Reopening Youth Programs
Gov. Kemp’s most recent executive order (the “Order”) has specific rules for licensed child care facilities and general rules for other youth-serving organizations. The order does not change many rules, but it does put all of them in one place. If you are thinking about whether to open your program, these are the rules you will have to follow:
Applicability: The specific rules for “child care facilities” apply to (1) all programs that have a license from the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) and (2) exempt groups that accept Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) funding. All other programs must follow the general rules listed below.
Child Care Facilities Rules from the Order: Groups that have a license from DECAL or accept CAPS funds from DECAL must follow rules most of which DECAL has been enforcing already, in addition to the general rules below.
- Limit of 10. You can have only 10 people, including children and teachers, in each separate room. DECAL also requires that you continue to follow teacher to student ratios for each age group.
- No transportation. Centers can only transport children between their home and center, and must maintain social distancing whenever possible.
- Screening. You must screen children for illness as well as employees, and prohibit anyone with symptoms from entering a classroom. Recommendation is to take temperatures and watch for other signs of illness such as coughing, etc. A comprehensive summary on permissible actions for screening employees is available here.
- Visitors. You must prohibit unnecessary visitors, and restrict family access to the front door of the facility or the door of their child’s classroom.
- Meals. You must provide meals in each individual classroom.
- Cleaning. You must sanitize objects and surfaces that are frequently touched, and cannot use toys and games that cannot be sanitized. If children place toys in their mouths, you must set the toys aside until a person wearing gloves can clean them. “Set aside” means put them in a pan of soapy water or a separate container marked for soiled toys. You must sanitize toys before moving them to another group of children.
- Bedding. Centers can use only washable bedding, must wash the bedding weekly, and must keep each child’s bedding separate from others.
- Sign-in and out. Workers should sign children in and out if possible. If your center has a tablet outside the facility or paper system, then you must sanitize the tablet and writing utensils after each person’s use. DECAL has waived the parents’ signature requirement for CAPS funding for the duration of the emergency.
General Rules: The rules in the Order for all entities, including those exempt from DECAL licenses, are extensive. The measures that apply to most youth-serving organizations require the facilities to:
- Screen and evaluate workers who exhibit signs of illness, and require that workers who exhibit symptoms of illness stay home. As stated below, recommendation is to take temperatures and watch for other signs of illness.
- Clean, disinfect, and sanitize physical locations.
- Require frequent hand-washing and post notices about that requirement.
- Permit workers to take breaks where they can follow social distancing guidelines.
- Discourage unnecessary person-to-person contact. Of course you should implement this last rule within the context that younger children enjoy and need positive physical touches from trusted adults. “No touch” rules can be harmful on their own, so try not to let limited touching turn into never touching children.
Other Matters: We also recommend that your organization take a look at your parent agreements and employment contracts. These are not part of the governor’s order, but are good practices that we recommend:
- Employees. Check your employee handbooks and agreements to be certain that failure to follow the governor’s order and CDC guidelines, particularly hand-washing, are included as grounds for discipline. You need not specifically mention these measures. Just be certain that the general language in your agreements covers these issues.
- Children and Parents. Be sure that your parent handbooks and agreements allow you to un-roll children if their parents refuse to follow the governor’s order and CDC guidelines, such as keeping sick children at home. Also check that the waivers in any agreements protect you if any children contract the virus or test positive after attending the center. This virus is a novel situation, so we are not certain to what extent courts will honor a waiver of liability. Nevertheless, it will not hurt to check that you have language in your waiver that will cover this situation.
A comprehensive summary of Governor Brian Kemp's "Reviving a Healthy Georgia" Executive Order is available here.