More Information for Head Start Programs to Prepare for Coronavirus Impacts
- Author: T/TAS at WKU
- Author: Sunday, March 8th, 2020
An article in an ongoing series for Head Start/Early Head Start programs to plan and prepare for impacts from coronavirus.
Today’s feature is in response to questions that T/TAS has received in response to previous news articles.
As stated in the original article: To prepare for possible community transmission of COVID-19, the most important thing for Head Start programs to do now is plan and prepare. As the global outbreak evolves, programs should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. Head Start wants to be ready if COVID-19 does appear in our communities.
One question is about how to count the days if coronavirus causes closure for Head Start/Early Head Start programs. Unless instructed otherwise, a term to be used often, programs will likely count the days like inclement weather days. The Office of Head Start (OHS) may come up with actual instructions but for now we are planning any days missed to be like weather outages. Staff will stay on payroll and, if need be, programs may have to request a change in the number of days to serve children.
OHS may instruct otherwise but we are not considering the home based option as a substitute for center operations. Our belief is that if the center is closed due to illness, it is not likely that families will welcome additional visitors into their homes during this crisis period even if they are from Head Start. Also, please remember that many of our families who are working will not have the flexibility in their schedule to stay home if our programs close. One proactive step programs could do now is to update their family status information, to determine how many families would be impacted by a closure later in the year. If the program updated this information at the start of the year, then this is probably unnecessary.
Another action that some programs are considering is the resurrection of the old “phone trees”. This is being done so that families can check on one another, should an outbreak occur. Of course, this would require advance permission from families so that we don’t violate or appear to violate confidentiality.
Along similar lines, some programs are discussing the roles that staff will play in communicating with families. The information would be from the local health department to the program staff, and from program staff out to the families, at a certain time of day. This process would also include some type of follow-up (possibly text or email), indicating that the family did, in fact, receive and understand the information. This communicative planning might be developed to counter what one program found to be a fairly large amount of misinformation the parents were obtaining both online and by word-of-mouth.
Finally, programs might pre-determine which radio and/or television station(s) they would primarily use to communicate additional information to families and staff. That information should be widely disseminated to family and staff during the planning stages, to ensure they are aware of this means of communication should the outbreak occur.
In terms of policies, we think pandemic events are well outside normal operations and as such are not really in the realm of policies and procedures. As said previously, this is unless OHS instructs otherwise.
If you have questions, feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.882.7482
J. Christopher Watkins, Executive Director
Training & Technical Assistance Services (T/TAS)
Western Kentucky University