QUALITYstarsNY is New York State’s voluntary 5-Star early childhood quality rating and improvement system. Since its inception, QUALITYstarsNY has focused its evidence-based practices on ensuring that young children in participating programs have access to excellence and families can trust the level of quality in the program they choose.
As Quality Improvement Specialists with QUALITYstarsNY, we want to do whatever we can to support our programs during this time of uncertainty, as they are faced with many stressful decisions on when it is safe to reopen their doors. We were discussing how to support our programs, many of which closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In those discussions with program administrators, we heard a lot of fear, concern and uncertainty for how and when they would reopen their programs. While we were inspired to action, we were moved to act by a call with Sherry Cleary, the Institute’s Executive Director, where she indicated that we should act and not wait for others to act! So, we did.
We developed a three-part series of information sessions called “Considerations for Reopening” to support Program Administrators when considering reopening their program. Part 1, held on April 30 with more than 50 virtual attendees, addressed health and safety concerns and referenced CDC guidelines and NYS guidance and regulations. Part 2 took place the following week on May 7, where we reviewed policies and procedures that may need to be amended or adopted in response to the pandemic and how communication should be overemphasized right now. The final session, Part 3, was held on May 14, and it highlighted relationships, transitions and social/emotional development, which are all necessary to keep in the forefront of our minds when discussing reopening. More than 90 participants attended Part 2 and Part 3, demonstrating the widespread interest in preparing for reopening among the early childhood community. The primary attendees for the session were QUALITYstarsNY participating programs; however, stakeholders from the early childhood community also attended sessions to learn about the topics explored in each part.
Each session included an opportunity to hear from a program that was open. Those Program Directors shared what their new “normal” looked like, or challenges that they may be facing at this time. These lessons learned were a great addition to all the information presented. Each session highlighted specific resources, some that we developed as sample information and others from outside agencies who have age appropriate and comprehensive resources. We were sure to address programs in all settings and all ages of children who would be returning to care.
The response was wonderful. We took a daunting task and broke it down into manageable, do-able steps for the program administrators. QUALITYstarsNY’s Quality Improvement Specialists will continue to host this three-part series to share this information with QUALITYstarsNY participants across the state. Additionally, the series will be shared with more early childhood audiences by the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute through initiatives such as its Early Childhood Leadership Initiative. We are planning to create additional sessions, based on the responses from the participants of the first series. What topic would you be interested in hearing more about? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you would like to learn more about QUALITYstarsNY and how your program can participate and take advantage of the supports that we can provide, please visit our website www.qualitystarsny.org.
Kathy Moss is a Quality Improvement Specialist in NYC and the Hudson Valley and has been with QUALITYstarsNY for 8 years.
JoAnn Toth is a Quality Improvement Specialist in the Capital Region and has been with QUALITYstarsNY for 10 years.