School-based PreK programs are in a unique situation as they plan for fall 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been extensive focus on child care programs since they were deemed an essential service. While school-based PreK programs have much to learn from the child care sector, they also operate in a different context and must manage multiple rules, regulations, and standards that child care programs do not.
For example, school-based PreK programs often must stay in compliance with other state guidelines and legislative mandates related to state-funded PreK programs, early learning standards and professional development requirements, and child care licensing regulations. They also must adhere to overall state/district K-12 policy decisions related to attendance, annual count dates, and district/school accountability efforts. In addition, many inclusive school-based PreK classrooms must also meet federal guidelines and mandates from Head Start, the Child Care Development Fund, and IDEA.
During the pandemic, there are even more layers as the CDC and state/local public health agencies provide health/safety guidance for different sectors of the economy (and “care” and “education” are not always in the same category). As if that weren’t enough, many school districts are focused on creating greater alignment across their PreK through 3rd grade efforts (P-3).
To begin to make sense of this, we did a side-by-side comparison of COVID-19 guidances issued in just one state (Colorado).