New Information from EEC & Our Tobin Response
June 3, 2021
On Friday, May 28th, MA EEC sent out EEC’s Health and Safety Guidance During COVID-19 Recovery for Child Care Providers. Our Tobin Leadership Team met to discuss these revisions this week. We thank you for your patience as we thoroughly reviewed this update concerning next steps in the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
Many of the latest EEC guidelines are not clearly defined and are intended to support programs as they develop their own protocols to meet the specific needs of their program and the population served. EEC has also informed us that additional guidance will be forthcoming. We appreciate your flexibility as we do our best to ensure the safety of all our students, their families, and staff; and work to be respectful of everyone’s personal beliefs during these changes.
As in our last update, the MA Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) language is included here. The Tobin Response is shown in green, detailing how these new guidelines will impact everyone at Tobin.
Q: What is the new mask policy for children?
EEC Response: EEC is recommending (not requiring) children 5 years old and older continue to wear masks when inside a program and unable to distance, consistent with the mask advisory issued by the Dept. of Public Health. Children do not have to wear masks nor maintain distance when outdoors.
Tobin Response: Effective, Monday, June 14th, we will revise our Tobin policy as follows:
- Per previous EEC guidance, all children at Tobin are no longer required to wear masks outside.
- Children ages 2, 3, 4 and 5–who are not yet enrolled in Kindergarten–will no longer be required to wear masks inside.
- Children 5 years old–who are currently attending Kindergarten–and up will be required to wear masks inside.
We will honor all parent requests to have their 2-5 year old child continue to wear masks inside, outside, or both. Here is a link to share your preferences for your child’s mask usage here at Tobin.
*We are aware that this policy change may cause concern for some families. We ask that you are respectful of each individual’s choice to require their child to wear a mask. We believe in fostering empathy and understanding during this transition. If you wish for your child to wear a mask while inside and/or outside please complete the survey link above so we have documentation of your wishes.
Q: What is the new mask policy for adults?
EEC Response: EEC is recommending (not requiring) that unvaccinated staff and educators, continue to wear masks when inside a program and unable to distance, consistent with the mask advisory issued by the Dept. of Public Health. Fully vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks outside; unvaccinated individuals are encouraged to wear masks when outside if they cannot maintain distance.
Tobin Response: Effective, Monday, June 14th, we will revise our Tobin policy as follows:
- Vaccinated parents and guardians are no longer required to wear masks during drop off and pick up time on our Tobin campus.
- Vaccinated teachers and staff are no longer required to wear masks inside or outside.
- Unvaccinated adults, including parents/guardians/teachers, are required to wear a mask at all times on our Natick campus.
- While we will be requesting vaccination documentation from our Tobin employees, we will not be asking parents for proof of vaccination. We ask everyone to please respect this rule.
- Mask wearing teachers may take an outside mask break when they can ensure 6 foot distancing.
*There are many reasons that an adult may choose to wear a mask besides a choice not to vaccinate. They may live with health compromised family members, may be hesitant to make this change at this time, or feel most comfortable interacting with others while wearing a mask. We ask that you are respectful of each individual’s choice to continue to wear a mask.
Q: Will we need to continue to complete health attestations each day? How will the health exclusion policy change?
EEC Response: Monitor for symptoms and stay home when sick or if exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual. Provide information to families to support them in conducting symptom checks each morning. Communicate clearly to families that they should not send their children to the program if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or are a close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual. Screening procedures are not required at point of entry. However, staff should observe children throughout the day and refer children who may be symptomatic to program administrators and families. COVID-19 specific practices like a daily health attestation, are no longer required by EEC.
Tobin Response: As we work to revise our previous Health Care Policy & Inclusion/Exclusion Policies to bring them in line with the most up-to-date information possible, we will be continuing Parent/Child Health Attestations through Friday, June 18th.
Prior to this date, we will release our updated Health Policies to the community in preparation to remove the Health Attestation requirement as of Monday, 6/21/21. The updated Health Care Policy & Inclusion/Exclusion Policies will include language related to both COVID and non-COVID illness, temperature thresholds, and exclusion times.
As we also work to update our Work & Safety Rules & Policy during COVID-19 for all our teachers, we will keep the current Employee Health Attestation process in effect through Friday, June 18th. Prior to this date, we will release an updated version of this document to all Tobin employees in preparation to remove the Employee Health Attestation requirement as of Monday, 6/21/21.
Please note that this means that children with a fever of 100.0 or higher or one or more COVID-19 symptoms may not attend school until they are cleared by a health professional. A child who has had close contact with a positive COVID-19 individual must stay out of school until they receive a negative COVID test or have been cleared of the need for one by a healthcare professional. Finally, if your child is awaiting results from a COVID-19 test, they cannot attend until a negative result is received. We ask our Tobin educators to follow these same protocols.
Q: Do individual class groups have to remain separate?
EEC Response: COVID-19 specific practices like keeping groups separate are no longer required by EEC. Assign children and adults to stable, discrete groups, as much as possible. Mixing of groups is now allowable in situations where risk reduction strategies are in effect, including use of outdoor space and increased ventilation.
Tobin Response: Per our Tobin philosophy, we will continue to assign children and educators to stable, discrete groups. We will, however, begin to mix groups during outside play times. Groups will only be mixed indoors if absolutely necessary and with increased ventilation assured.
Q: Can teachers work with more than one group?
EEC Response: Assign children and adults to stable, discrete groups, as much as possible. Use fully vaccinated adults to serve as “floating’ staff between groups.
Tobin Response: We will continue to assign all educators to stable, discrete groups. We will, on occasion, use a fully-vaccinated teacher as a floating teacher to support classroom staffing.
Q: Are there changes to the minimum space requirements per child?
EEC Response: Center-based programs can return to the minimum space requirements of 35 square feet per child.
Tobin Response: During COVID-19, EEC revised its current minimum indoor space requirements of 35 square feet per child to 42 square feet per child. Effective immediately, we will begin to revert to our original enrollment.
Q: Can parents/guardians go into the program?
EEC Response: Yes. Programs may choose to allow visitors, including parents/guardians, to re-enter the child care space as long as they adhere to the health and safety protocols. Programs have the discretion to decide which visitors will be allowed back into the program and under what conditions. Programs may require certain specific protocols during drop off, pick up, for conferences, or other scenarios as they deem necessary. All protocols and expectations should be communicated clearly to visitors, including families.
Tobin Response: As we move back toward previous protocols, we continue to be thoughtful about our policies and approach. And, of course, we want to ensure the health and safety of our students, their families and staff. For now, we will continue to limit the number of persons who will be allowed into our building and will have parents continue to drop off and pick up at designated doors outside, or on the playground.
Under the current guidelines, we have seen a marked decrease in the spread of common illnesses (colds, flu, etc.) for both students and staff. We found that the current drop off and pick up routine was adopted well by all our students and we believe it would be disruptive to dramatically change this protocol at this time. Our experience this year with outside drop off/pick up has also dramatically decreased disruptions and interruptions in our classrooms, while increasing productive learning time.
We will reevaluate this policy in the future.
Other important notes for our Tobin families:
Q: Will Tobin be returning to providing snack and milk?
Tobin Response: No, we will not be returning to snack and milk service.
We have found that there was tremendous waste involved in snack and milk service here at Tobin. Students would only eat certain items, much of it was swept up from the floor, students would ask for milk but pour it out, etc. With parents providing snack, and milk if they choose, it ensures that children are served items they will eat with less food waste.
This past year we have also found retaining and hiring high quality teachers is more difficult than ever and we know that our teachers are what make Tobin so special. Instead of bringing back snack and milk service, we will instead invest in our teachers so we can keep the wonderful educators we currently have and recruit the very best candidates for the future.
Q: What will the operating hours be at Tobin?
Tobin Response: We will continue with our current operating hour expansion:
7/1/21: full days at 7:30-5:30 and early pick up at 7:30-3:30
9/7/21: full days at 7:00-6:00 and early pick up at 7:00-3:30
Q: Will this change our plans for graduation?
Tobin Response: We will not be changing our plans to have in-person graduation events this Spring. Our end-of-year events are already planned. The teachers are excited to celebrate a wonderful year with your child.
Q: Will specialists be returning to Tobin?
Tobin Response: We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring the amount of people allowed into our buildings. As we do every summer, we will make a plan for specialists for the Fall. We will work to slowly incorporate some regular specialists back in our Fall schedule.
We are very excited to have been able to welcome Matt Coughlin, “Matt the Animal Man” back to in-person visits this week and last week here at TCS. It has been a real treat to have him and his animals back at Tobin!
Please feel free to reach out to your program’s Administrator with any questions regarding these updates, or any of our practices at Tobin.