them more than salaries?

• Is it possible to prioritize COVID-19 testing for child care providers?

• Can EEC work with the state’s Department of Public Health to track and share COVID-19 infection rates that occur in child care settings? Can child care-focused contact tracing be done?

“We appreciate the challenge programs face in meeting these health and safety standards,” Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies’ Early Education for All Campaign says. “And we will continue to advocate for public funding to help sustain all providers during the reopening phase and in the long-term.”

We also know that before COVID-19, even at full enrollment the child care market was broken, the structure of costs and public subsidies meant that too many children could not gain access to high-quality early childhood settings, and too many early childhood educators lived on poverty-level wages. In addition, too many programs were one rent payment away from closing down.

Moving forward, Strategies will work to address the overly complex streams of public and private funding. We will advocate for the additional, flexible funds programs will need to successfully reopen.

We have a long road to travel to the new reality of effectively caring for children in the shadow of a pandemic. And we will rely on the innovation, creativity, and can-do attitude of the early education and care community.

But that will not be enough.

We also need to advocate for additional resources and support. So please tell us about your real-life, day-to-day challenges. Your input will shape our advocacy and communication strategies so we can better match resources with needs.

Tell your elected officials, too! State legislators are still grappling with the state budget amid great fiscal uncertainty. So reach out, let them know that you are a child care provider in their district, and ask them to prioritize child care during budget negotiations.

Stay tuned for more information. And let us know if you have questions by contacting Amy O’Leary at