Child care can restart June 1 and summer camps may reopen at their discretion

Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith

MONTPELIER- Childcare providers can begin operating on June 1, and day camps and overnight camps will be able to operate this summer, Gov. Phil Scott announced today.  
"I'm very pleased today to make several announcements regarding child care and summer day camps," Gov. Scott said. "To start, all child care programs will be able to open by June 1. To be clear, we are not requiring them to be open. But if they want to, and can meet strict health and safety requirements, they can restart in June."
Gov. Scott cited Vermont's virus modeling in his announcement. The data continues to indicate a positive forecast for viral activity in the state. "Because Vermonters have taken this virus so seriously, we're fortunate to see the data pointing in the right direction," he said. "And while we have to watch it closely and be ready to slow down or hit pause if needed, we also know child care centers and parents need to plan ahead."
Gov. Scott said child care providers could begin gearing up for their June opening starting May 18, giving them time to bring staff back in, conduct COVID-19 training, and restart operations. The state will provide a "restart grant" to help providers begin operations again. "Our teams at the health department, the agency of commerce and community development, and the agency of human services will be providing guidance to keep our kids and employees safe," he said, "but we know meeting all the health and safety expectations will be a financial challenge, so we'll be creating restart grants, providing about $6 million in funding for child care and summer day programs opening in June."
Vermont Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said guidelines and training programs for child care providers and youth programs would be forthcoming. "We'll be issuing updated guidance next week from the department of health for child care operators, building off the guidance they have in place now for child care programs that they have already been using during this crisis," he said. "Since the beginning of our response we have had a group of experts in place to keep our child care guidance in line with the best available guidance. This group will continue to monitor changes going forward to inform Vermont guidance as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve."
Smith also indicated that child care providers would not be held to the state's requirement that gatherings cannot exceed 10 or fewer people. "Though we have to keep an eye on the data, and we don't presume we're out of the woods with this virus yet, we know you can't operate successfully with less than 10 people in the room, so we don't expect child care operators to do that," he said. "Some programs may not operate at their usual full capacity and may not have as many opportunities this summer as they usually do since some programs have made the decision not to operate. But we will work with programs that do open to help you through the transition."
Agency of Commerce and Community Development Deputy Secretary Ted Braid said summer day camps would be able to reopen under the same guidelines as child care providers. "Summer day camps that can meet the child care guidance that Secretary Smith mentioned may, at their discretion, open this summer," he said. "I just want to reiterate that: This is a decision summer camps can make themselves."
Brady said summer camps, like child care centers, are vital to the state's economic restart efforts. "For thousands of Vermonters, summer day camp is not a luxury, it is a necessity" Brady said. "And the hundreds of camps across Vermont provide child care, education, enrichment programs, and summer meal programs. Summer camps simply need to be open if we expect the economy to reopen."
Brady indicated that summer camps would also be eligible for restart grants to get their operations geared up for the summer.
Brady expressed confidence that overnight camps would also be able to operate this summer, although no start date or guidance has been issued yet. He noted that overnight camps also serve out-of-state children, which he said will require additional mitigation guidelines. "We're working with this restart group to find a way to mitigate those issues," he said. "But we believe these overnight summer camps will be able to operate this summer, and we'll be issuing more guidance in the coming weeks. We recognize they have to put plans into place, hire staff, order food, get their supplies ready, and give their customers some surety."
Brady said ACCD is working with the American Camp Association and the YMCA to establish best practices for overnight camps, and working with the Vermont Camp Association and individual camps to plan how they will be able to comply with CDC and department of health guidelines.
"I need to be very clear," Brady said, "summer camp is going to look very different this year. Some camps have already decided the way they're going to have to change isn't going to work for them and they have canceled. That's a decision each camp can make. Others have found ways to adapt, and will have to find ways to adapt, to the AHS guidelines and change dramatically."


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