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State updates rules for child care providers, easing classroom size limits



Child care providers will be allowed to return to pre-coronavirus pandemic classroom group sizes starting Sept. 1, according to updated guidelines released Friday by the state Department of Early Education and Care.

Before COVID-19 hit, providers were allowed to enroll up to 20 preschool-aged children in one class with two adults watching over them, but restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus dropped that number to 10 kids.

The updated regulations will also allow limited on-site services for children with special needs to occur in child care facilities. The updates also give flexibility to home-based child care providers for their maximum group size if their own children are at home and engaged in virtual, remote learning.

The state also updated its guidance on the use of masks or face coverings for children, now saying only children over the age of 7 must wear one. The requirements still mandate practices for social distancing, disinfecting, and cleaning, as well as health screening for children and staff.

“While we all must remain vigilant against the transmission of COVID-19, the updates to our requirements will ensure children and families can remain healthy and safe when relying on child care to go to work,” Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy said in a statement. “We are confident in our providers’ ability to continue safely meeting the needs of children and families in their communities while supporting children’s learning and development.”

Officials and advocates have been raising concerns for months that many providers would be forced to close due to the pandemic and the restrictions for reopening. In Boston, officials say the city may have permanently lost a “significant portion” of its child care capacity because of the pandemic.

According to the state, more than 5,300 child care programs have reopened since they were forced to shut down in March. Another 1,000 programs are completing health and safety plans for reopening.


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