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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

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EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

Dear Program Leaders, 

Thank you all for the continued partnership and feedback as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time. As we continue to receive questions and feedback about the transition to post-COVID conditions, we wanted to assure you that EEC will continue to provide information and support throughout the months ahead as communities work to recalibrate our work through the summer. 

The Baker-Polito Administration announced that the remaining COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted beginning May 29, and EEC retired the Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety. We recognize that child care programs still face many challenges and our stakeholders need time to ensure the appropriate policies are put in place to meet the needs of the families you serve. EEC continues to be committed to supporting programs through this transition and assist you as you work to identify the path forward that works for your programs. As previously referenced, EEC will be establishing revised guidance around regulations and monitoring throughout the month of June and will not begin on-site monitoring until July. During the month of June we will send weekly communications to update providers and provide answers to the on-going questions received through office.commissioners@mass.gov.
 
EEC introduced Suggested Strategies for the Prevention and Response to COVID-19 in Early Education and Care Programs. We will continue to update this document with answers to frequently asked questions received through the months ahead.
 
To continue the ongoing dialogue with you all, I will be hosting a Conversation with the Commissioner on June 29th at 6pm. I look forward to hearing from you about the progress in your programs and to strategize together as we forge ahead.
 

Thank you for your commitment to the children and families of the Commonwealth and to the field of early education and care as a whole. We are building a better future together. 


Samantha Aigner-Treworgy
Commissioner of Early Education and Care
 

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Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced that the state will revise its COVID-19 policies, a move that includes good news for early education and care providers.

“…the Commonwealth is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June,” a press release from the governor’s office explains, and “all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.”

Massachusetts will also update its guidance on masks and face coverings to be consistent with recent mask updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, individual businesses and employers in Massachusetts will still be able to set their own mask rules.

On June 15, 2021, Baker will end the state of emergency that was triggered by the pandemic.

What does this mean for early educators?

The governor and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)are providing answers.

As the governor’s press release says, as of today, the Department of Early Education and Care will “no longer require masks for outdoor activities like recess.” This guidance will “remain in effect beyond May 29.” Children and adults should, however, continue to wear masks when they are indoors.

EEC also has a list of frequently asked questions regarding the current version of the state’s Child Care Playbook that provide additional useful information. Some partial examples are:

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Marcela Simpson

Photo courtesy of Marcela Simpson

All Marcela Simpson wanted was a part-time job to carry her through to graduation. She was living in her native country of Honduras and majoring in business administration at UNITEC, the Central American Technological University.

Simpson applied for a position at a school called La Estancia, a renown bilingual school where she met the school’s director, Ana Aviles, who assigned Simpson to be a lead teacher in a preschool classroom.

“That’s where it all started. I learned that I loved children,” explains Simpson.

Because her grandfather insisted, Simpson completed her Business Administration degree and came to the United States to get her master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied with George Forman, coauthor of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education.

Simpson went on to work at the Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development in Vermont, an early education program that provides inclusive classes for both typically developing children and for children with special needs and rights. In this position, she worked with teachers, assistant teachers, and paraprofessionals providing them with educational resources and sharing opportunities for professional development.

“Based on this experience, I felt the need to learn more about adult learning,” Simpson recalls, “and that guided me to a whole different place.” She contacted the local Resource and Referral Agency in Western Massachusetts and they connected her to provide professional development and coaching opportunities. She also joined the Institute for Professional Education, where she learned more about adult learning theories and principles.

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Fifty years ago, Sandy Faiman-Silva was a young, single mother with a teaching job who couldn’t afford to pay all her bills, including her rent and child care costs. She ended up quitting her job and going on public assistance.

Today, Faiman-Silva is a professor emerita of Anthropology at Bridgewater State University – and she’s an activist pointing out that too many women still face the same challenges she did all those decades ago.

Faiman-Silva shares this story on a video posted by the Cape and Islands chapter of the Common Start Coalition, which is advocating for a bill in the Massachusetts State House – nicknamed the Common Start Legislation — that would set up a system of affordable, high-quality, universal child care. This bill is particularly crucial now, as Massachusetts and the world navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) also appears in the video. A mother of three and a lawyer who has represented a child care center, Moran says:

“I lived the daily trials parents suffer to find the consistent, dependable child care and early education they need — and their children deserve — to allow them to focus on work so they can advance their careers. You all know what I’m talking about.”

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Screenshot: MIRA Coalition report

 
How well is Massachusetts reaching out to the nearly 481,000 immigrant parents who live in the state? The MIRA Coalition did a study to find out.

“The barriers faced by immigrant parents have been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, as families have struggled to maintain access to state-sponsored early childhood programs, K-12 schools, community-based organizations and various social services,” MIRA says in a new report summarizing its findings.

“As remote learning requirements have forced parents to provide supplemental instruction and monitoring for online learning, parents who are limited-English proficient (LEP) have lower levels of education or digital literacy, have faced disproportionate challenges.”

The research focused on families in the cities of Lawrence, Brockton, Everett, Springfield, and Worcester. And researchers interviewed 80 service providers and policy experts.

Among the findings: (more…)

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Screenshot: The Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast Project

Five months ago, in the middle of the pandemic, Elizabeth Charland-Tait and Sheila Gould launched a Zoomcast series.

They nicknamed it the Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast Project (IBZP), although the formal name is “The More We Get Together: Conversations that Build Bridges in Early Childhood.”

Gould is a Holyoke Community College (HCC) professor and the coordinator of the Early Childhood Programs. Charland-Tait is an early childhood lead coach for Massachusetts’ Western StrongStart Professional Development Centers.

Their goal is to have meaningful conversations that connect early childhood professionals in Western Massachusetts.

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Rosanna Acosta. Photo courtesy of Rosanna Acosta.

 

My name is Rosanna Acosta. I work in Springfield, Mass., as an early childhood educator in my own home daycare, Little Star Daycare. I have been in the field for four years.

The important part of my work is providing the foundational principles of education for young children in a safe and nurturing environment where they can grow and learn. I encourage parents and families to continue this education at home and to nurture their children to support their growth and development.

As an educator, I am always proud when I see my students grow each and every day. One of my favorite memories is when I went grocery shopping once and was hugged by one of my past students who said how much they’ve missed me. The parents told me that even after leaving my program, their child would talk about me and the things they learned and did. This showed me that my work really has an impact on the lives of my students. Regardless of the time that has passed, their early education experiences stick with them as they get older.

My own education started in the Dominican Republic, where I went to elementary and middle school. My family migrated to the United States, where I earned my GED. In 2020, I decided to go back to school, and now I am continuing my education at Springfield Technical Community College, where I am working on earning my CDA (Child Development Associate) certification as well as an associate degree in Early Education Childhood Development. I am also participating in a professional development program. We meet regularly every two months to discuss new activities and developments. (more…)

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The Covid testing announcement starts at the 15:27 time mark.

 

Good news on Covid testing was announced yesterday:

“Early education providers in Massachusetts will soon be able to access COVID-19 testing at eight sites through a new state pilot program and will be able to order protective equipment at no cost, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Monday,” a State House News article published by MassLive.com reports.

As we blogged earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker had announced a Covid testing plan that only covered K-12. To address this inequity, Strategies for Children and 250 other organizations sent a letter to the governor, which said in part:

“The Commonwealth cannot continue to deny early education and care and after-school staff, students, and families the critical health and safety supports provided to K-12 schools.”

Now, we want to thank the Baker administration for listening and taking action. (more…)

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A few months before the pandemic hit, the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted a survey of the early education and care workforce.

The survey results are a pre-pandemic snapshot of a shaky situation that policymakers can use to understand the toll that the pandemic has taken on providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that early care and education is a key piece of infrastructure for the economy,” Anne Douglass, the executive director of UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, says in a blog post. “Parents need early care and education options that are high quality and affordable because when child care isn’t available, parents can’t work.”

The institute released a report on the survey results along with UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and its Center for Social Policy. The survey was commissioned by the Department of Early Education and Care.

One important lesson from the survey, Douglass says, is that “returning to pre-pandemic ways of doing business is not an option.” (more…)

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There’s a new mental health resource for parents who are worried about their children, Handhold.

“You know your child better than anyone. But even you have a few questions,” Handhold says on its website, which helps parents find mental health programs for their children.

This is a particularly important resource now, as families grapple with the global pandemic. As Handhold explains:

“COVID-19 is putting incredible pressure on families. You might be noticing your child is struggling in new ways, or that old problems are getting worse. Should you worry about your child’s behavioral health? We’re here to help you figure that out.”

The website – organized by three state agencies: the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the Office of the Child Advocate, and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services – draws on community insights:

“Family partners and parents of kids with similar experiences to yours told us what they wished they had known earlier in their journey. Mental health experts, including child psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists, selected the most relevant and useful resources.” (more…)

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