March 18, 2020
March 18, 2020 
5:00 P.M. Update

Below you will find an Important Message from the Office of Early Learning and the Department of Education:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

IMPORTANT UPDATE RELATED TO PROGRAM OPERATIONS, CLOSURES AND ELIGIBILITY
Dear Providers:

Currently, we are experiencing a very unprecedented time in the early learning industry. A time of uncertainty, a time of doubt and a time of fear. Through the news, many of us have heard about the increased need for first responders, including law enforcement, fire, EMS and medical staff. It is my firm belief that childcare directors, owners, teachers and support staff are also part of the first responder family. I assure you that we here at the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties are committed to walking beside you during this time. 

Along with the other coalitions across the state, we are working with the Office of Early Learning to help discover the details being discussed. It appears the consensus statewide is that there are concerns with childcare centers remaining open and the possible spreading of the virus; however, there is also a tremendous need in keeping our community functioning by having quality childcare available to parents who must continue to work. Once again, the ELC of Pasco and Hernando Counties is not an authority who will make a decision on whether or not a center should shut down. If you choose to shut down your site, please upload a closure letter to the attendance folder in the Provider Services Portal and also please notify your Provider Specialist via email.
 
In all of the uncertainty around the Coronavirus Pandemic/COVID-19, I am certain of one thing: that our Pasco and Hernando workforces critically depend on you and your staff! ·         

We hope that all SR and VPK providers decide to remain open. Please do your best to adhere with CDC recommendations to keep classroom sizes at 10 or less children whenever possible.

Shan Goff, the Executive Director of the Office of Early Learning and Dr. Eric Hall, the Chancellor for Innovation at the Department of Education, announced major provisions and guidance to assist School Readiness and VPK programs and families during this critical time. While they did not provide any other details than what is listed below, we wanted to make sure you were aware of this new information. We continue to await additional details and will share them with you as they are provided to us.
 
  • Programs can decide whether to stay open or close, either way they WILL BE REIMBURSED
  • All SR and VPK providers who decide to remain open should adhere with CDC recommendations to keep classroom size down to 10 or less children
  • OEL will stress following strict guidelines on cleanliness and sanitation protocols for programs who stay open (CDC guidelines for schools/childcare centers)
  • OEL is working on provisions to loosen the rules surrounding eligibility, re-determination (and documentation), possibly waiving parent fees, parent balances, allowable absences, etc. 
  • There is a plan to suspend School Readiness and VPK Assessments

The bottom line from what we heard was that Governor DeSantis did not want providers to worry about being paid or parents concerned about losing their eligibility. 
 
In a press release dated Tuesday, March 17 th the Commissioner of Education stated that all School Readiness and Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Programs will receive their full allocation of funding through June 30, 2020 as though there was no disruption in education. The purpose of this continued funding is to ensure that childcare providers will be able to financially support their day to day operations including paying teachers and childcare staff regardless of the decision to remain open during this health crisis, or not. The exact details of how we go about doing this and what exactly will qualify is still being determined. I know for certain if you stay open you will be paid for everyone, present or not, so keep good records .  

Please continue to look out for additional important and updated information from the ELC. The ELC of Pasco and Hernando Counties will continue to do whatever we can to support our early learning providers during this time. 
  
We want to ensure you, your staff and the families you serve are properly informed.  Therefore, we've established a web page on our website ( www.phelc.org ), dedicated to providing information regarding COVID-19. You will also find additional information from the CDC here:

 
Please check the ELC's web page at least daily, as we post updated information. We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook for timely updates as well.
 
The next few weeks will be very trying times for all of us and our workforce community will be counting on you to do what you do best, care for children! I trust and feel confident that you will continue to safely serve during this time.  

Stay safe and p lease feel free to contact us at coalition@phelc.org if we can be of any assistance.

Steve Knobl, Ph.D.
Executive Director

REMEMBER - Be Safe - Wash Your Hands!
Steve Knobl, Ph.D., Executive Director
Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties, Inc.
15506 County Line Road
Spring Hill, Florida 34610

Phone: 727-233-8291
Fax: 727-857-0151