SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Amid the stay-at-home order, there has been a lot of confusion and concern about preschools and childcare facilities that remain open.
While most K-12 schools are closed across the state, many preschools remain open and there has been no clear guidance from the State about who should be sending their kids to those childcare facilities and who should be keeping them home.
For two days CBS13 has been asking the State for guidance, reaching out to the Department of Public Health, the Department of Social Services — which regulates childcare facilities — and the Governor’s Office.
None could tell us if parents who don’t have jobs that are considered critical, should still be dropping their kids off at childcare.
As of Friday morning, as parents with non-critical jobs were still dropping their kids of at preschool, the most recent guidance was this letter, dated March 16, which offered only vague guidance for preschools on social distancing but made no mention on which children they should be caring for.
In contrast, some County Health Departments, like Placer County, picked up the slack for the lack of information coming from the State. Placer County’s Directive is very specific.
Placer County is specifically limiting groups of children at childcare centers to 12 or fewer. They further specify that the groups must not intermix and that the same children and teacher must stay with the same group each day.
Placer County also confirms that only kids of critical, or essential, employees should be using child care during the Stay at Home Order.
UPDATE: 3/22/20 The state has now added the following clarification to its FAQ page
“Are daycares still open? Can my babysitter still come to the house?
Yes. Daycares are still open, but only for children of parents working in essential sectors. Daycare centers that remain open should employ heightened cleaning and distancing requirements. Babysitters may also come to the house to care for minors of parents working in essential sectors.”
However, this raises another issue. A lot of parents have contacted CBS13, frustrated that their preschool is forcing them to continue paying in order to hold a spot for their child once the pandemic is over.
Many parents say that they are stuck at home not making a full paycheck themselves so they can’t afford to pay for a service they are not receiving.
Legal experts tell CBS13 that it is unlikely that a preschool could hold a parent to a contract or require that they continue paying tuition during the Stay at Home Order. The so-called “Act-of-God” common-law defense would generally protect against that.
However, as of right now, without an executive order or action by the Governor or Attorney General, a preschool could choose to fill your child’s spot if you don’t keep paying — even if they are supplementing your tuition with children of critical employees.
CBS13 reached out to the Attorney General’s office and is awaiting an official response. It is possible that the attorney general or lawmakers could step in but as of right now, you don’t have to keep paying tuition but the school does not have to hold your spot.
- Stay at Home, Except Essential Needs (March, 23)
- CDPH Guidance Home Page
- DSS Statewide Waiver for Licensing (March 16, 2020)
- CDE Guidance K-12 Schools (March 17, 2020)
- CDE & CDPH School Guidance (March 7, 2020)
- CCL COVDI-19 Home Page