Emergency Child Care Guidance for School Districts

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TO: Superintendents, Principals and School District Child Care Contacts
FROM: Governor’s Office, Oregon Department of Education and Early Learning Division
RE: Emergency Child Care Guidance for School Districts

Thank you for your ongoing leadership and support of your community in these extraordinary times. This message and guidance provides additional information regarding emergency child care provisions in Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-08.

As of April 8, 2020, school districts are required to either maintain the existing emergency child care programs they have already opened, or be prepared to implement school-based emergency child care for kindergarten to 12-year old children within three business days if contacted by the Oregon Department of Education. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Early Learning Division (ELD) have developed comprehensive guidance that will be updated regularly to support school districts in their planning and readiness process to open school-based emergency child care if directed. Additional resources will be made available on the Oregon Department of Education website

Updated Emergency Child Care Directive

This memo supersedes the direction in previous communication by requiring the following:

  1. School districts maintain the existing emergency child care programs they have already opened, or
  2. School districts develop a plan to provide school-based emergency child care for kindergarten to 12-year old children, which can be implemented within three days of notification from the Oregon Department of Education. 

All school districts need to be ready to contribute if called upon, either by standing up a child care program for school-age students of essential workers within three working days or by contributing school district personnel and/or facilities to support an existing child care program within their district or region.

The decision to require districts to develop a plan (and not immediately implement an emergency school-based child care site unless contacted first by ODE) is necessary for several reasons. First, school districts are being asked to provide a variety of services and supports across the K-12 system in unique, new, and/or unconventional ways. We recognize that not all school districts may have staff with the requisite experience or expertise to provide high-quality birth to pre-k child care. Moreover, given the additional responsibilities for teachers to implement distance learning, districts will likely be challenged to identify staff with the relevant training and child development knowledge necessary to provide a safe, trauma-informed, and culturally-responsive school-aged child care setting.

Second, unless demand for emergency child care increases, the need for additional school-based emergency child care programs is low. Over 1,700 community-based, licensed child care providers remain open as emergency child care programs, with the ability to serve 9,500 additional children and families of essential workers in their communities.

Finally, it is important that in these uncertain times, we continue to support our licensed child care providers. Prior to this emergency, Oregon qualified as a child care desert, meaning the state lacks an adequate supply of affordable, accessible high-quality child care throughout the state. In response to the closure order, thousands of child care providers have already shuttered their programs, and are unlikely to re-open after a closure of two or more weeks. Therefore, this new directive is also intended to preserve as many child care programs as possible now and in the future.

Background and Timeline

On March 17, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-08, ordering that schools shall continue to receive allocations from the State School Fund as if they had actually been in session during the closure period. Continued allocations require districts and schools to provide “support for supplemental services and emergency management services, including but not limited to, the provision of child care for first responders, emergency workers, and other individuals, consistent with any guidance and requirements provided by the Oregon Department of Education,” as needs arise, in addition to other services. 

On March 19, 2020, ODE and ELD issued a joint memorandum clarifying that school districts were required to provide emergency child care. This included a toolkit for districts and key considerations, including partner support, registration, and staffing.

On March 23, 2020, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-12, ordering that licensed child care facilities close through April 28, 2020, unless approved by ELD as an emergency child care program that: 1) cares for 10 or fewer children in stable groups, and 2) prioritizes child care for first responders, emergency workers, and health care professionals, followed by critical operations staff and essential personnel. Pursuant to this Executive Order, ELD released temporary changes to child care rules and ODE began the process of identifying policy and program adjustments and guidance needed for school-aged care in response to the COVID-19 emergency.

On March 30, 2020, ODE issued guidance to implement Distance Learning for All in response to the likelihood of school closures through the end of the academic year. School districts are required to have their distance learning plans in place by April 13, 2020 to ensure students receive ongoing interaction with their teacher and maintain an educational pathway during this critical time.

As this work continues to evolve, school districts are being asked to provide services far outside their traditional operating scope. This memo outlines and highlights guidance for another critical component of the Governor’s Executive Memo related to the school closure period: emergency school-based child care.

Current Status of Emergency Child Care

As of April 2, 2020, the ELD’s Office of Child Care (OCC) has received over 2,000 emergency child care applications. So far, approximately 1,700 community-based providers have been approved by the OCC to date, for a total capacity of nearly 9,500 child care slots statewide. Most licensed emergency child care programs are reporting that they are not full and are accepting referrals for additional families. 

ELD is working with partners, including Child Care Resource & Referral agencies, Early Learning Hubs, and child care associations to identify where additional emergency child care capacity is needed. ELD and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) have partnered to deliver a survey to essential workers to capture the immediate child care needs across the state. Districts and their partners are welcome to share this survey with any essential workers to ensure as accurate an assessment of child care needs as possible. 

While this policy shift aims to both support existing licensed child care providers and reduce implementation burden on school districts, ODE expects and will continue to provide ongoing opportunities for coordination and partnership through school-based emergency child care and support of distance learning for school-aged children in existing care settings. We must be able to rely on you to quickly operationalize school-based emergency child care programs if and when you are called upon. ODE will be following up with each of you to assess your readiness and provide any technical assistance related to planning and/or implementation in coordination with ELD.

The State of Oregon thanks you for continuing to work to support the health and safety of families.