Important Protocol Changes at Tobin
May 19, 2021
Thanks for your patience as we took time to thoroughly review the updates from our licensing agency concerning next steps in the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. Our Leadership Team met this morning and we are happy to share the following new guidelines for mask usage, shared materials, group mixing, and more.
Below you will find the MA Dept of Early Education and Care (EEC) language we were provided. EEC is allowing individual programs discretion in how they decide to implement these updates. The EEC response below is therefore followed by our Tobin Response showing how these new guidelines will impact Tobin:
Q: Do children have to wear masks outside?
EEC Response: No. On May 17th, 2021, after consultation with the MA COVID Command Center’s Medical Advisory Board, the Governor announced that given the low rate of outdoor transmission of COVID-19, children no longer have to wear masks when outdoors, even if distance cannot be maintained. Effective May 18, this guidance update applies to recess, physical education, youth sports, and outdoor learning environments. Adults must continue to wear masks outdoors when distancing cannot be maintained. At this time, children and adults should continue to wear masks indoors.
Tobin Response: No, effective immediately children do not need to wear masks during any outside activities on our Tobin campus, even if social distancing cannot be maintained. We will, however, honor any parent’s requests that their children should wear a mask during these outdoor times.* Children, ages 2 and up, must still wear masks indoors, except for snack, lunch, and rest time.
*We are very aware that this policy may cause concern for some families. We ask that you are respectful of each individual’s choice to continue to wear a mask or require their child to do so. We believe in fostering empathy and understanding during this transition back to normal. If you wish for your child to wear a mask while outside please let your classroom teacher know.
Q: Do parents/adults and teachers have to wear masks outside?
Tobin Response: EEC states that adults must continue to wear masks outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained. We do not believe that we can always maintain 6 feet for social distancing during drop off and pick up times as we transfer babies from arm to arm, pass along children’s belongings, and verbally share individual child information. Therefore we will require all adults to wear masks at Tobin during drop off and pick up times but we will allow adults to go without masks in the parking lot.
Our Tobin teachers will also be asked to continue wearing masks outdoors during daily activities but are allowed to take them off for ‘mask breaks’ when they CAN maintain social distancing guidelines. Teachers are also allowed to go without masks in our parking lot area, as long as social distancing rules can be maintained.
Q: Can shared materials be re-introduced into the child care space?
EEC Response: Yes. On May 17th, 2021, after consultation with the MA COVID Command Center’s Medical Advisory Board, the Governor announced that given the low likelihood of surface transmission of COVID-19, programs no longer have to avoid sharing objects. This includes classroom materials, items for physical education, and art supplies. Shared objects no longer have to be cleaned or disinfected between use and should follow the updated cleaning guidance outlined below.
Tobin Response: Yes. We will be moving to utilizing more shared materials here at Tobin. What will this look like?
- Classrooms no longer have to keep separate art supply bins for each child.
- Classrooms no longer need to provide separate trays of toys for each child’s use but can offer children the chance to play with a larger collection of materials.
- We will, however, continue to wash/sanitize toys that are shared between classrooms.
- We will not make any changes to our rule of not offering communal indoor sensory play experiences (i.e. each child using their own individual playdough or sensory bin instead of a large group sensory table)
- At TCS will allow greater usage of our All Purpose Room allowing use by more than one group in a day as long as materials used are wiped down between groups.
Q: How frequently do programs have to clean spaces or surfaces?
EEC Response: Based on CDC guidance and updated information on the low likelihood of surface transmission, as of May 17th, 2021, programs only need to clean high touch surfaces (door handles, bus seats, drinking fountains) and shared objects within the program and on program transport vehicles once a day, excluding certain circumstances. If programs are located in an area of high transmission of COVID-19, then they may consider cleaning more frequently, or cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects once a day. Similarly, for areas where masks are not worn (i.e., lunch areas), programs may consider cleaning surfaces between use. If a surface or object is visibly soiled, it should be immediately cleaned. If someone in the program in the past 24 hours has confirmed to have COVID-19, the spaces (i.e., classroom, bus, and lunch area) they were in should be cleaned and disinfected. If disinfecting, ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning products, including storing products securely away from children.
Tobin Response: As of the April EEC COVID-19 Child Care Playbook, we reverted to using the original EEC guidelines for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. We believe this still offers a very high level of sanitation and safety. We will continue our standard practice of thoroughly cleaning indoor spaces used for snack and meal times after each use. And, in the event that there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 here at Tobin, we will follow enhanced disinfecting guidelines for any affected areas. We will, of course, continue to comply with all safety guidelines related to the use and storage of any cleaning materials.
Q: Can parents/guardians go into the child care space?
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: We have taken many precautions to keep our Tobin children and families safe for the past year therefore with only a few weeks left of school we are cautious about making drastic changes. We have also seen a marked decrease in the spread of common illnesses (colds, flu, etc.) under these guidelines for both our students and our staff.
Therefore we have decided to continue to limit this traffic and parents will still drop off and pick up at designated places.. We will continue with our current practice of doing drop off and pick up at designated doors or outside on the playground. We will also continue our current protocol of only allowing virtual tours for prospective families.
Q: Can programs have activities with independent service providers (like music or art classes)?
EEC Response: Yes. Programs may choose to allow visitors, including service providers, to re-enter the program space to provide classes or services 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 that services be performed in designated areas only. All protocols and expectations should be communicated clearly to visitors, including service providers.
Tobin Response: The April revision to the COVID-19 Child Care Playbook allowed a child’s individual service providers (i.e. Early Intervention, SLP or OT Professionals) to be granted access to our buildings if these services can’t take place outside of school hours, we are not opening up access to other independent service providers such as specialist educators or optional providers. However, we may gradually reintroduce some specialists back into our program in the future.
Q: Do children have to be 6 feet apart when eating indoors?
EEC Response: Yes. All individuals must maintain 6 ft of physical distance when unmasked and indoors unless a physical barrier (for instance, plexiglass or similar) can be positioned between children when sitting closer together.
Tobin Response: We will continue to require 6 ft of physical distancing for children two and up, during indoor unmasked times including snack, lunch, and rest time.
Q: Can groups of children mix at the beginning and end of the day?
EEC Response: Yes. Programs may choose to mix groups. Programs have the discretion to decide which groups will be mixed and under what conditions. It is still advisable to minimize the mixing of groups as much as possible because in the event that a COVID-19 positive test occurs when groups have been mixed, more individuals are potentially impacted.
Tobin Response: Per the April revision of the COVID-19 Childcare Playbook, we have begun to ‘selectively’ combine groups of children for afternoon pick up times. We believe that there are great advantages which will support our children prior to upcoming transitions that make this not only helpful but very beneficial! At this time, we have only chosen to mix groups during outside play but we do reserve the right to selectively mix groups indoors on occasion.
Q: Can a staff member move from classroom to classroom?
EEC Response: Yes. Programs may choose to move staff members from class to class. Programs have the discretion to decide which adults will ‘float’ and under what conditions. It is advisable that fully vaccinated adults are used in float positions.
Tobin Response: We will, on occasion, allow teaching staff to “float” from one group to another if staffing needs require. We will, however, keep with our Tobin culture of having designated teaching staff for each classroom.
Please feel free to reach out to your program’s Administrator with any questions regarding these updates, or any of our practices at Tobin.