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Answers to Common Questions During COVID-19:
Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Programs

This page was created on July 24, 2020

What reopening guidance should Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts (PA PKC) and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Programs (HSSAP) follow for School Year (SY) 2020-21?

Programs should use reopening guidance based on the program's provider type:


Do PA PKC and HSSAP need to submit a plan for reopening to the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL)?

Yes. PA PKC and HSSAP lead agencies and partner agencies should be working to develop re-opening plans that consider flexibility in the event of an emergency that prevents the program from being able to provide for attendance of all students or usual hours of classes. The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) considers the World Health Organization-declared Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) global pandemic an emergency.  PA PKC and HSSAP providers should be using reopening guidance based on the program's provider type as mentioned above to develop plans for reopening in SY 2020.

In addition to health and safety, programs should consider including remote learning options in their plan, including how children will be assessed remotely. The plan should be developed with input from staff and family and must be shared and acknowledged by staff and enrolled families. Partner agency plans should be accessible to lead agencies for review. Lead agency and partner agency plans should be accessible to PK Program Specialists for review. Larger organizations (i.e., LEAs, Head Start) can and should include the reopening plans of PA PKC and HSSAP in their reopening plans.

Will the 180-day requirement for PA PKC programs be waived for SY 2020?

No, PA PKC providers will be expected to meet the 180-day requirement.

Does remote learning count as an instructional day? What does remote learning need to include to count as an instructional day?

See "Additional instructional options during COVID-19" section below.

Will full enrollment still be an expectation with potentially smaller class sizes due to social distancing requirements?

Yes, full enrollment is expected.

Should PA PKC and HSSAPs track instructional time spent in a remote learning environment?

If a PA PKC or HSSAP counts remote learning towards the instructional day requirement, then the program must accurately track out of school instructional time (i.e., remote learning) similar to attendance in the school building. See "Additional instructional options during COVID-19" section below to review what can be counted toward instructional time during remote learning. For tracking purposes, participation in remote learning options should be verified. Programs are encouraged to allow flexibility to minimize burden on the family, however, expectations for participation in remote learning options should be developed at the program level and communicated to families.

If new classrooms are opened to meet social distancing requirements, do the requirements related to staffing qualifications apply in each classroom?

Yes, requirements related to staffing qualifications will apply in any classroom where a PA PKC-funded or HSSAP-funded child is receiving instruction.

If our building is closed for face-to-face instruction, do PA PKC and HSSAPs still need to ensure enrolled students have options for meals?

Yes, programs need to ensure enrolled students have options for meals for each scheduled program day regardless whether instruction occurs face-to-face or remotely. "Options for meals" might include program-supplied meals or a collaborative approach between provider and community agencies to ensure access to meals (e.g., working with grocer to supply specific food vouchers). In addition, programs should maintain documentation of how they assessed and addressed family need for meals.

If not returning to a fully face-to-face program model, do PA PKC and HSSAPs need to administer assessments to students?

Yes, PA PKC and HSSAPs are required to administer assessments to students during SY 2020, and assessments should be part of the programs' remote learning plans.

Additional instructional options during COVID-19:

Remote learning plans for students enrolled in a PA PKC or HSSAP can include a mixture of virtual and/or non-virtual options and should be responsive to the needs of the students and families served.

Remote learning planning: virtual

For virtual remote learning options to count as an instructional day, the following requirements must be met:

  • A written remote learning plan that identifies what virtual options will be used must be developed and shared with families, and families must acknowledge receipt of the policy. Use "additional considerations for virtual learning" guidance referenced below when developing the remote learning plan.  The plan should address, at minimum, the following:
    • how family technology needs were assessed and addressed,
    • how student participation will be tracked,
    • what platforms will be used,
    • how student, staff, and families have or will receive training in the platforms,
    • how content will be delivered,
    • how students and families will be engaged, including ways participation will be flexible to meet student and family needs, and
    • how programs will document and assess student learning.
       
  • Family technology needs (hardware, software, and access) should be assessed and efforts made to alleviate any barriers to access; no fees may be charged. Programs must document the ways family needs were assessed and addressed.
     
  • Certified lead teachers should be developing and monitoring content of no more than 30 minutes per day of virtual remote learning.
     
  • Content should be delivered using a platform students and families are familiar with and is expected to include all learning domains aligned with PA Learning Standards for Early Childhood.
     
  • Allowable content includes:
    • Synchronous: real time; virtual meetings between lead teacher/student(s) in which instruction/learning activities occur (e.g., live read aloud).
    • Asynchronous: on own time instruction/learning activities that are reviewed after submission by teacher or other staff (e.g., a recorded lesson with clear expectations to access/complete it within a specified time frame). 

PK Program Specialists may monitor virtual learning experiences through review of provided options and family interviews and should be provided access to online platforms upon request.        

*Additional considerations for virtual learning:

Online learning should:

  • maintain and enhance relationships between schools and families,
  • support families as their child's first teachers,
  • respect the family's and student's unique needs during this time,
  • maintain and enhance learning that happens anywhere,
  • be available to all families and learners (to every extent possible),
  • focus on critical learning standards across multiple content areas (cross curricular),
  • focus on student progress and learning,
  • use online tools the students are already familiar with,
  • address various learning styles, and
  • comply with any privacy related issues.

Online learning should not:

  • place undue burden (financial, stress) on families or programs,
  • look the same for every family,
  • perpetuate inequities,
  • mimic typical school settings, or
  • focus on assignment completion and due dates.

Considerations when planning and implementing online learning:

  • family stress during this unprecedented time,
  • technology access and availability,
  • family schedules (are family members working from home; what is their availability to interact and monitor their child's online learning experiences),
  • multi-age learning (multiple children of varying ages in the home setting), and
  • teachers' experience and competency creating virtual learning opportunities.

Remote learning planning: non-virtual 

For non-virtual remote learning options to count as an instructional day, the following requirements must be met:

  • A written remote learning plan that identifies what non-virtual options will be used must be developed and shared with families, and families must acknowledge receipt of the policy. The plan should include, at minimum, the following:
    • documentation outlining how family needs (for pickup of materials, for example) were assessed and addressed,
    • how student participation will be tracked,
    • what materials will be provided,
    • how families will receive training on at-home learning activities,
    • how students and families will be engaged, including ways participation will be flexible to meet student and family needs, and
    • how programs will document and asses student learning.
       
  • Efforts must be made to understand and alleviate any barriers to obtaining materials necessary for completing and collecting take home assignments. No fees may be charged.
     
  • Certified lead teachers should be developing and monitoring content of no more than 30 minutes per day of non-virtual remote learning.
     
  • Content should include all learning domains aligned with PA Learning Standards for Early Childhood.
     
  • Content should be facilitated by an adult and include documentation of completion that is reviewed by program staff on a regular schedule (e.g. a videoed or photographed at home learning activity). Allowable content includes:
    • any learning activity completed outside of school environment,
    • take -home activity packets, and
    • Public Broadcasting System (PBS)-related activities.
       
  • Home visits will count when an instructional component is included.

PK Program Specialists may monitor non-virtual remote learning experiences through review of provided options and family interviews and should be provided access to provided options upon request.