Open Arms is taking extra precautions to make our school as safe as possible. We receive guidelines from Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), our MSDE Licensing Specialist, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This guidance is frequently changing. You can continue to stay up to date by frequently visiting https://earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/early-childhood-grants-programming-and-initiatives-maryland-during-covid-19-state-emergency
Child Care programs must take extraordinary precautions beyond what is normally recommended to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I want to be able to address the concerns you have, so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not to resume care for your child.
Our response to COVID-19:
- Are special processes beyond routine cleaning necessary and recommended to slow the spread of COVID-19? No. Special processes beyond routine cleaning are not necessary nor recommended to slow the spread of respiratory illness. Programs should follow standard procedures for cleaning as recommended below by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Typically, this means daily sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as bathrooms, water coolers, desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands‐on learning items, faucet handles, phones and toys. Disinfecting is the responsibility of program staff. They are trained to use disinfectants in a safe and effective manner and to clean up potentially infectious materials and body fluid spills – blood, vomit, feces, and urine. Refer to: https://earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/enhanced-guidelines-child-care-facilities-prevent-spread-covid-19
- Are parents allowed to enter Open Arms? No, as MSDE/CDC guidance indicates, not at this time.
- Are children over 2-years-old required to wear a mask? Yes, however each child care program has been asked to determine the feasibility of implementing the use of cloth face coverings based upon the characteristics of the children in its care as well as the availability of staff to support the safe and consistent use of cloth face coverings by children. Refer to page 2: https://earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/system/files/filedepot/3/covid_guidance_full_080420.pdf
- Will temperature and symptom screening be conducted daily on each child upon arrival to the child care facility? Yes. The individual child’s parent/guardian who is dropping off the child should take the child’s temperature, with a personal thermometer brought from home, upon arrival while being directly observed by child care program staff. After taking the temperature, the child’s parent/guardian should show the temperature result to the child care program staff for recording. Refer to page 12: https://earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/system/files/filedepot/3/covid_guidance_full_080420.pdf
- Will you be surveying parents at drop-off? Yes, we are required, at drop off, to ask parents/guardians the same questions daily: Does the child have any symptoms of COVID-19? Are there persons in the child’s household with symptoms of COVID-19?
- Can my child return to Open Arms? All Childcare providers in Maryland may reopen. https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/06/10/governor-hogan-announces-next-stage-two-reopenings-including-indoor-dining-and-outdoor-amusements/
- If an Open Arms parent is a health care professional and cared for a COVID-19 patient, can the child attend? Yes, if the parent or child has not developed symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. Refer to: https://earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/early-childhood-grants-programming-and-initiatives-maryland-during-covid-19-state-emergency
- If a child or staff member is confirmed to have COVID-19, what should the child care program do? If a person working in or attending a child care program is a confirmed case of COVID- 19, the program should follow CDC and MDH/MSDE guidance: (1) contact the licensing specialist and local health department immediately, (2) close for 2-5 days while determining long term course which may include closure for 14 days or more, (3) communicate with staff and parents regarding the confirmed case and exposure, (4) clean and disinfect the child care facility as recommended by the CDC, and (5) determine duration of program closure based on guidance from the local health department. The licensing specialist should be involved in the closure decision and process. Everyone potentially exposed to the person who tested positive for COVID-19 should monitor carefully for symptoms. Individuals who had close, prolonged contact with the person who tested positive should quarantine at home for 14 days after the last day of exposure. Refer to page 20: https://earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org/system/files/filedepot/3/covid_guidance_full_080420.pdf
Open Arms aims to reduce the risk for getting and spreading viral respiratory infections, including taking these critical steps from GUIDANCE FOR OPERATING CHILD CARE PROGRAMS (adapted from the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Child Care Programs):
Promoting healthy hygiene practices at Open Arms:
- Teach and reinforce washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes among children and staff.
- Teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings among all staff and children when feasible as described in the MSDE/MDH guidance, based on CDC guidance. Face coverings are most essential at times when social distancing is not possible. Staff should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently. Information provided to all staff on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.
- Have adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors, including soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer), and tissues.
- Post signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, promote everyday protective measures, and properly wear a face covering.
Intensify cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation
- Clean, sanitize, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (for example, playground equipment, door handles, sink handles, drinking fountains) multiple times per day and shared objects between use.
- Avoid use of items (for example, soft or plush toys, electronic devices, toys, books, other games, and learning aids) that are not easily cleaned and sanitized or disinfected. Rugs have been removed from classrooms or covered with a protective barrier.
- Ensure safe and correct application of disinfectants and keep products away from children.
- Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, and other methods. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk (for example, allowing pollens in or exacerbating asthma symptoms) to children using the facility.
Ensure social distancing
- Ensure that classes include the same group of children each day, and that the same child care providers remain with the same group each day and from week to week.
- Prohibit mixing between groups.
- Eliminate field trips, inter-group events, and extracurricular activities
- Restrict nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving multiple groups at the same time.
- Space out seating and bedding (head-to-toe positioning) to six feet apart if possible.
- Close communal use spaces, such as common break rooms for staff, multi-purpose rooms, game rooms or dining halls, if possible; if this is not possible, stagger use and implement enhanced cleaning and disinfecting in between uses.
- Stagger arrival and drop-off times or put in place other protocols to limit direct contact with parents as much as possible. Do not permit parents into the facility.
- Keep each child’s belongings separated and in individually labeled storage containers, cubbies, or areas or taken home at the end of the week to be cleaned.
- Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high touch materials to the extent possible (art supplies, equipment etc. assigned to a single camper) or limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of children at a time and clean and disinfect between use.
- Avoid sharing electronic devices, toys, books, other games, and learning aids if unable to clean and sanitize/ disinfect.
- Prevent risk of transmitting COVID-19 by avoiding close, prolonged contact (such as shaking or holding hands, hugging, or kissing)
Continued training of all staff
- Train all staff in the above safety actions. Training is being conducted virtually, and, when in-person, social distancing is maintained.
- Provide on-going training for new information, as well as refresher courses.
- Required training is being taken in order to remain in compliance with licensing regulations so programs do not fall behind in the annual requirements.
- Provide on-going training for new information, as well as refresher courses.
Screen for signs and symptoms
- Screen children upon arrival, if possible. Establish routine, daily symptom screening and temperature checks on arrival, for both staff and children. Information on daily health check screenings for children are provided in the MSDE/MDH guidance, based on CDC guidance.
- Implement temperature checks and symptom screening safely, and respectfully, and with measures in place to ensure confidentiality as well as in accordance with any applicable privacy laws or regulations. Keep a log of results. Confidentiality should be maintained.
- Employers and child care directors should use examples of screening methods in the MSDE/MDH guidance, based on CDC guidance.
- Encourage staff to stay home if they are sick (even mildly) and encourage parents to keep sick children home.