Early Learning and School Readiness

Early Learning and School Readiness

A Guide for Restart

This page was originally produced July 10, 2020; 
Sep. 4, 2020 updates below in gray boxes.
As early childhood programs begin to reopen for the new school year, providers will need to be attentive to planning for success given the continuing challenging circumstances of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This guide identifies essential questions to consider while developing a reopening plan. It was created with the help of early childhood teachers, administrators and regional technical assistance providers in Ohio.
 
The site contains general information relevant to the reopening of all early learning programs.
Content-specific information (Step Up To Quality, Preschool Special Education, Head Start, Early Childhood Education Grants and more) can be found here.


Rules, Health Orders, Legislative Mandates

Updated Rules on Transitional Pandemic School-Age Child Care

This letter provides an update for Ohio Department of Education-licensed school-age child care programs. On September 1, 2020, the State Board of Education adopted an updated emergency rule that reflects the changing environment of the state as it continues to face challenges created by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On Aug. 10, 2020, the State Board of Education adopted updated emergency rules that reflect the changing environment of the state as it continues to face challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the existing rules regulating preschool and school-age child programs, the updated rules establish requirements for symptom checks, sending ill children and staff home and notification of local health departments for COVID-19 symptoms; face coverings for staff and children; and specifications for portable sinks and room dividers. The lower ratio (class size requirement) of 1:9 has been removed, and programs may return to pre-COVID ratios and class sizes, as specified in Ohio Department of Education preschool and school-age child care rules linked below. On Aug. 10, 2020, Governor DeWine signed Executive Order 2020-34D, which made these rules effective immediately.
 
This guidance aims to do two things:
 
  • (1) Provide the rules and best practices for health and safety, as they exist today and
  • (2) Identify questions that should be discussed locally as planning occurs for program openings.

 
Health and Safety

In this section, the guidance centers on topics of health and safety. Diligence is imperative as children and staff start coming back together in person so that the risk of spreading coronavirus is minimized. Since the pandemic has started, many strategies to reduce the exposure and risk have become more commonly understood.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has numerous resources available to assist programs with the safe reopening of early learning programs. Additionally, resources are provided that will assist in planning for health and safety policies and procedures. Resources that may be of help include:
   
The following topic areas include questions to consider and resources to support safe and healthy environments and practices:
 

Outside Play

  • Is including additional outside time feasible in the daily schedule? Can traditional indoor activities and materials be moved outside to allow for more outside time?
  • Can the outside play space be separated into different areas, assigning each area to a specific group?
  • How will the outside materials/equipment that are frequently touched be sanitized between groups?
  • Can the daily schedule be restructured to limit the groups that are using the outside play area at one time?
 

Face Coverings

Please note, there now is a requirement for all staff of a school-age child care program and children who are in kindergarten or older participating in a school-age child care program (see link above for rule 3301-32-06.1) to wear face coverings while indoors, unless there is a reason they cannot do so. In planning for this, consider  the following questions:
  • How old are the children being cared for? (The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children under the age of two should not wear masks and provides other age appropriate guidance.)
  • Will children be able to successfully wear the masks without continually readjusting?
  • Will the program provide the masks, or ask families to provide them?
  • Are there children in the program who need to see a teacher’s mouth/face in order to communicate (either verbal or nonverbal)?
  • How will masks be stored when not in use to prevent cross-contamination?
  • Will family members be required to wear masks during drop-off/pick-up?
  • Will the program provide baggies for children to put masks in when they are not being worn?
  • Will children be able to be in different areas of a room so that they are social distancing enough that they can take off masks during certain parts of the day?
Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Ohio Academy of Pediatrics for more information regarding the use of face masks with young children. Moreover, visit the Centers for Disease Control for information.
 

Preventing the Spread of Disease

Information on temperature checks, handwashing and cleaning/sanitizing can be found here.  While it is difficult, it also is essential to clean the toys that children touch in classrooms where two, half-day sessions are provided; a consideration when establishing the program reopening schedule. The linked guidance also provides information about stuffed toys young children bring from home for nap time and comfort.

Tips from Early Childhood professionals:
  • Use hula hoops to visualize and practice social distancing.
  • Ask parents to have children practice using masks in short increments of time.
  • Bundle toys for children (e.g., create each child’s own set of Legos, crayons, etc.).


Reopening Discussion Questions for Local Decision-making

In addition to addressing health practices, considerations for reopening should include the needs, roles and expectations for teachers, children and families. In this section, questions are posed that need local discussion and answers about schedules, processes and supporting students and school personnel for reopening. Planning for these decisions is critical to the successful reopening of any program so that administrators, teachers, parents and children know what is happening. The more communication that can occur prior to reopening, the more likely the program will be to have a safe and smooth reopening.  Working with local childcare and school-age child care programs is critical, as decisions are made about schedules. These decisions will impact how community programs and schools are able to serve families and transport children. In addition to the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening decisions, here are questions to consider as reopening planning occurs:
 

Alternative Schedules

  • Will the program reopen with all children coming to school, all children staying home or a hybrid of in-building-based and stay-at-home?
  • What schedules will accommodate working parents?
    • What do parents need?
  • Who should attend school in person versus remotely? This is especially important considering the new ratio limitations for preschool. Who would benefit most from being in a school building for their learning? Is this grade banded? Are certain populations more vulnerable to risks if they are not in school buildings? Are certain students not able to access curriculum and instruction remotely?
  • What remote learning platforms worked for the early childhood population? What were the remote learning experiences like for teachers, parents and children? Based on these experiences, what should change? What should stay the same?
  • What options are there for families who want their child enrolled in the program but want a hybrid model?
    • Can the program feasibly offer families a choice?
    • What about families who want their child to be enrolled in the program and to receive services and education but who also want their child to remain at home?
  • How can we ensure successful transitions to kindergarten?
    • Is there a way to help make a personal connection through virtual classroom tours and books that the students will be using in kindergarten?
 

Other Scheduling Implications and Considerations

  • How will the reopening schedule allow for cleaning shared spaces in between use?
  • How does the schedule impact school transportation?
  • How does an alternative schedule impact the provision of meals?
 

Considerations for Continued Remote Learning

  • If a hybrid or remote learning model for instruction continues in the fall, are all families and children able to connect to Wi-Fi and/or have access to computer technology? A new grant, the Broadband Ohio Connectivity Grant, has been made available for schools to help with internet connectivity and access.
  • What kinds of support materials will be needed (e.g., packets; activity calendars) to continue remote learning for the preschool age child?
  • What early childhood personnel have provided input into the district’s Remote Learning Plan? Does the plan acknowledge the age and development of the students in preschool?  
 

Supporting Children

The Ohio Department of Education has provided a Social and Emotional Toolkit to help schools support the whole child as they plan to reopen. In making the decision to reopen the early childhood program fully, partly, or not at all, the following questions should be discussed and answered:
  • What processes does the program need to minimize the separation anxiety that is likely to occur as children return?
  • How will the program allow for needed time for children to adjust? Socialization and play are critical to lessening fears, separation, and the new routine, requirements, and perhaps environment that the in-person classroom will look like.
  • How does reopening meet the need of parents working from home (or not)?
  • Are there special populations that should be prioritized for being in a physical school building?
    • Who are these students and who would benefit most from being onsite?
    • Who can developmentally handle continuing remote learning?
  • What special care can programs take in supporting siblings of younger children, who may have been in the situation of caring for their brothers and sisters while their parent(s) work?

Tips from Early Childhood professionals for connecting:
  • Use resources available at The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning which align with Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports.
  • Create “Safe Zoom” where the educators can connect with each family.
  • Send care packages and care alerts to assure that families know they have support.
  • The Collaborative for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning has online social and emotional learning kits.
  • Host parent/teacher meetings and group parent meetings so families can help support each other and have time to talk through issues with other parents (Zoom and Class Dojo are examples of platforms that can facilitate this)—also be careful not to insist on video usage. Many factors are at play in a person’s decision to participate, including embarrassment about their home environment, amount of video bandwidth, availability of Wi-Fi/data, work schedules and competing demands and fear of perceived judgment.
  • Not all families have resources at home to help their children, so consider including all materials needed to complete activity packets delivered to homes.
  • Create at-home learning kits for parents to target specific learning standards.
  • Get families involved in decision making and planning; use existing committees, if possible, locally; and include parent mentors, as applicable.


Supporting Teachers and School Personnel

Some adults will also be anxious, fearful or stressed and planning for their well-being is critical for them to be able to model behaviors for young students. The Social and Emotional Toolkit also includes resources for school personnel.
  • How will the social and emotional needs of staff be supported?
    • What supports and resources can be identified for teachers to be aware of?
  • How well are teachers engaged in the planning?
    • What are the teachers’ fears, concerns and innovative ideas for reopening?
  • What has the program learned from teaching and school personnel about the positive experiences and challenges of the school-building closure period?
    • What worked for them?
    • Did they discover a new like (or dislike) for teaching remotely?
    • Did they feel empowered (or helpless) in directing the instructional practices, learning opportunities, and interactions with their students?
    • Is there anything that teachers would like to keep using or use more?
  • Create opportunities for breakout/networking type of meetings because the small group interaction can be uplifting and reduce stress.
  • Who are the teaching personnel who may have vulnerabilities and what do they need to return to school successfully?
  • Has the program addressed teacher fears about assessments for Ohio’s Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) and evaluation purposes?
    • Does the program have the necessary information about timelines, requirements and data collection to guide teachers?
 
Tips from Early Childhood professionals for connecting with the school personnel:
  • Communicate often and include teachers and school personnel in opportunities for planning, implementation, and review/monitoring of how things are going.
  • Consider providing a "re-entry series" to remind early childhood teachers of the basics (self-care, relationships/routines, teaching/reteaching, identifying students who need more assistance and getting them help) and then create a space for the teachers to discuss how to apply those principles to their current situation.
  

Program-specific Information and Resources

Early learning programs can support both young children and their families while programs remain closed and as they plan to reopen. Being at home without the regular routine of school or summer programming can be stressful to young children who may not understand why things they were expecting in the summer months are not happening or now happening in a different way. Similarly, some parents have been juggling working from home while caring for their young children for many months. Now, as fall begins, the new normal requires taking responsibility for continuing critical safety precautions. This means the beginning of the school year will look different from any other school year children have experienced. It is important to know what the existing and new expectations are, by program.
          
This information is intended to help inform the actions of early learning programs during this time of planning and reopening. While practicing social distancing to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19, there are ways to be flexible and creative to support young children and families most in need.
 
The remainder of the page provides content-specific information regarding the following:

GENERAL INFORMATION

Under what conditions are Early Learning Programs allowed to open and operate?
Preschool and school-age child care programs licensed by the Ohio Department of Education were allowed to reopen as of June 9, 2020. This includes programs that operate in schools, as well as those operated in other facilities (including, but not limited to, programs operated by educational service centers). A communication about the parameters of reopening is available here.                                                                                                          

How can early childhood programs continue to support children and families even if remotely?               
Program staff can engage in a variety of activities to support young children and their families. These include: 
  • Connecting with children and families to provide social-emotional support (via phone calls, Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc.). These types of opportunities maintain a connection between the child and family and the program and offer support to young children.
  • Providing families with education and engagement opportunities (including community supports, such as information about where meals are being provided, Helping Parents Cope with Stress, and safe ways to connect with teachers—like a virtual story time through a private Facebook group). 
  • Helping families support their child’s health and well-being, including these Ten Tips for Parents.
  • Gathering information and sharing it with families regarding developmentally appropriate activities they can do at home with their children, including websites, apps and activity ideas such as the suggestions below*
    • INFOhio’s Early Learning Portal includes free apps for preschool-age children aligned to Ohio’s Early Learning and Development Standards.
    • Caring for Each Other (Sesame Street) provides resources designed to provide comfort, manage anxiety and foster learning at home, including activities for daily routines, videos, printable resources and interactive games.
    • Early Childhood activity resources are available for children and families. 
    • A Family Literacy calendar can provide ideas for daily activities. 
    • Good Housekeeping compiled a long list of virtual field trips to zoos, museums, theme parks and aquariums, just to name a few. Find the list and links here
  • COVID-19 Strategic Planning Toolkit for Education & Nonprofit Leaders from Bellwether Education Partners is a free, easy-to-use, practical resource that helps leaders make decisions and actionable plans. The planning framework takes leaders through four key steps: Reground, Prioritize, Plan and Connect. The toolkit includes a workbook that can be tailored and populated with an organization’s information. 
  • Wide Open School is a free online resource to support families and educators who are transitioning to remote learning because of the coronavirus. The website is a good source of quality content that provides educators with the support they need to shift to remote teaching and a one-stop place for families to engage kids who are now learning from home.
  • The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has developed a Guide on COVID-19 and Early Childhood Education.   
Please keep in mind the developmental appropriateness of activities suggested for preschool-age children. Distance learning for a 3-5-year-old child generally requires the help, support and supervision of a family member. 
This list is not comprehensive, and the Ohio Department of Education does not endorse these products. This list is made available to support engaging students in learning.
  How should programs record and report attendance for children who are not receiving in-person services or are receiving a mix of service delivery methods?
This will depend on how the program is structured. Information regarding EMIS attendance reporting can be found here.
 
Definitions and information regarding the difference between remote, online and blended learning options can be found here.

back to top

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION GRANTS

If programs are not able to meet the 12.5 hour/week and/or the 455 hour/year time requirement, are they required to make up the hours? 
If programs are not able to meet the mandatory minimum in-person instructional hours per week and hours per year requirements, the Department requests that the program submit a waiver application. Programs can submit a waiver request using the Alternative Operating Schedule Waiver form found here. The Department will provide flexibility to all programs seeking waivers for the minimum instructional hours per year.
 
If a program cannot accommodate all students in a 12.5-hour schedule due to efforts to maintain social distancing, can the class be divided into a 50/50 remote learning blend so twice the students in a 12.5 hour schedule can be served, thereby allowing all slots to be filled and full funding to be received?
Yes, programs may elect to utilize a hybrid learning model but must complete the Alternative Operating Schedule Waiver, as they will not be providing the required number of in-person hours of 12.5 hours per week.

Will unfilled slots be reallocated if programs cannot fill them during FY21 due to physical distancing and group size restrictions?  
The Department will complete the December 2020 enrollment survey and will make decisions regarding the reallocation of slots at that time, taking into account any restrictions that may affect a program’s ability to enroll and serve children. Please be reminded that programs are only permitted to draw down funding based on the number of children served.

Are programs allowed to use a blended learning model (part-time in person, part-time remote learning) to meet the 12.5 hour weekly time requirement?  
Yes, but please be reminded programs are still required to submit a waiver request using the Alternative Operating Schedule Waiver form found here if they are not providing the minimum number of in-person instructional hours.

What program activities can continue if school buildings are not fully open? 
Situations may occur where school buildings will be closed, either by virtue of a school district’s educational plan for reopening, or because of health and safety issues. A variety of activities that are part of Early Childhood Education Grant programs can still continue. Activities should be in support of providing services to young children and their families to continue preparing them for kindergarten. In addition to the items listed in the General Information section, examples of allowable activities (permissible uses of funds) include: 
  • Virtual staff meetings (for example, conference calls, Zoom meetings and Skype).
  • Curriculum planning, preparation or work created for the children.
  • Lesson plan development.
  • Remote teaching and learning with children.
  • Early Childhood Education Grant program data entry and validation.
  • Online professional development for staff.
  • Administrative costs associated with programs (for example, processing project cash requests (PCRs), budget adjustments, payroll and budget operations).
  • Family education and engagement opportunities (including community supports, such as information about where meals are being provided and how families can support their children).
  • ​Budget revisions, as needed. Directions for submitting a budget revision can be found here.

What are the requirements for completing and reporting the Early Learning Assessment scores in the fall?   
Please refer to the Early Learning Assessment section of this webpage for information. 
 
Can the Early Childhood Education program be only remote, or do programs need to offer at least some in-person hours?
Programs should first and foremost ensure the safety of their children. Programs should follow the local school district and health department orders and policies regarding health and safety considerations for serving children. If the program is unable to provide the required 12.5 hours per week of in-person instruction, it must develop a plan for how it will assure children receive services. The plan must include opportunities each week for direct interaction in real time (either remote or in person) with each student and/or his or her family members. Programs also must include components for direct engagement with family members.

Please be aware that if a program is unable to provide the required in-person hours, it must submit an Alternative Operating Schedule Waiver that outlines the plan that will be followed.

What will happen to funding if a program is not able to have its Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) rating renewed because it is operating remotely and it is an Early Childhood Education Grant program?
Funding will not be removed if a program is unable to renew its rating due to operating remotely. Programs will be required to work with their SUTQ specialists to establish a timeline for rating renewal when the program resumes in-person operation.

Who can grantees contact for more information and answers to additional questions?
Early Childhood Education grantees interested in additional support may contact their assigned education specialists. A link to their contact information and assigned counties can be found here
 
Erin Bagley, Education Program Specialist – Erin.Bagley@education.ohio.gov 
Amy Parker, Education Program Specialist – Amy.Parker@education.ohio.gov 

back to top

EARLY LEARNING ASSESSMENT

What is the Early Learning Assessment requirement for fall 2020?
Programs serving children funded by Early Childhood Education (ECE) or Preschool Special Education (PSE) are required to complete the ELA and report scores for fall and spring administration windows. For the 2020-21 school year only, the minimum requirement has changed. Instead of 10 Required Learning Progressions, programs must complete 10 items (skill, knowledge, and behavior). There is one item for each of the previously required Learning Progressions. Programs will continue to report on the same 10 Learning Progressions for funded children, but the scores will represent one item in each progression only. For the 2020-2021 school year only, the 10 required items will also meet the SUTQ comprehensive assessment requirement. The fall administration window will run from Aug. 15 through Nov. 14. Please see the Early Learning Assessment website for additional details about the requirements                                                              
 
What will happen to 3-5-star-rated programs that are not able to complete child assessments this spring as required to maintain their Step Up to Quality star ratings due to school-building and/or program closures?
Programs that are rated 3-5 stars will maintain their star ratings until a re-rating visit can occur. Child assessments that could not be completed during the spring closure period will not impact ratings. 

Are all preschool teachers who use the Early Learning Assessment required to take the new 100 percent online Early Learning Assessment teacher training?
No. Teachers who previously completed an Early Learning Assessment training should not take the new Early Learning Assessment teacher training.  The new teacher training is only for those who have not previously completed an Early Learning Assessment teacher training.                                                  

Who can programs contact for more information and answers to additional questions?
Sophie Hubbell, Assistant Director – Sophia.Hubbell@education.ohio.gov  
Elizabeth Sailer Agnew, Education Program Specialist – Elizabeth.Agnew@education.ohio.gov
Megan Shuler, Education Program Specialist – Megan.Shuler@education.ohio.gov

back to top

KINDERGARTEN READINESS ASSESSMENT                                            

Will there be any changes to the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment for fall 2020?
Yes. All school districts have been contacted regarding the fall 2020 KRA-R and delivery of new test kits. Training for new kindergarten teachers who have never used the KRA before are available virtually. Questions regarding the KRA-R can be directed to one of the team members listed at the end of this section. Additional information about the KRA-R is available here.                                         

Do all teachers have to complete training to administer the KRA-R?
No. Only teachers who have not completed a KRA training previously must complete training. Teachers who were previously trained to administer the KRA should not register for the KRA-R teacher training.  An optional refresher training is now available for previously trained teachers.
 
Can the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (Revised) (KRA-R) be administered remotely?
Not entirely. Direct assessment items must be administered in person. It is a violation of test security to project test items over videoconferencing technology. Teachers may gather observational evidence to use when scoring Observational Rubric items remotely without disclosing secure test information. Information about how to do this is available upon logging in to the KReady system.  

It looks like all the KRA-R teacher trainings are full. Should a teacher register for more than one session to ensure the ability to receive training?
No. Please register for only one KRA-R teacher training date. The system automatically waitlists everyone, so the presence of a waitlist does not mean the training is full. Teachers must have active accounts in the Ready for Kindergarten Online system before their registration can be confirmed, which takes at least one business day. Registration closes no later than two days prior to the training date or when the session is full. Registrations are confirmed on a rolling basis and registrants will be notified.                                                                                                                                         
Who can programs contact for more information and answers to additional questions?
Sophie Hubbell, Assistant Director – Sophia.Hubbell@education.ohio.gov
Elizabeth Sailer Agnew, Education Program Specialist – Elizabeth.Agnew@education.ohio.gov
Megan Shuler, Education Program Specialist – Megan.Shuler@education.ohio.gov

back to top

PRESCHOOL AND SCHOOL-AGE LICENSING

Have preschool and school-age licensing inspections been canceled? 
Licensing visits for preschool and school-age child care programs that are open and operating began in July 2020. New applications, change of location and provisional licenses due to expire are the current priority, followed by annual licensing visits. Programs can reach out to their specialists with specific programing questions about licensing.  

Must the Department be notified that a program is planning to reopen?
Yes. If a program is planning to serve children on-site for any amount of time, the provider must log in to the Ohio Child Licensing and Quality System (OCLQS) and answer the reopening questions before operations can begin. Instructions can be found here. If a program is planning to operate 100 percent remotely, please email the licensing mailbox at OELSR.Licensing@education.ohio.gov with the subject line of “100% Remote.”
 
What happens to a program license if it is operated 100 percent remotely?
The license for programs that operate 100 percent remotely will be placed in an “Inactive” status in the Ohio Child Licensing and Quality System (OCLQS). This status may be used for up to 12 months.

Can hand sanitizer be used in a preschool classroom?
Programs must follow the transitional pandemic rules that address handwashing. An  online appendix is available that outlines the instances when hand sanitizer may be used.

Is it necessary to have a sink on both sides of classroom dividers or can both groups use one sink?
Both groups can use one sink. The sink can either be moved from group to group or located in a space where children and staff have access to it without mixing groups.

Will there be any flexibility in preschool licensing visits regarding square footage, or do the regular rules still apply?
The regular licensing rules still apply regarding square footage requirements.                                                                                                                             
Are programs required to submit corrective action plans required as a result of a licensing inspection?
Corrective Action Plans can be submitted at any time through the OCLQS. If the program was in the process of developing a Corrective Action Plan but program administrators are not currently working, the Corrective Action Plan should be submitted once program administrators are back to work.
 
Who can programs contact for more information and answers to additional licensing questions?
For additional support regarding licensing, contact the Licensing Team via email at OELSR.Licensing@education.ohio.gov. Contact information for individual team members can be found here.

back to top

PRESCHOOL SPECIAL EDUCATION

What are district requirements for new preschool special education referrals and IDEA Part C transitions during school closures?   
On June 17, 2020, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, in collaboration with the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities disseminated guidance to provide clarity to early intervention providers and school districts about how to carry out the requirements of IDEA during the state of emergency and pandemic. Specifically, this guidance addressed the following: 
  • Early intervention transition planning conference, 
  • Initial evaluation team report, and
  • Initial Individualized Education Program (IEP).
 Early Intervention Transition Planning Conferences
It is expected that transition planning conferences happen within the timelines established in state and federal law. Early Intervention service coordinators should attempt to coordinate virtual transition planning conferences for all children served in early intervention at least 90 days before their third birthday. Early intervention service coordination agencies should continue quarterly notifications to local educational agencies for any child served in early intervention who will be turning three within a year of the report date. The Ohio Departments of Education and Developmental Disabilities ask that all early intervention and local education agency personnel remain diligent in communicating with one another and completing the conferences as required. 

Initial Evaluation Team Reports
Both Departments understand that districts may not be able to conduct evaluations for Part B eligibility in the same manner they otherwise would if school buildings were open and operating. However, the federal government is not allowing a waiver of the timelines for initial evaluation to determine eligibility. It remains the district’s responsibility to record the date of the Part C transition planning conference as the referral date to Part B and to document all communication as a result of the ordered school-building closure due to COVID-19. School personnel are required to make and document good faith efforts to complete the IDEA Part B eligibility determination processes for children entering Preschool Special Education. 

Early intervention teams have a great deal of useful information about any given child, and, with parent consent, can share it with school personnel. Moreover, district personnel may participate in already occurring virtual early intervention visits with families to conduct activities related to transition, assessment, eligibility determination, initial IEP development and familiarizing families with district personnel and procedures. It is recommended that districts continue to work collaboratively with early intervention teams to obtain existing data, early intervention team observations and information to assist the evaluation team in planning for assessments and determining eligibility.
The short period of a child’s preschool experience is a critical time of brain development that must be leveraged as effectively as possible. The expectation from both state agencies is that children are accepted into the education system from date of referral, information is shared between providers of early intervention and school districts and services do, in fact, occur either virtually or in ways that ensure the health and safety of children and their families. 

Initial Individualized Education Program (IEP) 
There is no waiver of the timeline to develop and implement an Individualized Education Program
(IEP) by the child’s third birthday. Local educational agency teams are expected to proceed with the writing of an IEP, based on completed Evaluation Team Reports, team discussion, and/or information available from early intervention. The IEP may look different than it would if schools were open and operating, but it can still support the child’s growth and development. Families of three-year-old children eligible for preschool special education need to be able to plan for their child’s services. Given the age of these children, there is a lot of development support that adults living in the home can do while schools are closed. Families who have been put on hold because of the ordered school-building closure are losing precious time. 

In Ohio, early intervention continues to end on a child’s third birthday. Timelines have not been extended or waived nor have they become more flexible. 

Ohio is fortunate to have many professionals doing their best for children and families in this uncertain time. 

Program Contacts
Questions about this information or other questions related to serving children with disabilities can be directed to the Ohio Department of Education by phone at 614-369-3765 or email at preschoolspecialeducation@education.ohio.gov and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities at Early Intervention@dodd.ohio.gov

Additional Resources
Both the Ohio Departments of Education and Developmental Disabilities have published guidance to support local partners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those resources are available at the links below: 
Are districts required to complete the child outcomes summary processes for all eligible children and enter scores for the fall 2020 data reporting assessment window? 
The  Child Outcomes Summary Process requirement, which is required to be completed and reported for preschool students with disabilities at entrance into Special Education annually and at exit is changed as follows:
  • For children entering Preschool Special Education the following options are available:   
    • If the child is coming from Part C and school personnel have access to the data, the Exit Child Outcomes Summary Form information from Early Intervention (Part C) can be used; 
    • When planning for the evaluation to determine eligibility, evaluation data could be used in completing the Child Outcomes Summary; 
  • For any child who is due for an annual Child Outcomes Summary or is due to exit Preschool Special Education, the Child Outcomes Summary process should be completed with information already available or accessible virtually, by telephone or through other safe means.
  • A resource, titled Child Outcomes Summary Completion When Teams Can’t Meet in Person, by the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center is available to assist districts with the process.
  • Other resources to support completing the Child Outcomes Summary process can be found in the Resources section on the Ohio Department of Education Preschool Special Education webpage.  
 
What should schools do about preschool children eligible under the category of developmental delay who have transitioned to kindergarten? A June 30, 2020, communication alerted schools that children eligible for Preschool Special Education under the Developmental Delay category will be able to start kindergarten without a reevaluation for continued eligibility. These children will need to be reevaluated before Dec. 1, 2020. An EMIS alert will tell schools which of these children are in their population and need reevaluations.
                                                                                      ​
If districts have preschool special education students served in a classroom and are not able to meet the 10 hour/week time requirement, are they required to make up the hours?
The Department has no authority to waive the minimum requirement for hours of preschool special education. Unless otherwise specified in the IEP, a minimum of four hours of services per month shall be provided for each child by an itinerant teacher and a minimum of 10 hours of services per week shall be provided for each child served by a center-based teacher. The number of hours for full-time equivalency shall not exceed the total number of days per year that the preschool special education program is legally in session.
Like school-age students with disabilities, preschool children with disabilities may receive services through alternative means, and districts should be tracking these hours. Documentation will assist the individualized education program (IEP) team in making an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed once districts resume normal operations.
To view the entire section on Preschool Services, please see Ohio Administrative Code Rule 3301-51-11, found in the Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities. 
 
What do parents and IEP teams need to do when considering the learning environment options for their children in preschool special education?
Parents will determine whether their children attend in person or remotely, based on options provided by the school district. When a parent of a preschool child with a disability has the choice to send his or her child to school in person, the IEP team determines what services are provided and where those services will be provided, just as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. The team also makes the placement decision (where the child will be placed in order to receive access to the general education curriculum, typical peers and all special education services). If the parent elects to do remote learning in lieu of in person instruction, the same process holds true for the IEP team decisions on services and placement. If a placement needs to be changed due to health and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it must be a team decision and agreed upon by all members. The district must document all team decisions, meetings and communications with the parent and, if applicable, communications to other programs. School districts are encouraged to consult their legal counsels regarding all assurances that the requirements with IDEA have been met.      

Who can programs contact for more information and answers to additional questions? 
For additional support regarding preschool special education, contact the Preschool Education Team via email at preschoolspecialeducation@education.ohio.gov or by telephone at (614) 369-3765. Individual members can be reached by email at: 

Jody Vice Beall, Assistant Director/619 Coordinator – Jody.Beall@education.ohio.gov
Jennifer Barnes, Education Program Specialist – Jennifer.Barnes@education.ohio.gov
Sarah Greer, Education Program Specialist – Sarah.Greer@education.ohio.gov
Margie Spino, Education Program Specialist – Margie.Spino@education.ohio.gov  

back to top
 

STEP UP TO QUALITY

A program’s Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) rating is up for renewal, will the rating expire if the renewal is not submitted? 
Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) ratings will not be discontinued or expire for programs closed due to the school-building closure. Programs that were due for a renewal rating visit will soon be contacted by their Licensing/SUTQ Specialist with instructions on how to prepare for the visit once they are back in operation.     
   
Will programs be able to have their SUTQ ratings renewed if they are operating remotely or in a blended format? What if only a few of the classrooms are open, will requirements be examined for all classrooms or only those that are operating in person?
If a program is only operating remotely, it is not able to be rated. Programs will be granted temporary extensions and should contact their SUTQ/licensing specialists to confirm reopening dates and for specific instructions on how to complete a renewal application within the Ohio Child Licensing and Quality System (OCLQS).

Will programs that receive Publicly Funded Child Care (PFCC) funding be able to have their SUTQ ratings renewed if they are operating remotely?
If a program is operating with a blended schedule, the classrooms that are operating in person will be expected to meet SUTQ requirements.

What will happen to funding if a program is not able to have its SUTQ rating renewed because it is operating remotely and it is receiving PFCC funding?
Please refer to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services webpage on PFCC for guidance. Are programs able to submit their SUTQ registration or annual report?
Yes. Programs can submit information into the Ohio Child Licensing and Quality System (OCLQS).              
 
Will programs have extended timelines for submitting SUTQ documentation?
Yes, new timelines will be established for registrations, renewals, deferrals and annual reports. Assigned specialists will work with programs to establish revised timelines.  
 
A program has a provider agreement with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to provide publicly funded child care, and it is required to be rated by June 30, 2020. Will that date be changed, or will the program lose publicly funded child care funding?
House Bill 197 (enacted on March 27, 2020) changed the July 1, 2020, deadline to Sept. 1, 2020. Therefore, no Publicly Funded Child Care provider that is waiting on its SUTQ rating will lose funding if it is not star rated by July 1, 2020. Any Ohio Department of Education-licensed provider that falls into this category, should be sure to enter a reopening date into OCLQS by following these directions.     
 
Will any exceptions be made for the professional development certificate requirements for SUTQ?
In partnership with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the professional development certificate requirements will not be assessed until June 30, 2021. As a reminder, every staff member has until the end of the biennium to complete his or her Professional Development Certificate (June 30, 2021). For a full list of available Ohio-approved training options, visit the Ohio Professional Registry
 
Who can programs contact for more information and answers to additional questions?
For additional support regarding SUTQ, contact the SUTQ team via email at SUTQ@education.ohio.gov.
Contact information for individual team members can be found here.

back to top

HEAD START AND EARLY HEAD START PROGRAMS

How is Head Start / Early Head Start responding to the coronavirus?
For information on Head Start or Early Head Start, please visit the Ohio Department of Education Office of Head Start. For the latest COVID-19 information from the Office of Head Start, please visit https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/coronavirus/responding-covid-19
   
Who can programs contact for more information and answers to additional questions? 
For additional support regarding Head Start or Early Head Start, contact the Department via email at headstart@education.ohio.gov or email Ohio’s Head Start Collaboration Director, Anita Armstrong, at Anita.Armstrong@education.ohio.gov.

back to top

Additional Resources

For additional support for reopening early childhood programs, see the list and resources below:
 
The National P – 3 Center has published a School-based PreK, Kindergarten, and the Early Grades:
Pandemic-related Planning guide.
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidance for schools when planning reopening.
 
The Council of Chief State School Officers published several resources for school leaders during COVID-19 and the Restart and Recovery Framework to assist programs as they work to reopen school buildings.
 
The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, a technical assistance provider for anyone serving young children with disabilities, has created a Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) webpage, including:  
The U.S. Department of Education’s COVID-19 Information and Resources page provides many COVID-19 related resources and updates, including: Recorded Webinar: Social Distancing in Early Care and Education: Feasible or Impossible? This webinar (slides included) from the National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness provides key strategies for early care and education programs from early childhood experts and the Office of Head Start.
 
TalkingPoints is a non-profit organization focused on family engagement for underserved and multilingual families. Their online resources are free for teachers.
Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child created this podcast called The Brain Architects Podcast: COVID-19 Special Edition: Mental Health in a Locked-Down World. It comes with guides and resources on all of the following: Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic; Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Impacts; Infographic: What is COVID-19?; Supporting Children (and Yourself); Build Resilience During COVID-19; and COVID-19 Resources.
 
National Association of School Boards of Education (NASBE) put out a resource on how school districts can support child care: http://www.nasbe.org/policy-update/supporting-child-care-providers-amid-covid-19/
 

Last Modified: 9/4/2020 2:41:11 PM