Scott Says Child Care Facilities Can Reopen June 1
Gov. Phil Scott says the child care providers that were ordered to close their doors in March will be allowed to welcome kids back to their facilities next month. Administration officials qualified that, however, and said many child care centers will likely have to operate at a reduced capacity.
In recent weeks, the governor has begun to loosen economic restrictions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont.
“And I know that there are many who are worried they won’t be able to return to a job, because schools and child care providers are closed,” Scott said during a press briefing Friday.
With COVID-19 infection rates now on a weeks-long decline in Vermont, Scott said he’ll allow child care providers to reopen their doors to children starting June 1.
“To be clear, we are not requiring them to be open,” Scott said. “But if they want to and can meet strict health and safety requirements, they can restart in June.”
Those health and safety requirements, however, will likely limit the number of children facilities are able to care for, according to Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith.
“Some programs may not operate at their usual full capacity and may not have as many opportunities this summer as they usually do,” he said.
Smith said his agency is still in the process of drafting the “hygiene and healthcare” guidelines by which child care providers will have to abide. The governor also announced a $6 million grant program Friday to help providers adapt to the new public health rules.
“I realize how difficult it may be for many to reopen, the apprehensions knowing the virus is still with us,” Scott said. “These grants will help cover the added costs of making these programs even safer and healthier.”
Camps can reopen
Scott also announced Friday that day camps and overnight camps for children are also permitted to open this summer.
Deputy Secretary of Commerce Ted Brady said the hundreds of camps that operate in Vermont play a key role in the state’s economy.
“For thousands of Vermonters, summer camp and summer day camp, it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he said. “And the hundreds of camps across Vermont provide needed childcare, educational and enrichment programs, and summer meal programs.”
Brady warned, however, that “summer camp is going to look different this year.”
Brady said many camps have already decided to cancel their programs, rather than comply with new public health guidelines by which they’ll be governed. Brady said his agency is still in the process of finalizing those guidelines.
Schools plan to be back in fall
Secretary of Education Dan French said Friday that his agency is telling public schools to prepare for the return of students to classroom this fall.
“It’s our hope and expectation that we will be able to return to in-person instruction in the fall,” French said. “That decision obviously would be informed by the public health information as we get closer, but we’re going to start planning along those lines now.”
But the secretary said one springtime ritual will not be happening this year: high school graduation.
French said an order from Scott that limits gatherings to 10 or fewer people means high schools cannot proceed with large-scale celebrations for graduating seniors.
“Schools may only plan in-person and end-of-year school gatherings and graduations consistent with the state’s limitation on the size of such gatherings,” French said. “And any other such events will need to occur virtually, or by means other than in-person gatherings.”