2021-2022 School Year – COVID-19 Policies

Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year. These are your COVID-19 policies and they serve as an outline of our practice and procedures we have put in place to maintain a safe environment for your children and our faculty. The practices and procedures described in this guide have been updated and will be in place for the duration of this pandemic crisis. It seems unlikely that there will be a vaccine for children until late 2021, early 2022 so we are planning to maintain all of these protocols for an extended period of time. This is our new normal.

Many things about our centers are the same as they were before the pandemic crisis. There is still laughter and learning. There is still creativity, curiosity, and inspiration! However, some things are different. To keep the children and our faculty safe, we have implemented some new practices and procedures as mandated by the Washington Department of Child, Youth, and Family and in keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We continue to monitor all of the federal, state, and local guidance, and make all necessary changes to our practices to ensure everyone’s safety.

Implementing health screenings, enhanced hygiene and disinfecting, physical distancing whenever possible, and wearing face masks is how we are maintaining a safer environment. Safety practices like ours have been successful at keeping educators and children safe in childcare facilities like Hilltop in Washington and around the country that have remained open the entire time, during a global pandemic crisis.

The intent here is to provide as much detail as possible about our enhanced safety protocols and to give you some tools, such as the daily health screening questionnaire and touchless sign in/out processes. This will help things run as smoothly as possible for everyone. It is essential that we are as communicative and transparent as possible through these challenging times. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us directly through our individual email addresses listed in this guide.

We look forward to partnering with you,

Darline Guerrero
Executive Director


COVID-19 Practices and Procedures

On August 18, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that most childcare and early learning providers must be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021, as a condition of employment. He also implemented an expansion of the statewide mask mandate to all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. All faculty are getting tested regularly.

Vaccinations

Facultycurrently Hilltop is closely monitoring DCYF for requirements about a vaccine verification process. The Governor stated there would be room for a medical or religious exemption. We will send you updates as state guidance is updated and more information becomes available.

Familiesall family members or adults who are entering our building for any reason must be fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, families are not allowed to enter our centers while enhanced safety protocols are in place.

ChildrenThere is no vaccine authorized yet for children under age 12. Vaccines are currently being tested for safety and efficacy in children aged 2 and up. The results may lead to the FDA authorizing one or more COVID-19 vaccines for younger kids in the months ahead.

Children under age 12 should still take preventative measures including wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart, and washing their hands. Although fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 compared to adults, children can:

  • Be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19
  • Get sick from COVID-19
  • Spread COVID-19 to others

Beginning September 2021, all faculty must routinely test for COVID-19 to remain employed.

Face Masks

Facultyall employees wear masks at all times, while at our centers. Hilltop will provide masks to faculty if needed.

Familiesall family members or adults who are dropping off or picking up children at Hilltop must wear masks. Families are encouraged to put on masks before getting out of their vehicles. Unfortunately, families are not allowed to enter our centers while enhanced safety protocols are in place.

Childrenfor safety reasons, children under the age of two (2) do not wear masks. Children five (5) years and older are required to wear masks if they are developmentally capable of doing so. Please provide your child with a mask if they are two (2) years or older. Children do not wear masks while eating or napping. Masks may or may not be worn outdoors depending on activity level of play.

Limiting Social Settings Beyond Hilltop

Because children under the age of 12 are unable to get vaccinated at this time, finding ways to minimize their exposure is critical. At this time we are asking that children attending Hilltop Children’s Center do not attend any other outside programs or extra curriculars, beyond school for school-age children. The Public Health have provided new guidance beginning September 2021:

  • The more people interact with others from outside their own household or from a different cohort, the closer that interaction and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • Children should only attend programs in their local, geographic area (school and Hilltop only).
  • As children are back to school for in-person learning and attending child care in a different setting, it is important to limit social circles beyond these settings.

Please consider hosting your child’s birthday celebrations with Hilltop children while they are in our care. We are more than happy to help you make their day special and will record or zoom the celebration with your loved ones. If you opt to have a separate celebration at home, please be considerate about the invites being sent to other Hilltop families. Although we cannot prevent anyone from hosting a celebration away from the center, we want to be mindful about the possible cross-exposure risk and possible impact to our Hilltop community.

Staying Home When Sick

Staying home when sick with COVID-19 is essential to keep COVID-19 infections out of our centers and prevents spread to others. Children and staff who have symptoms of infectious illness, such as influenza (flu) or COVID-19, should stay home and seek medical evaluation, which may include testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

Excludable Symptoms

This guidance is intended for Hilltop’s response to known and possible cases of COVID-19 as well as known contacts. This is based on what is currently known about COVID-19 and will be updated as more information and guidance become available.

Excludable Symptoms are:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Other less common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

 

We monitor all children and faculty for Excludable Symptoms throughout the day.

  • Any child or faculty member who arrives at our centers reporting or exhibiting Excludable Symptoms or has had close contact with persons with symptoms of COVID-19 will not be admitted into our centers.
  • Any child or faculty member who develops COVID-19 symptoms, are immediately isolated from others, sent home, and referred to diagnostic testing as soon as feasible, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
  • Any child or faculty member who has a confirmed or probable COVID-19 diagnosis must report that information to our Program Supervisors. Any report of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 diagnosis will be kept confidential. If this happens Hilltop will notify Public Health of Seattle and King County. The Health Department will review the situation and advise Hilltop about procedures to follow, and if necessary, the length of closure of the facility and any quarantine requirements for faculty, children and families. Families will be notified of any such directives.

NOTE: Any faculty or children returning to Hilltop after having a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 must have a note from their health care provider documenting that they have been released from isolation and may return to work or care.

Drop off and Screening

Everyone entering our centers must have a temperature check and complete a health survey on BrightWheel each day before entering the building. Anyone with Excludable Symptoms will not be allowed to enter the center. Unfortunately, families are not allowed to enter our centers while enhanced safety protocols are in place.

Screeners wear face masks and sanitize before/after each screening. Screeners stay physically distanced from any unscreened adult or child. The drop off area has markings that indicate a “front of the line” spot three (3) feet away from the screening station and properly distanced markings for people to wait in line. The screener will step forward to take your child’s temperature and then step back again.

Note: At our Queen Anne Location, we conduct drop offs at both the front door (Rainbow, Raindrop, Cloud, Mountain) and back door (Sunlight, River, Garden, Ocean) in the morning until 9:00 AM to alleviate congestion.

The daily health screening questionnaire is part of the touchless screening process. Families will complete the questionnaire at drop off after scanning the assigned QR code to get access. When the screener takes your child’s temperature, they will tell you the reading, so you are aware of the temperature at arrival.

When the screening process is complete, a runner will step forward to escort your child into the center. Runners wear face masks. It is important that runners remain distanced from other children who have not yet been cleared through the screening process. The runner will make sure that your child’s hands are washed immediately upon entering the classroom.

Pick up

Because families are not allowed in our centers, the pickup process needs to be carefully managed.

For regular pickup, please send us a BrightWheel message to let us know when you are on your way to pick up your child. You are welcomed to call or email about special pickup times, or you can use the early pickup option in BrightWheel.

Educators will prepare the children for pickup. Educators will remain inside the center or on the playground. Children who are on the playground during pickup time will have their belongings with them, so they are ready to leave directly from the playground.

Runners will bring your child from the classroom to be brought to you outside. You will use the assigned QR code on your device for touchless pickup. Runners wear masks.

Center-wide Practices

Faculty ScreeningPrior to arrival at our centers each day, all Hilltop employees complete a daily health screening questionnaire. Anyone having Excludable Symptoms will be asked to stay home and seek the advice of their health care provider. Upon arrival at our centers all Hilltop employees have their temperature taken. Anyone with a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees will not be allowed to enter and will be asked to go home and seek the advice of their health care provider. All faculty health information, including daily health screening questionnaire and temperature logs are confidential.

Monitoring Faculty for Symptomsall Hilltop employees are expected to monitor themselves and each other for symptoms. Program Supervisors must be notified immediately about anyone in our centers who is exhibiting Excludable Symptoms.

Hygieneextra protocols are being implemented at this time

Handwashing – all Hilltop employees must wash hands upon entering or leaving our centers. Hand sanitizing stations are set up at center entrances. Hands are washed before entering classrooms, after using the bathroom, and before and after food prep or consumption; before and after going out on the playground and before and after breaks. Hands must be washed using soap and water or hand sanitizer for no less than 20 seconds.

High Touch Areas – all high touch areas such as door handles, tablet screens, computer keyboards, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, laundry machine handles, cabinet handles, microwaves and refrigerators are cleaned regularly according to current childcare guidelines.

Deep Cleaningboth centers are professionally cleaned each night and deep cleaned weekly.

Physical Distancing for Facultyproper distancing is practiced whenever possible. Administration workstations are arranged or moved to facilitate proper distancing. Whenever possible meetings will be held outside. Meetings larger than ten (10) people are discouraged. Breakrooms are not used or are limited to two (2) people. Faculty are encouraged to plan to take their breaks away from our centers to limit gatherings and eating without a face mask in front of others.

Air Flowoutdoor/indoor fans may be provided to keep air flowing and children and faculty cool on hot, still days inside or outside.

Classroom Practices

Monitoring Children for Symptoms Educators will carefully monitor each child for any sign of Excludable Symptoms. If your child develops symptoms while at Hilltop, you will need to arrange pickup as soon as possible and your child will not be allowed to return until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours and you have consulted with a health care provider. If your child develops any two (2) Excludable Symptoms, they will not be allowed to return to the center until cleared for return by a health care provider.

Hygieneextra protocols are being implemented at this time

Handwashing – everyone must wash hands before entering or leaving a classroom. Educators continue to follow all regular hand washing procedures according to current childcare guidance. Hands are washed using soap and water or sanitizer (teachers only) for no less than 20 seconds.

High Touch Areas – All high touch areas such as door handles, crib rails, refrigerators are cleaned regularly according to current childcare guidance.

Toys – children should not bring toys or other items from home unless they are necessary the child’s well-being (security blanket, stuffed animal, etc.). We do not have soft toys in our centers currently. All sensory play items that are soft or absorbent have been removed from classrooms. Toys that cannot be washed are not used.

Items going back and forth between the center and home should be limited as much as possible. Everything should be clearly labeled with your child’s name and be in a sealed plastic bag.

Infants – An ample supply of cloth diapers/burp cloths are laundered regularly and are available for infant Educators should be clearly labeled with your child’s name and be in a sealed plastic bag.

Deep CleaningAll classrooms are professionally cleaned nightly and deep cleaned weekly. Area rugs are steam cleaned regularly or have been removed completely.

Physical DistancingProper physical distancing is precited whenever possible. Cots are spaced 6 feet apart, head to toe, for nap time. Circle time, snack, and lunch times take place outside whenever possible. Location dots are used to help the children and educators keep themselves spaced properly during these activities. Provocation activities are spaced appropriately, and children are encouraged to play in smaller groups.

Air Flowoutdoor/indoor fans may be provided to keep air flowing and children and faculty cool on hot, still days inside or outside.

Breast Feeding Mothers – if you are currently breast feeding your infant, you are welcomed to come into the building for this important bonding moment. A separate breast-feeding isolation room is available for faculty and families. Any breast-feeding mother entering our building must be fully vaccinated and participate in a health screening.

Playground and Outdoor Play

Hygieneextra protocols are being implemented at this time.

Handwashing – all faculty and children wash hands before and after using the playground.

High Touch Areas – all high touch areas such as play equipment railings, tricycles, and outdoor toys are cleaned by faculty in an ongoing basis, including between uses by groups of children.

Physical Distancingour playground has been divided so classes will have more options to play. Children rotate on and off the playground by class and are given opportunities to play on all age-appropriate areas of the playground. Distanced play and play in smaller groups is encouraged.

Additional Outdoor Activitiesit is recommended that outdoor activities are lower risks than indoor activities. For this reason, we are using our outdoor spaces, including the canal as often as we can including for physically distanced lunch and/or circle times.

Canal – our centers use the outdoor grassy knoll which is near the canal. According to current childcare guidance our centers use a physical barrier to make the canal is always inaccessible to children. All faculty are trained in water safety each year.

Local Parks – there may be times when our licensed outdoor play space is not available or immediately adjacent to one of our centers. Educators will take the children on a walk using a safe route to take children to a local park for an outdoor play space.

Infants and Toddlers – educators will take children for walks in a age appropriate stroller or wagon.

Air Flowoutdoor/indoor fans may be provided to keep air flowing and children and faculty cool on hot, still days inside or outside.

Smaller Group Sizes

Hilltop has created smaller groups of children with dedicated faculty who remain together throughout the day. These groups will remain consistent from day to day and will not be combined or mixed. Staying in small groups limits the amount of contact between individuals. Reducing the mixing of children, faculty, and educators through groups:

  • Decreases the opportunities for exposure or transmission of COVID-19 in the centers.
  • Makes contact tracing easier in the event of a positive case.
  • Simplifies the testing, quarantine, and isolation to a single cohort.

NOTE: Siblings may be in different classrooms. Close contact is considered being in direct contact with a positive case for more than 15 minutes. In the event of a positive case, a sibling’s classroom may not be a part of the contact tracing.

Grouping and Staff Ratios by Age Group

Age Group Hilltop Classrooms Max # Children in Group Staff: Child Ratio Max # Total People in Group
Infants aged 0 to 11 months Rainbow 8 1:4 10
Toddlers aged 12 to 29 months Raindrop 10 1:7 14
Early Preschool Mixed age children 12 to 36 months Cloud, Mountain 12 1:7 14
Preschoolers aged 30 months to 3 years, not enrolled in school Sunlight, River, Garden, Ocean, 14 1:10 16
Prekindergarten Mixed age children 36 months to 6 years, not enrolled in school Alder, Maple, Spruce 14 1:10 16
School-aged children (5 to 12 years, enrolled in school) Alder, Maple, Oak 14 1:15 15

Transportation – Using the Hilltop Bus

We recently invested in a Hilltop bus to help us get children to and from our two locations each day after school. There are several guidelines to prevent COVID-19 during childcare transportation.

  • Riders and staff members must wear properly fitted cloth face coverings per CDC order.
  • Each rider is kept as far apart as possible on the bus. We take two trips to reduce occupancy and increase space on the bus.
  • We use assigned seating.
  • Children are kept together with their same classroom cohort.
  • We maximize ventilation on the bus by opening windows and roof vents whenever safe to do so.
  • Children are sanitize hands immediately before boarding the bus.
  • We clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, including the tops and backs of seats at the end of the day. Use an EPA registered product and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Leave windows open to air out the bus after runs and cleaning.

Travel – Testing and Quarantine

The CDC recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated due to increased chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. All travelers should still follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely by wearing a mask over your nose and mouth, stay 6 feet from others and avoid crowds, and wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.

Domestic Travelas of August 23, 2021, Washington state does not require COVID-19 testing for any inbound or outbound domestic travel.

  • Hilltop’s Recommendations for Unvaccinated People, including children under 12 – get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days. If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel. Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not. Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.

International TravelAll air passengers returning to the United States, including fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 viral test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States. Passengers are required to test negative with a viral test (with one of the two nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests) 72 hours before your trip. Once you return, you are recommended to follow these protocols:

  • Recommendations For Fully Vaccinated People – get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel. Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms. Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.
  • Recommendations For Unvaccinated People – get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days. If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel. Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not. Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.

Responding to Cases or Suspected Cases of COVID-19

To prepare for the potential of children or staff attending or working at Hilltop while infectious with COVID-19, we have a response and communication plan in place that includes communication with faculty, families, and the health department. Faculty and families of children who test positive for COVID-19 should notify the program supervisor immediately upon receipt of test results. Hilltop is responsible to report any cases of COVID-19 in the program to the health department and work with public health authorities on next steps.

Returning to Hilltop

If a person tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 by a molecular or antigen test, they can return to the center when the following criteria are met:

  • At least 10 days have passed since the date of your positive COVID-19 test if no symptoms are present (up to 20 days for those who are severely ill or immunocompromised), AND
  • You have had no subsequent symptoms.

This isolation guidance applies regardless of vaccination status.

If a person with COVID-19 symptoms tests negative for SARS-CoV-2 with a molecular test, they may return to the facility following the program’s existing illness management policies so long as they are not a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and subject to quarantine.

If a person with COVID-19 symptoms tests negative for SARS-CoV-2 with an antigen test, per CDC antigen testing guidance, a confirmatory lab-based molecular test is recommended. An alternative to confirmatory nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) is serial antigen testing performed every 3–7 days for 14 days.

Child Care Closure in Response to COVID-19 Cases

There may be instances where closure of a classroom or program is warranted to stop transmission of COVID-19. The time period on such closures can vary, from initial short-term closures to allow time for local health officials to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19
situation and help Hilltop determine appropriate next steps, to extended closures to stop transmission of COVID-19. Hilltop will work with the health department to  determine when it is necessary to close a classroom or program and when the classroom or program can reopen.

The following guidelines will be use to determine when to close a classroom for 14 days:

  •  The classroom/group/cohort experiences a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.
    • This may be exacerbated when children and staff have not been cohorted.
  • There is evidence of transmission of COVID-19 in the classroom/group/cohort.
  • The classroom/group/cohort cannot function due to insufficient staff.

The following guidelines will be used to determine when to close the program for 14 days:

  • The program experiences a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.
    • This may be exacerbated when children and staff have not been cohorted.
  • The program experiences multiple classrooms or activities with children or staff who test positive for COVID-19.
  • There is a prolonged transmission occurring in the program.
  • The program cannot function due to insufficient staff.