The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is issuing this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document to assist school districts in supporting students and families during periods of remote learning.1 This document should be read in conjunction with COVID-19 Executive Order No. 49 and the August 28, 2020 Joint Guidance from EEC and DESE: Care Options for Hybrid and Remote Learning Models (Joint Guidance). The Joint Guidance states as follows.
In anticipation of reopening schools, districts have developed plans for in-person, hybrid, and remote learning models. Communities returning to school with hybrid or fully remote learning models face increased need for supplemental care and supervision for school-aged children during the school day. Access to these programs and services is particularly important for families and students whose needs may not be fully met by remote learning options, or who are otherwise vulnerable - including students with disabilities, students with special needs, students of color, students involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), students experiencing homelessness, low-income students, and English learners.
For purposes of this FAQ, a remote learning enrichment center is defined as a centralized hub that is established and operated by a school district to provide supervision, support, and academically enriching opportunities for students that need them during periods of remote learning. As used in this FAQ, remote learning enrichment centers do not include ordinary in-person instruction that is part of the district's learning model. A remote learning enrichment center is an extended school service that provides non-instructional in-person supervision and enrichment for students while they are engaged in remote learning. School districts may establish one or more remote learning enrichment centers to provide students with non-instructional in-person supervision and enrichment during remote learning days.
Our school district is using a remote or hybrid learning model. Can our school(s) run a remote learning enrichment center to provide students with in-person supervision and enrichment during remote learning days?
Yes, a school committee may determine that a sufficient need exists for the services that would be provided. See M.G.L. c. 71, §§ 26A, 26B. Similar to before- and after-school programs run by public schools, remote learning enrichment centers operated by school districts are exempt from EEC licensure. The district must, however, register the program and submit certain information to DESE. Please see the registration form. Remote learning enrichment centers operated by public schools must follow the health and safety requirements listed in the Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance, as well as the Quality Standards for Public School Operated School-Age Child Care Programs . If a district is unable to follow any of the quality standards due to exigent circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, it should note that on the registration form.
Note: Additional information will be provided to those districts that plan to use federal funds through 21st Century Community Learning Centers or the state-funded grant for After-School and Out-of-School Time, or both, to support their remote learning enrichment center(s).
May a school committee determine that no fee will be charged to families whose children participate in the district's remote learning enrichment centers?
Yes, the school committee may determine that families do not have to pay anything toward the cost of the supervision and enrichment provided in the remote learning enrichment center(s) operated by the district. In instances where the school committee determines that a fee is necessary to cover program costs, DESE recommends that the school committee utilize a sliding fee scale based on family income, and any fees charged should reflect only the costs of the program.2
Are there staffing considerations that school districts should take into account when planning to operate remote learning enrichment centers?
Districts and schools should define carefully the roles and responsibilities of staff providing supervision and enrichment for students that attend remote learning enrichment centers. For example, teachers who are responsible for providing remote instruction should focus on that work and not be providing services or serving as staff at the remote learning enrichment center at the same time.
Districts and schools must conduct the appropriate background checks for staff and volunteers that will be supporting students at the remote learning enrichment centers.
Can our school run a remote learning enrichment center collaboratively with community-based partner(s)? If so, does the community-based partner have to be licensed by EEC?
School districts may partner with one or more community-based organizations to provide non-instructional supervision and enrichment to students during periods of remote learning.
When public schools serve as the lead, maintaining ownership and oversight, and contract with community-based organizations to operate remote learning enrichment centers, no EEC license is required. Such programs must register with DESE, however, as noted in #1, above. Alternatively, if the community-based program serves as the lead, the program must be licensed by EEC or exempt from licensure. Please see the Joint Guidance for more information regarding EEC licensing and exemptions. If you have additional questions regarding EEC licensing, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Can school districts and community-based organizations collaborate on professional development for their staff?
DESE and EEC encourage shared professional development among public schools, community-based organizations, and before- and after-school programs. Potential topics for shared professional development could include health and safety requirements and guidance; joint training with local boards of health; ways to support remote learning; creating developmentally appropriate learning environments that meet the health and safety requirements and guidelines; effective family engagement; addressing children's social-emotional well-being; and trauma-informed practices.
Who should I contact if I have other questions about remote learning enrichment centers?
For further information, please contact the Office of Student and Family Support at email@example.com ; 781-338-3010.
1 These FAQs were created in consultation with the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and a group of representatives from community-based and public school early childhood and out-of-school time (OST) programs.
2 While school districts may be able to charge families for extended school services that would not otherwise be provided to students as part of their education model, school districts cannot charge for any programs or services that are part of the school program or that are mandated by state or federal law. For example, a school district cannot charge families for providing special education services or English learner services.
Last Updated: September 8, 2020
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
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