Head Start Back to School: New Safety Protocols in Place

Head Start classrooms across Williamson and Burnet Counties reopened on Monday, August 24. Since Head Start staff returned from summer break in early August, staff have been sanitizing and rearranging classrooms, undergoing training and safety protocols, and preparing virtual orientation for Head Start parents and their children.

This socially distanced parent orientation walked Head Start parents through these new safety and sanitation guidelines and protocols.

Here are some important details from our Head Start program’s implementation plan for reopening amidst COVID-19.

  1. Staff Training
    • All Head Start staff are required to have completed Special Considerations for Infection Control During COVID-19 training before returning to the center. Additional training has been carried out, as well.
  2. Equipment and Supplies
    • Staff will ensure each day that the proper sanitation and safety equipment is available (i.e. cloth masks, smocks, disposable gloves, non-contact thermometers, etc.)
  3. Classroom Set-Up and Arrangement
    • Tape or visual markers will be placed on floors to show social distancing requirements. Children will have individual cubbies for their belongings. Fewer chairs will be placed per table to max out 3 children per table for mealtime and table activities.
    • Items that cannot be easily cleaned have been removed from classrooms. Shared items will be sanitized between uses. Each child will have their own container of supplies, like crayons and scissors.
  4. Staff Arrival and Screening
    • Staff will be screened daily prior to entering the facility (daily temperature check, COVID exposure screening questions). Staff with certain symptoms will be sent home immediately.
  5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • All staff are required to wear a cloth face covering at all times. Gloves are required to be worn by staff to conduct health screenings, cleaning, diapering children or assisting in the restroom, preparing or serving food, doing laundry, or handling bodily fluids.
    • Staff will wear smocks to protect their clothing.
    • Children are not required to wear a mask but can wear a mask if required by parents.
  6. Child Drop Off and Pick Up
    • Drop off and pick up will occur outside centers. Parents cannot enter the site without a legitimate reason and must be screened if they do. Parents may complete this step curbside, at a central outdoor area on site, or at the office door/porch.
    • Children are screened prior to entrance and drop off and pick up times will be staggered as much as possible. Children are required to wash hands immediately upon entrance.
  7. Group Sizes and Ratios
    • Reduced class sizes will be enforced until further notice. Head Start will maintain a maximum of 12 children per classroom with 2 teachers. Early Head Start will maintain a maximum of 8 children per classroom with 2 teachers.
  8. Virtual Learning
    • This option will be available for families who do not wish to participate in center-based learning or for children who are isolating due to COVID-19.
  9. Caring for Infants and Toddlers
    • Staff and children must wash their hands before diapering or toileting. When holding or feeding children, staff must wear a smock. Infant teachers must wash their hands before and after handling infant bottles.
  10. Home and Center Visits
    • Home or center visits will be virtual when possible or in a social distancing manner. Alternate locations for parent visits will be considered, such as holding visits outdoors.
  11. Meals
    • Meals will be served in individually wrapped containers. Staff will wear gloves and a mask at all times while serving. Tables will be spread 6 feet apart when possible.
  12. Healthy Hand Hygiene
    • This will be a planned daily activity, teaching children to wash their hands for 20 seconds. Staff, children, and any other personnel will be required to wash their hands before and after certain activities.
  13. Exclusion for Illness
    • Staff has provided education and training to parents to maintain safety and encouraging parents to keep children home when they are ill. Parents are expected to notify the center if their child becomes sick with COVID-19, tests positive, or has been exposed.
  14. Staff Expectations
    • Staff will follow guidelines and will continue to meet the expectations of their job descriptions and policies.

Read the entire Implementation Plan here.