Childcare program to help families with remote learning

Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order Friday that will allow the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to allow currently licensed after-school and out-of-school programs to operate during the school day while children are learning remotely, according to a press release.

State statute does not normally allow these programs to operate during school hours, but with Baker’s order, programs through the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and others can care for children while they participate in remote learning.

“The Commonwealth is developing creative solutions that can meet the needs of children and their families during this unprecedented era in education,” EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy said in the release. “We would also like to commend the community providers and education leaders who have worked together to develop solutions tailored to meet families’ needs”

The EEC will also exempt informal remote learning parent cooperative arrangements organized by families, if the groups are supervised by unpaid parents. These parent cooperatives are still subject to any state orders regulating gatherings in place under the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Temporary licenses for remote learning will also be created for remote learning enrichment programs for children up to the age of 14. The remote learning programs, which must meet a specific criteria must be approved by towns before applying for a license. Programs run by a school district are already exempt from EEC licensure and do not need to apply for this exemption.

The Departments of Early Education and Care and Elementary and Secondary Education will issue joint guidance that details the minimum requirements for remote learning programs, including background record checks, health and safety standards, facilities checks, and child to staff ratios, according to the release.

“We all want our children to get back into school as soon as possible and we applaud the schools and districts that are making the extra effort to bring their students back in some form,” Education Secretary James Peyser said in the release. “At the same time, we know that remote learning will be part of the educational experience for many students this fall, so it’s critical that we enable parents, after-school providers, and community organizations to offer additional childcare options and learning support when students are unable to attend school in person.”