Covid-19 Response: Your Questions Answered

Our Executive Team will take the time to review all questions sent into the task force, and we will upload their responses to this page. If you would like to submit a question regarding the phased reopening of our sites, please email our Talent Manager, Lizzie de Cardenas-Norton, at

September 18, 2020 Update

Q: How are we expected to communicate changes in class sizes to parents? (ex: 18 students per class vs 8 or 10)

A: As we open, we continued to follow the guidelines for stable groups for children and staff, and it becomes less about the number of children in a group (we can go up to 18 according to our license) and more about the same children and staff in the group each day.  We may experience larger numbers in our classrooms than we did over the summer because we are also trying to maximize the availability of staff who will return for in person learning.   As we continue to find our way through the pandemic we will follow the advice and best practice guidelines from the state, CDC and other experts, to ensure the health and safety of the children and families we’re working with as well as our staff.

Q: I need to take a leave from work or transition to work from home.

A: Employees who cannot work (on-site or at home) are eligible for leave. Please turn to BASIC for leave paperwork.
Contact Talent if you have questions about the leave.

As long as the client’s or business need are being met (as determined by the Chief of the Department):

Employees who can work from home, but cannot work on-site physically, will work from home (essentially their ‘site’ is temporarily changed to home).

This includes employees who are home for childcare and those with Dr.s notes. Employees with childcare do not need to contact Talent. Employees with doctor’s notes- please forward the note to the Talent email.

Employees in this situation who contact Talent or the COVID-19 Response Team will be directed to their supervisors regarding their individual circumstances.

Please know that this is a fluid situation. The department may determine at any point that we need folks on-site. If that happens, employees affected will be notified that working from home is no longer an option.

September 15, 2020 Update

Q: Are there plans in place for some type of heater or plan for the health screeners that have been sitting outside since we opened in June?

A: Screening staff, clients, and visitors to our sites will continue to be done outdoors. We are looking into expanding canopies and overhangs to provide additional shelter from the bad weather, and will continue to look for other solutions as weather conditions change.

August 17, 2020 Update

Q: Why weren’t the staff on-site surveyed/when will the staff on-site be surveyed?

A: We have conducted and continue to conduct numerous surveys for various stakeholders. Several of these surveys, such as Staff Satisfaction and Best Places to Work, have involved all staff and included specific COVID related questions. All staff are encouraged to discuss questions, concerns, and ideas with their supervisor and are also reminded to submit questions and comments to the reopening email.

Q: My classroom, along with the other 2 classrooms at Althea were shut down just this week. So my question for the task force is how will we re-open in the fall safely? My thought is to continue our virtual learning start September, keeping the classrooms at a group size of 9-12 children, with the hopes of in-person teaching after the new year if it is safe. Keeping the classroom size of 9-12 will help with the possible returning in January. 

A: There is a lot of work going into finding ways to ensure we re-open in the safest way possible. Your suggestions are all great ideas, and they are under active consideration as we continue our planning process.

Q: I totally understand that this is all new to all of us, but I think I was confused as to the protocol for staff/children with Covid-like symptoms. I think it needs to be created in some type of grid.

A: The State protocols and guidance for staff and children with COVID symptoms has sometimes been conflicting and is constantly changing. We agree this has created confusion. As new guidelines and protocols are released by the State we will work to present it in an easy to read manner.

Q: What is possibly happening in the next school year? I know, I know no one knows…but maybe some type of update? There are discussions, enrollments, etc.

A: The only definite for the new school year that we know at this time is that Children’s Friend will be serving children in Pre-K and Head Start. The details of how and where this will be done have not been finalized and will be based on current data and public health guidance as we get closer to the beginning of the new school year.

Idea: instead of having runners/floats, just put 3 staff in each room. They can take turns getting children from the check-in spot, therefore eliminating the extra people who could possibly be exposed. Therefore, it keeps the exposure solely to ONE particular room.

A: This is a great suggestion, and is one of many ideas being considered.

August 11, 2020 Update

Q: If a staff member reports during daily screening that a member of their household is sick with fever, cough, fatigue, diarrhea, or other symptoms listed on the COVID screening tool, my understanding is they are told to stay home until the symptomatic household member gets a negative COVID test result. While the staff member is at home, are they using up their sick/vacation time, even though the staff member herself is not sick and would prefer to come to work? If so, I am concerned this will lead to staff reluctance in reporting possible COVID19 symptoms of their household members. I do not have a suggestion or solution.

A: Decisions regarding leaves, pay, and benefits are based on the individual circumstances of the case. Please direct specific questions to Talent who can give a comprehensive and accurate answer to each individual situation.

Q: For those of us with children who are returning to college in other states in August, how can we plan ahead and know whether we will be required to quarantine for 14 days? What list should we consult to find out?

A: From the DOH website States with travel restrictions upon entry to Rhode Island

Q: If a member of staff is turned away at the screening because they live with someone with Covid symptoms, can they return to work if the person they live with tests negative? And while they are at home, are they on E pay?

A: Decisions regarding leaves, pay, and benefits are based on the individual circumstances of the case. Please direct specific questions to Talent who can give a comprehensive and accurate answer to each individual situation.

July 28, 2020 Update

Q: On days when it is very windy/rainy, our touchless thermometers will not be able to get an accurate reading. (Their instructions say they are made to be used indoors for this reason.) If we will be conducting health screenings outdoors in all weather conditions, I think we will need a new kind of thermometer, and maybe some wind barriers/sturdy tents. Please tell me I am correct in believing the task force is planning for all kinds of weather.

A: The agency is currently using 3 different types of touchless thermometers, and none of the instructions limit their use to indoors only. The most accurate readings do come indoors, since the thermometers are impacted by wind, sun, humidity, and large temperature variations. As part of the reopening process we are considering facility upgrades such as canopies, overhangs, and wind barriers to assist in the outside screening process. If you are aware of a touchless thermometer specifically made for the outdoors, please pass this information on to Lindsey Brannon, who will research it and make a purchase recommendation to the reopening task force.

Q: I was just curious to see if there has been talk about what it will look like for home visiting staff who had children and may have to do some level of distance learning again in September? Will we be able to work from home still?? Also, has there been any timeframe of when staff will be allowed to enter a client’s home?

A: There are many factors being considered when we make the decision to bring an employee’s job back to an agency site. We are looking at continuing flexibilities for staff for the foreseeable future, based on the needs of the families we serve. Based on individual client circumstances, with the approval of your manager, and with strict safety precautions being followed, staff are allowed to conduct a home visit in a client’s home, though conducting visits outdoors is still the safest and preferred location.

July 15, 2020 Update

Q: I know that there are plans to open WIC for new clients to come into Dexter.

I am concerned with this for the following:

  • The stairway is also used for the room 4 children to go upstairs to the classroom. Children do not wear masks. New clients with new babies could potentially be exposed to germs in the foyer and stairwell.
  • Potential increase to exposure to staff who are working at Dexter with bringing outside clients inside.
  • Central Falls had the highest per capita Covid 19 rate in RI see RI data from today:
  • We will be increasing the amount of children in Dexter on July 13 when we open 2 more rooms (3 total will be open)
  • July 13 our infant/toddler classroom will be open. We could potentially expose our room 1 infants/toddlers due to using the same foyer.

Could you set up a tent (for privacy) outdoors for WIC staff to come out and meet the client outside?

A: We are working to develop plans to see WIC clients in person at several of our sites as requested by the State. Thank you for sharing your concerns, suggestions, and ideas, they will be considered as we finalize these plans in the coming weeks.

Q: I heard a rumor that WIC is going to open soon. As an experienced nurse I would like to request that options, possibly an outdoor office in a tent, be explored. It is concerning to open the building to the public on a number of levels. The WIC office is also very confined with basement ventilation (not the best) in addition, there are some staff that are expecting babies soon, and it places them at unnecessary risk at a unique time in their lives.

Also, just as a comment, it seems several additional buildings are opening. Have you or any task force members been into the Heritage Park building? The ventilation there is poor and as a baseline it has a recurring chemical odor.

A: Thank you for your suggestions related to the reopening of WIC services. They will be considered as we finalize plans. Pre-opening inspections have been conducted at Heritage Park, and the site has been deemed appropriate to reopen.

Q: If a child in a classroom tests positive for COVID what is the plan for the rest of the kids and staff in that classroom? If a staff person in the building tests positive for COVID what is the plan for the rest of the staff and kids in the building?

A: We have created protocols for these situations, which include communication with the Department of Health and DHS Licensing. As each case is specific so will be the response to it.

Q: Cubicles are not 6 feet apart and do not have partitions between staff. Is there a plan for this?

A: Currently, staff required to be onsite are not allowed to sit at cubicles that are within 6 feet of another person. Additional plans will be developed as we work to bring additional staff back to sites.

July 6, 2020 Update

Q: Are we only offering childcare to previously enrolled families?

A: As of July 1st this is true. We will begin enrolling new children into child care in a few weeks.

Q: Are the rules around cross-contamination being applied at Summer St.?

A: Yes.

Q: Are we requiring staff who return from trips to states with high virus cases to quarantine, or can they just get tested when they return?

A: We are following the guidance issued by the State of Rhode Island, which as of June 30, 2020, stated – “Rhode Island will implement a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone coming to Rhode Island from any state with 5% or greater positivity rate. (Positivity rates are calculated using the average daily positivity rate for the last seven days.) As an exception, people will not have to quarantine if they have had a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours. (If someone is tested after arriving in Rhode Island and gets a negative result, that person can stop quarantining.) The list of states with a percent positive rate of 5% or higher will be published today on RIDOH’s website and will be updated weekly.”

Q: Are we updating our new protocols to reflect the new health screener from the DOH?

A: Yes, the new health screener will be in place by July 13, 2020.

Q: The CDC have updated their list of high-risk conditions, with two separate groups: people who are at increased risk, and people who might be at increased risk. This includes more conditions that previous CDC guidance. Do we advise staff who might be at increased risk to stop home visits and work from home?  Click here to see those lists on the CDC website.

A: Now that RI has entered Phase III, we are following the guidance in the State plan for Phase III which states  – “Older adults (65+) and those with underlying health conditions are no longer strongly encouraged to stay home. These individuals are reminded to exercise significant caution in public.” Effective July 6th staff whose positions have moved back on site are expected to work on-site and conduct home visits in accordance with agency safety plans that are in effect.

June 11, 2020 Update

Q: They were supposed to get an infrared thermometer for each nurse. These are non-contact thermometers. Have they been delivered?

A: Non-contact thermometers are located at each site that is open, and they were in place prior to June 1st. The Nurses at each site, facilitated through the Health Manager, are coordinating PPE supplies at the sites.

Q: If a staff member travels do they need to be in Quarantine for 14 days?  If a staff has a family member that has traveled, does the staff need to be in Quarantine for 14 days? For domestic/international/all travel.

A: We have a screening tool that is currently in use before anyone can access our sites. Please note this tool will change based on current conditions.

Q: The nurses have been told that they cannot go into the classrooms. We are with the children in the morning-temping them and going through the health questionnaire with the parent every day. It doesn’t make sense that the nurse cannot go in the classroom at all. With a decreased number of children attending it would be a great time to do some health teaching with the children.

A: At this time the only staff allowed in a classroom are the staff dedicated to working in that classroom. This protocol is in place to help prevent possible cross-contamination of classrooms as additional classrooms open.

Q: If we open another room, does that need its own alternate room and isolation room or can we use the same ones from our currently opened room?

A: At this time the guidance is for one isolation room per site.

Q: I know there are many policies and regulations that are being followed but McAuley not being a Children’s Friend site we are wondering how these policies and regulations will look like there.

A: All of our sites are unique, and McAuley does have unique challenges related to COVID-19. Before McAuley reopens plans will be developed to address these challenges.

 Please note: These responses from the Executive Team are correct as of the upload date, 6/10/20. As state and government advice changes, some circumstances are subject to change.

May 29, 2020 Update

Q: Will the staff that will be going into work on 6-1-20 get any kind of additional compensation for working? I know when emergency child care was going to open they had talked about that. For 6-1 the majority of staff will be at home but a certain number of us will be going in to the centers.

A: We are pleased that we have identified resources to support the payment of a temporary $100 per week stipend to staff who are working on-site starting on June 1st. This stipend is based on working full-time onsite. It will be prorated for those not working full time on-site. This stipend will end on June 12th.

Q: You said the hours are 7:30-5:00. What time will the children actually be arriving? Will we be staggering drop off so we do not have all children/parents there at the same time? The other head start centers are doing that.

A: The hours of the child care sites opening on June 1st will be 7:30am till 5:00pm. The children will arrive and be picked up on staggered times based on the needs of their families.

Q: The other HS agencies are having the staff that will be working return to work before the children start to get things together-any needed paperwork, toys to be removed from rooms, and so on. Will we be doing that? It makes sense. We are the only agency not doing that. As a matter of fact, the other agencies are not having kids return until the end of July.

A: Staff has already been working to ready the sites and classrooms for the return of children, and this work will continue this week. Children’s Friend is still working on plans for HS classrooms to reopen.

Q: I would like to take new safety training while I am home so I can be ready.

A: The pandemic coordinator and child development supervisor at each site that is opening on June 1st are ensuring that all staff is properly trained in new COVID-19 safety protocols.

Q: Can we get more info the 14 day (or longer) period per site? I’m a bit confused about the timeline David gave as an example. I understood it this way: Day 1 – I go to Dexter, Days 2 – 14 – I need to work at Dexter or at home, Day 15 – I can go to another site. Is that the case? If so, it seems like I could pick something up at Dexter on Day 14, then bring it to a new site when I walk in on Day 15.

A: The agency is working to implement many practices and procedures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. One of these steps is to help prevent the cross-contamination of sites. We encourage everyone to solely work out of one specific Children’s Friend site (or from home) for the foreseeable future. That said the actual agency policy is that an employee can only enter one Children’s Friend site in a 14 day period. The screening form at each site will ask if you have been in another Children’s Friend site within the past 14 days. If your answer is yes, then you will not be allowed to enter that site. This policy seeks to balance the prevention of cross-contamination with the need to move sites at times. In the example presented if an employee enters Dexter on June 1st and works from Dexter through June 15th, then the earliest they could enter another site is June 29th. If the employee enters Dexter on June 1st and then works from home for 14 days, then they can enter another Children’s Friend site on June 16th.

Q: I just heard that the state is donating 50 thousand surgical masks to child cares. When they do pass them out would it be possible for a supply of them to be at each building prior to June 1? This way we will be all set to go. Also, do we have any children’s masks? Every nurse’s office should have a supply of them in case we have a sick child that we need to isolate until a parent comes to pick them up.

A: We have received the State distribution of PPE. Children’s Friend has adequate supplies of PPE for our staff and the services we provide. All 5 sites opening on June 1st have received adequate PPE for the beginning of child care services.

Q: While on-site, will I be permitted to leave the building mid-day, for example, to buy lunch?

A: Yes, staff are allowed to leave the building for their lunch period. When you re-enter the building you will be required to go through the health screening process, including temperature check.

Please note: These responses from the Executive Team are correct as of the upload date, 5/29/20. As state and government advice changes, some circumstances are subject to change.

May 21, 2020 Update

Q: How will we be covering staff who are called back for CC when they are on vacation or sick?

A: Backup staff is built into our staffing patterns.

Q: Will the Health Manager be working offsite with the nurses on-site?  Will she provide coverage for nurses who are out?

A: Yes, the Health Manger will help cover one specific site in person and will be available to support other sites remotely.

Q: Concerns about the virus statistics we see in Central Falls. Is the agency looking at a return plan on a city by city basis?

A: The agency is evaluating many factors in determining the re-opening of sites.

Q: What will “social distancing” look like in the classrooms? Especially for infant/toddler classrooms that already have considerably low ratios. A majority of the children in my classroom plan on returning, so I’m not sure how different the classroom environment will be.

A: The agency’s plans factor in that children, especially young children, struggle with the concept of social distancing. This is why class sizes have been reduced, and classrooms have been reconfigured. Due to the extra complexities of Infant and Toddler Care, the agency is not re-opening that service on June 1st.

Q: Dexter is one of the larger sites.  If the governor still expects a limit of people per gathering, how will that translate over to the Dexter site? Will the staff be on rotating days?

A: On June 1st, only staff essential to the operation of child care, or those providing WIC services at Dexter and Friendship, will be allowed to enter an agency site. As decisions are made on re-opening sites for other staff, additional procedures will be announced and put in place.

Q: Are staff going to be allowed to do their work from their assigned centers, or are they expected to travel to different centers, if this is typically part of their job?

A: On June 1st, staff are only allowed to work from one agency site, and/or their home. No one is allowed to enter multiple open Children’s Friend sites until further notice.

Q: McAuley is a high-traffic site, limited control on other occupants of the building – how can we ensure it is safe? Parents may not be respectful of the risks. How can we stop infected clients from entering?

A: The agency has not finalized a plan for the safe re-opening of services at McAuley; hence it is not opening on June 1st.

Q: Will childcare staff or supervisors/managers go in the week before June 1st opening to remove items to set up the environment?

A: There will be an opportunity for staff working in child care to enter their site to prepare for June 1st properly. A limited number of staff will be allowed on-site at one time, and staff impacted will be contacted by their supervisor to schedule a time to be on site.

Q: Do we have enough masks for every staff person who is going to be working?  We should have at least 4 per person per day, and that is a minimum.

A: The agency has adequate PPE, including masks, for staff working on-site beginning on June 1st.

Please note: These responses from the Executive Team are correct as of the upload date, 5/21/20. As state and government advice changes, some circumstances are subject to change.

May 19, 2020 Update

Q: We will need updated emergency cards for all children since sending a child home will need updated numbers.

A: Per our current policy, the cards need to be updated regularly. Yes, this will be done prior to June 1st by the Child Development Supervisor.

Q: The IHP will need to be reviewed prior to children entering (for example: if a child has asthma).

A: The nurse assigned to the center will review all health needs and ensure all IHPs are followed.

Q: Will childcare staff receive an increase or stipend?

A: The stipends we are currently paying staff working on-site end on May 29th. The Exec Team is looking into ways to extend some form of a stipend and are exploring resources to fund this.

Q: What about the employees who have children at home due to either no childcare or home due to no public schools? / What about the workers who have children outside of children’s friends who schools are closed and camps?

A: Effective June 1st, if the job/program site has moved from ‘home’ to on-site, there is no option to work from home. Employees are eligible for a FMLA protected leave under the FFCRA for up to 12 weeks.

Q: My child has asthma, what will happen if, even if available, childcare is not safe for him to return to so I am unable to do on-site/home visiting work. Will I still have the flexibility to work from home?

Q: I have three family members in my household who have pre-existing respiratory complications and are vulnerable to being exposed to the virus. I would like to limit my chance of exposure as much as possible to protect my loved ones. Will there be something in place for staff who cannot return by June 1st?

A: If the program/job is on-site, employees concerned about working on-site due to a reason outside of FFCRA protected criteria, who are not in a high-risk group are eligible for ‘Other’ leave until June 30th. We are working hard to provide information for options beyond that date and will get that to staff as soon as the information becomes available.

Q: How will we manage staff who are in high-risk categories, e.g. over 65? / Will this continue as we consider returning other staff to on-site work?

A: Staff who are 65 or older will continue to work remotely, even if their program/job returns on-site.

Q: Further in the future when more restrictions are lifted, will staff continue to have the opportunity to work from home if they have proven they can do so effectively? Especially if they have limited childcare but they would like to continue working.

A: The Exec Team is discussing this possibility for the future. This ‘experiment’ has provided a lot of positive information regarding the effectiveness of working remotely for the agency.

Q: If a staff person has an underlying health condition that puts them at higher risk, would they have to obtain documentation from a health care provider to continue at home status?

A: Yes. This is a formal ‘accommodation’ under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), and so we will be formally documenting arrangements.

Q: Will the supervisor be notified if their staff person will be receiving a letter if they are returning to on-site work?

A: Yes, letters were cc: ed to supervisors earlier in the week for returning Child Care staff.

Q: I’m concerned with families bringing the virus into the buildings. Are there safe measures for drop off/pick up to ensure this?  In addition, many families use babysitters in the mornings and afternoons for drop off/pick up, potentially having several other children with them. They cannot be left in a car outdoors due to safety, so how will this be addressed? 

A: Yes, there is a state-mandated health screening that will be given to all parents at drop off.  We have added a question to specifically ask, have you given Tylenol tor Ibuprofen to your child for fever in the last 24 hours. Additionally, any child entering the building will need to get their temperature checked.   If anyone has a fever above 100.4 they will not be allowed in.  Parents and caregivers will be required to drop children off outside the door.  The child’s classroom staff will bring each child to their classroom.

Q: Are we opening our Childcare rooms to parents who really need it so they can go back to work or who are essential workers? Or to everyone who currently has childcare?

A: We are offering childcare to everyone who was enrolled in our childcare prior to the COVID classroom closure.

Please note: These responses from the Executive Team are correct as of the upload date, 5/20/20. As state and government advice changes, some circumstances are subject to change.