FIRST CIRCLE LEARNING CENTERS EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

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CULTURE

Culture is the character and personality of an organization. It’s what makes a business unique and is a combination of our core values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes. A company’s culture shows itself in the way they treat their customers, partners (vendors, subcontractors), and each other.

At First Circle, we don’t just talk about our mission and values, we live them. We make it our top priority to create a warm and friendly environment. We want you to feel welcome, included, respected, and safe. We hope you will make families and children feel that way here.

We work hard to foster a positive, fun, and happy work environment. We hope you can learn, grow, and thrive here.

We appreciate you. We support our staff with competitive compensation, generous benefits, growth opportunities, teamwork, work-life balance, opportunities for creativity, management help, great swag, and fun stuff! We’re proud of our long-term staff.

Our story

First Circle was founded in 1997 by Charlie Marcotty and Marcy Smith Lee. They met in 1987, working together in nonprofit educational administration. After a decade of loving their work collaboration, they were both ready to move on professionally and start their own families.

When a friend retired from her established early childhood center in Lexington, Charlie and Marcy saw an opportunity to continue to work together to make a difference in the world. Their goal was to create a high-quality early childhood program and workplace based on their core values.

Charlie and Marcy both had two children who graduated from the program for kindergarten and then returned as employees. In 2022, Marcy retired to spend more time with family and travel. Charlie continues to be actively involved in the daily program.

Our history

In 1997, Charlie and Marcy formed Idris, Inc. and acquired the program called Care-a-Lot Child Care Center and Lexington International Preschool. Idris is the Latin word for knowledge, wisdom, and experience. After completing extensive renovations and upgrades, they renamed the program First Circle Learning Center. By 2015, First Circle had its first waitlist.

In 2019, First Circle acquired the Kiddie Lodge in Framingham. Started in 1955 in a large homestead/barn built in the 1840s, the previous owners brought the Kiddie Lodge to the highest state quality level, QRIS 4.

In 2021, First Circle acquired Hugs Plus in Stoughton, a high-quality program for 30 years.

In 2023, First Circle acquired Chestnut Children’s Center in Needham, a well-known early childhood education program for 27 years. 

Education is the principal goal of Idris, Inc., Idris II, Inc., Idris III, Inc., and Idris IV, Inc., the Massachusetts-based corporations doing business as First Circle Learning Centers.

What sets us apart?

25+ years educating the next generation:
  • We’ve been bringing families together since 1997. We’re proud of our close-knit community and long-term staff.
Warm and friendly is what we do best:
  • Everything we do focuses on creating a warm and friendly community where families and staff feel welcome, included, respected, and safe.
Our unique curriculum:
  • We created our proprietary curriculum to incorporate research into how young children learn best and exceed the Massachusetts state standards.
Our educators are experts in helping children grow and learn:
  • We pride ourselves on our hundreds of years of early learning experience under one roof! We develop the whole child, encourage lifelong learning, and ready children for kindergarten and beyond.

Meet our team

Lines of authority

First Circle Learning Centers are licensed by the Department of Early Education & Care (EEC). All our policies and procedures adhere to EEC regulations. You can see a copy of the regulations in the office. First Circle undergoes an extensive relicensing and review process every 2 years and is subject to periodic unannounced visits from our licensor at any time.

Executive Admin

Leadership Team

CHARLIE MARCOTTY, Co-Founder and President
  • Charlie oversees all aspects of the program, including the educational program, administration, finances, operations, staff supervision, and support of families and children. Charlie supervises the director, business manager, human resources manager, and director of operations.
LIZ SMITH, Business Manager
  • Liz manages all financial and office operations for First Circle Learning Centers. She collaborates with the executive director and director of operations.
STEPHANIE MONTERROSO, Executive Director
  • Stephanie oversees staff management, health and safety, and family management and enrollment. Stephanie supervises all site directors and works in collaboration with executive admin team.
KIM LOCICERO, Director of Operations
  • Kim is responsible for curriculum, operational processes and systems, marketing and recruitment, and helps support families and children. Kim collaborates with the entire executive admin team and supervises the operations assistants.
JENN HICKEY, Human Resources Manager
  • Jenn serves as the “ear” of the organization, representing the voice of all employees. She is responsible for benefit management and HR compliance and consults with the admin team on all aspects of the employee experience.

Support Team

AMY BRAZIL and CHRISSY BREWER, Operations Assistants
  • Chrissy and Amy support Kim in operations and site administration across all First Circle locations. They manage front-end recruitment tasks, the voucher process, marketing and data analysis tasks, as well as being on-site support when needed.
HEATHER FABIANO, Curriculum Coordinator
  • Heather provides mentoring and modeling in classrooms, helping with the implementation of curriculum, and providing support and resources to classrooms. 

Program Administration

DIRECTOR
  • The director oversees and manages all aspects of their site’s program, including the educational program, administration, operations, staff supervision, and support of families and children. The director reports to the executive director.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
  • The assistant director supports the director in the oversight and management of all aspects of the program, including the educational program, administration, operations, staff supervision, and support of families and children. The assistant director reports to the director.
OFFICE MANAGER
  • The office manager supports site administration by managing administrative duties to keep the site running efficiently and smoothly. This position is split between classroom duties and office duties.

Educators

TEACHER
  • Teachers at First Circle are EEC certified. They share responsibility for classroom management and the educational program with a co-teacher and are permanently assigned in a classroom. Teachers supervise classroom assistants and model teaching skills, style, and professionalism. Teachers are supported, supervised, and reviewed by the director.
TEAM SUPPORT
  • Team support are EEC certified as teachers. They may be temporarily assigned to a classroom or float daily between different classrooms. Team support members are responsible for implementing the curriculum developed by the classroom teacher. They are supported, supervised, and reviewed by the director.
CLASSROOM ASSISTANT
  • Classroom assistants are not EEC certified. They may be permanently assigned to a classroom, or float between different classrooms. Assistants are responsible for supporting the implementation of the classroom teacher’s curriculum. Classroom assistants are always supervised and are directed by the classroom and/or floating teacher(s). Assistants are never left unattended with children, and do not administer First Aid or medication. Assistants are supported, supervised, and reviewed by the director.
DESIGNATED TEACHER
  • EEC regulations require that in the temporary absence of the director, we inform all staff on duty who is responsible for administration of the center and appoint a designee who is on the premises while it is in operation. The designee must meet the qualifications of a teacher but does not need to be lead-teacher or director certified, and if the director is absent more than 3 days, will be scheduled in the office. The designee assists the administrative staff to ensure the daily schedule is correct and supports them in the office as needed. The designated teacher is required to advise and work with the administrative team in the event of an emergency or an issue that impacts the program.

Mission, vision, values, and standards

OUR MISSION AND VISION​

A MISSION STATEMENT is why we are in business. Our mission is to make a difference by compassionately helping people – both big and small – to learn, grow, and thrive.

A VISION STATEMENT is a company’s road map, stating what we want to become and setting a direction for the company’s growth. Our vision is to be a recognized leader in providing high-quality early childhood education to make a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of as many families, children, and staff as we can.

our core values: what we believe in​

CORE VALUES describe how we want all First Circle personnel to behave and the mindset we need to achieve our company vision.
We infuse all our policies, decisions, communication, and actions with our core values. They are:

RESPECT

We value respecting everyone’s abilities, limits, feelings, values, backgrounds, perspectives, and privacy.

INTEGRITY

We value integrity, acting in an ethical, fair, and transparent manner.

GROWTH

We value growth as a lifelong journey, that learning from challenges helps achieve our greatest potential.

FLEXIBILITY

We value flexibility, creating options in our policies and practices to support our families and staff.

EXCELLENCE

We value excellence, and going above and beyond the highest standards in everything we do.

our professional standards: who we are​

STANDARDS define what our customers and team can expect. To ensure our program remains the high-quality program we pride ourselves on, First Circle’s standards guide how we approach both families and staff, and remind us of the obligations we have to our families, our co-workers, and ourselves. Our professional standards guide our work environment and our program standards direct our work. Our professional standards are:

WELCOMING

We are an open-door program that warmly welcomes children, families, and staff.

PROFESSIONAL

We are skilled early childhood professionals with high standards.

SAFE

We are safe and secure, with trained and experienced staff, and an open layout.

CARING

We are caring and nurturing in our actions, thoughts, and words.

RESPONSIVE

We actively listen, respond, and provide effective solutions.

our program standards: what we do​

Our program standards are the guidelines and commitment that outline what families and our co-workers can expect from our program. Our professional standards are:

EDUCATE

Learning is the heart of what we do. Our curriculum educates the whole child while respecting individual learning style and pace.

PLAY

We teach children through play because they learn best when active and engaged.

PARTNER

We partner with parents, staff, children, and the community to build trust and achieve shared goals.

SUPPORT

We support each person’s unique needs and goals with sensitivity and flexibility.

READY

We ready children for their next steps, preparing them for future success in school and life.

Expectations

What we expect from you

Job performance

Every First Circle job has a description. Your specific job description is at the end of this handbook. It is extremely important that you be familiar with it. It defines your specific duties, and serves as the basis for your performance review. In summary, we expect you to:

  • Support our culture by upholding First Circle’s mission, vision, core values, and professional/program standards.
  • Work your schedule, be punctual, be flexible, and show up to earn your compensation.
  • Comply with all state regulations and First Circle policies and procedures.
  • Create connections with your coworkers and families, and promote home-school partnerships.
  • Have regular, respectful, and open communication with children, families, and coworkers.
  • Implement First Circle’s curriculum and daily program and create learning opportunities throughout the day.

Professionalism

We CHOSE YOU to be part of our team and we’re rooting for you to be with us for the long term. We’re committed to supporting you and helping you take the next steps in your career. And we ask you to commit to being professional.

Being professional is about attitude, conduct, and presenting yourself with self-respect and dignity. It means having a willingness to learn, cooperating and getting along with others, showing respect, and living up to your commitments. It also means avoiding behaviors that create difficulties in the workplace. By asking you to join our team, we expect you will adhere to our professional standards. That includes:

  • following First Circle policies and procedures as outlined in your job description and this Employee Handbook
  • arriving to work with and maintaining a positive attitude each day
  • being a team player by contributing your fair share of responsibilities and maintaining a balance of workload among colleagues
  • participating in and contributing to meetings and discussions
  • managing your time well, passing in paperwork on time, giving notice for absences, arriving on time ready for the first child
  • remaining flexible with classroom assignments and schedule—expecting the unexpected, pinch hitting for a team member in need
  • staying alert about health and safety matters—ensuring the safety of equipment, washing and sanitizing toys and surfaces, managing illness
  • accepting, using, and providing feedback to improve your work
  • proactively looking for ways to improve the program, offering solutions to problems, and resisting the urge to complain or communicate in a negative manner
  • communicating professionally with others and avoiding gossip and/or negative interactions with coworkers
  • participating in social events/activities outside regular hours
  • presenting a clean, healthy, professional appearance

While conducting yourself in the ways listed above does not guarantee you won’t have issues with your co-workers, if we all conduct ourselves in these ways, we’ll be close to our goal of a workplace that is respectful, nurturing, professionally rewarding, and fun!

What you can expect from us

APPRECIATION: We value the role of early childhood educators who help to make a difference in the world. Our staff is the heart of what we do. We do everything possible to provide a culture based on good communication, teamwork, values, and fun!

TEAMWORK: Our structure is based on collaborative co-teaching teams. We give teachers support and the tools they need to succeed, like floating teachers for classroom support and time off.

COMMUNICATION: We work hard to make every communication honest, friendly, and compassionate. We believe open communication builds a better team. We encourage you to share feedback, ideas, and suggestions with us and to ask questions.

COLLABORATIVE LEADERSHIP: We know what it’s like to work in an environment where management is critical, unsupportive, and inflexible, where coworkers are cliquey, gossipy, and unfriendly. That’s why we do our best to provide you with flexibility, responsive communication, and a strong partnership.

GROWTH: We’re committed to your personal and professional growth. We offer opportunities for advancement, mentorship, and paid professional development.

CREATIVITY: As a teacher, we welcome you to personalize your classroom, lesson plans, and activities. We support our teachers with fully stocked classrooms and a generous classroom budget.

FEEDBACK: We really want to know what you think! Our tight-knit community of staff allows for open communication between staff and administration. We welcome your input, both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

FUN: We believe in laughing every day and building lifelong friendships. We love to spend time together outside school and make having fun one of our top priorities.

Equal opportunity employer

First Circle is an equal opportunity employer. We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities for all employees in all aspects of employment, to prevent unlawful discrimination or harassment of any individual working at First Circle, and to provide a mechanism for individuals to bring any concerns about discrimination or harassment to First Circle’s attention.

First Circle expects all individuals to treat each other with dignity and respect. We are committed to maintaining an environment in which employees are not subjected to different treatment because of legally protected characteristics and will not accept or tolerate any discrimination toward employees based upon the following characteristics: race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, gender, gender expression or identity, pregnancy, marital status, genetic background, disability or veterans’ status, ancestry, citizenship, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws.

Non-discrimination

As part of First Circle’s core values, we welcome and encourage diversity, multiculturalism, and anti-bias both in our student body and our staff. First Circle does not discriminate in its programs, activities, facilities, employment, or educational opportunities on the basis of any protected characteristic. This policy extends to, but is not limited to, recruitment, selection, compensation, benefits, promotion, training, and termination.

We seek to offer a respectful environment where harassment and intolerance are not allowed, and where differences in background, cultures, and abilities are celebrated.

Staff satisfaction + engagement

Reward + recognition

We know you are working hard on the job and at home so we recognize our team members for a variety of accomplishments: personal victories, big wins, extra effort, career achievements, healthy habits, and company milestones. Oh, and we just love to give company swag! At our monthly staff meetings, we choose a staff member as our Employee of the Month from nominations submitted by their peers. During the month, if you see someone giving a helping hand or you witness great work let them know by nominating them for Employee of the Month.

Feedback

As an organization that believes passionately in education and development, First Circle is committed to continuous improvement on all aspects of our programs. We welcome feedback from our families and staff, whether on our regular surveys, or in conversation with our administrative staff. Around the building, you’ll notice a QR code to submit anonymous and confidential feedback to our HR Manager. We can’t fix it if we don’t know about it. If you have an improvement to suggest, please let us know! Our ears are open!

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COMPENSATION

Employees choose a place of employment for many reasons. We believe that providing a supportive, respectful, and fun environment is as important as offering competitive salaries and benefits. We work hard to ensure our staff feels that our compensation and benefits recognize and value their contribution and dedication to children.

Classroom assignment

  • Classroom assignments are based on several factors, including certification, work experience, compatibility with other educators, personal preference, and the needs of the program.
  • Assignments also reflect our daily need. Educators may be asked to substitute for a teacher who is absent in another classroom. When such situations occur, we try to have educators substitute in a classroom within their program.
  • If at any time you would like to request a classroom reassignment, please speak with your director.

Work schedule

Morning and afternoon educators work together to implement the day’s curriculum and provide for the children’s daily needs. Consistency of caregivers is important for the quality of care, so we strive for consistency in the staff scheduled in each classroom. There will likely be a different staff member for dropoff and pickup.

Weekly schedule

Employee schedules are determined by enrollment, availability, and seniority. Although we do our best to respect individual preferences for schedules, staff members are expected to work the schedule we have determined will best maintain a high standard of care for our children and families. We reserve the right to increase, reduce or eliminate staff hours or employment due to a change in student enrollment.

The following guidelines apply to work schedules:

  • Full-time: scheduled to work 30 paid hours or more per week.
  • Part-time: scheduled to work less than 30 paid hours per week.
  • The work week begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday.
  • Educators are expected to be in their classroom ready to begin work at their designated start time.
  • Staff members may not work more or less than their established schedule, or change it without prior authorization from the administration.

Humanities

We use an online program to create and track the weekly staff schedule. Schedules are posted for you to view by 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. Please “acknowledge” your schedule. An app is available for download on both iOS and Android devices as well.

Breaks

Because of the stressful nature of childcare, we encourage all staff members to take regular breaks during their workday. By state law, any employee working 6 or more hours must be provided with a half-hour unpaid meal break.

There are times when you may need to leave the class under the supervision of your co-worker, including:

  • bathroom breaks (for staff or for one of the children in your class)
  • getting/preparing snacks for the children
  • getting/preparing materials for a project
  • coming to talk to the Administration about an issue that cannot wait until the end of your shift

In all cases, we expect you will be considerate of your co-workers and of your responsibility to your class and keep time out of the classroom under 10 minutes. For any other purpose that takes you out of the building (examples: to go out to get lunch, or to smoke a cigarette), you must use your scheduled break time.

Our break guidelines are:

  • Your break is a half-hour long, unpaid.
  • You may not skip or change a scheduled break without approval from administration.
  • You must clock in and out for any break and may leave the premises if you wish. You may NOT take this break in any classroom.
  • Nursing mothers can split their break into 2 to accommodate their child’s feeding schedule.
  • All breaks are scheduled and covered by qualified personnel.
  • If you leave the building for anything other than a scheduled break (i.e. smoking or taking a personal phone call), you must obtain coverage AND CLOCK OUT.

On occasion admin may ask you to forgo your scheduled break (leaving early instead), or to take your break earlier or later than scheduled.

Time off requests

Any requests for time off must be handled according to the guidelines listed in the Paid Time Off (PTO) section in the Benefits Handbook.

Schedule changes

No change to the current schedule may occur without prior approval. To request a change to your current schedule, you must complete a Staff Schedule Change form and submit it to the director. Please note that no request is guaranteed. You should not schedule classes or outside activities until the director approves your change. You will be notified as soon as possible whether your request has been approved. An explanation will be provided if the request cannot be accommodated. Seniority, availability of coverage, and job performance are the most important factors the administration considers when deciding whether to approve a schedule change.

Punctuality + absences

Guidelines

Like any business, we depend on our employees to operate the center. We rely on you. Our policy is to make fair and reasonable allowances for an employee’s absence, aware that a moderate amount of absence due to sickness or emergency situations is often beyond your control. If you become ill or have a personal emergency for which you must miss work, you must follow the procedures outlined below:

  • You must provide at least 2 hours’ notice prior to an absence. If you are calling during center hours, you must speak with someone. Do not leave a message. If it is after hours or before opening, and you are not a scheduled opener, you may leave a message on the attendance hotline, NOT on the director’s voicemail. Every staff member has a copy of the most current phone numbers for all staff and administration. Additional copies are available in the office.
  • To protect you and your co-workers’ health, you must follow the guidelines in Health and Safety to determine whether you should come to work. Only you can make the final decision, bearing in mind your contagiousness, your alternatives for child care, and your overall attendance patterns.
  • If you are out sick or for an emergency and have not completed a Time-Off form in advance, or you were late for your shift more than 30 minutes, you must submit an Unscheduled Absence form to the director within 24 hours of your return. Additionally, PTO must be recorded on your time sheet.

Excessive absence

Staff who are consistently late or absent place a burden on all of us, especially the children. Excessive tardiness or absenteeism, regardless of prior notification, may lead to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

  • Staff members who have an unplanned absence of more than 3 consecutive scheduled days may be required to present a doctor’s note.
  • Dependability will factor in when we determine raises, schedules, bonuses, and advancement.
  • More than 2 call-outs during any month without extenuating circumstances will result in a warning.

Categories of employment

FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES:
  • Employees who work 30 or more hours weekly and are eligible for benefits listed in the Benefits for Full-Time Employees section in the Benefits Handbook.
PART-TIME EMPLOYEES:
  • Employees who work less than 30 hours weekly and are not eligible for full-time benefits listed in the Benefits Handbook.
SEASONAL EMPLOYEES:
  • Employees who work during college vacations are considered seasonal. These employees are eligible for benefits when consistently working 30 hours or more during one time period.
NON-EXEMPT EMPLOYEES:
  • Employees in non-administrative positions who are paid hourly wages as determined by state eligibility requirements. Non-exempt employees are paid overtime wages for any hours above 40 worked in a week.
EXEMPT EMPLOYEES:
  • Employees in administrative positions who are paid salary. Exempt employees are not eligible for overtime wages.

Wages

Hourly wages

We base an employee’s starting hourly wage on qualifications, experience, training, education, and job responsibility. All non-administrative employees are paid on an hourly basis. Employees are compensated for any time spent on the premises at First Circle during the work week.

Paycheck

PAYDAY:

Employees are paid every Friday. New employees will receive a paycheck the second Friday after their first day of employment.

DIRECT DEPOSIT:

You may elect to have part, or all of your paycheck directly deposited into your checking or savings account, or a combination of up to 6 accounts. The funds are available at the start of business on the payday.

PAYSTUB:

Using the login and password you created to onboard yourself through payroll, you can continue to access your payroll information. This includes your weekly paystub, PTO balance, benefit information, taxes, direct deposit, etc.

Pay categories

Depending on your benefit eligibility, your paycheck will categorize your wages by hourly wages, overtime, or other categories of pay listed in the Benefits section:

Regular hours

Compensation is calculated by multiplying hourly wages by the number of hours and/or minutes worked in a particular work week.

Overtime

As required by the federal government, all non-exempt First Circle employees are paid 1.5 times their hourly salary for any hours worked more than 40 hours per work. Non-exempt employees include teachers and teaching assistants. The only exempt First Circle employees are members of the administrative team, who are salaried, and not eligible for overtime. Other guidelines:

  • You must be authorized by administration to come in early, work late, or work through scheduled breaks.
  • To calculate overtime, hours paid are hours actually worked, not including PTO, holiday, emergency closure, leave of any kind or other personal time. They don’t include any meal or other break time for which you’re required to sign out.
  • By federal law, “comp” time is not available.

Other categories

Other than regular hours, your weekly paycheck can include hours paid in other categories including PTO, holiday pay, jury duty, bereavement, staff meetings, required training, PR events, emergency closing/delayed open, bonus, late fee, or maternity leave.

Deductions

First Circle is required by law to make certain deductions from your paycheck each period for taxes. You may also choose to have voluntary deductions from your paycheck, like contributions for insurance premiums, retirement plans, spending accounts, or other services. Your deductions will be reflected in your wage statement.

Taxes

Required tax deductions include income and unemployment taxes, Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) contributions (Social Security and Medicare), and any other deductions required under law or by court order for wage garnishments.

  • The amount of your tax deductions will depend on your earnings and the number of exemptions you list on the W-4 Form, as well as the state withholding form.
  • First Circle will not make deductions to your pay that are prohibited by federal, state, or local law. If you have questions about deductions from your pay, please speak with the director. You will be reimbursed in full for any isolated, inadvertent, or improper deductions, as defined by law. If an error is found, you will receive an immediate adjustment, which will be paid no later than your next regular payday.

Benefits

Deductions from paychecks are made for any health, dental, and vision premiums, 401(K) or other benefits [see Benefits Handbook]. Deductions for the employee’s contribution to health, dental, and vision care plans are made in pre-tax dollars. This means that the employee does not pay state and federal taxes on this portion of their wages.

Garnishments

Wage garnishments are court-ordered deductions taken from an employee’s pay to satisfy a debt or legal obligation. Child support, unpaid taxes or credit card debt, defaulted student loans, medical bills, and outstanding court fees are common causes for wage garnishments. First Circle is legally bound to withhold from an employee’s paycheck the amount indicated in a garnishment order. First Circle will honor federal and state guidelines that protect a certain amount of an employee’s income from being subject to garnishment.

Wage review

As an essential part of professional development, each employee’s job performance will be evaluated every 6 months. In combination with the performance review, each employee’s wage rate is reviewed at the same time (with the exception of part-time high-school assistants, whose wage rates are reviewed annually).

The range of wage increases is established by the executive admin team, and typically ranges from 0-3% every 6 months. An employee’s wage increase is based upon a combination of their job performance, attendance and punctuality, attitude, and positive reviews by parents, peers, and administration.

Benefits

We value our staff and provide generous benefits as part of our employment package, described in the Benefits Handbook.

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COMPLIANCE

Other employment policies

First Circle strives to implement employment policies that are fair and generous to both the employee and employer. The policies in this manual have been thoroughly researched and comply with federal and state employment laws.

Confidentiality

You have the right to access the records of the children in your classroom, including their developmental history (All About Me), medical records, etc. However, all information in a child’s file is confidential. We are prohibited from disclosing or providing the information contained in children’s files to anyone without the express written consent of the parent or guardian.

Personal remarks or conversations about families or children not related to the children’s care with your co-workers in the classroom or any other public place where conversation can be overheard are strictly prohibited. Staff should be careful of sharing work stories with family or household members. When discussing work-related issues, always protect the identity of the child or family.

Additionally, if a parent says something negative about First Circle, avoid arguments and direct discussions, and direct them to Administration.

Social + digital media policy

The confidentiality policy also applies to all social media and networking websites used personally or professionally. We understand many people use social networking sites, but we strongly recommend that you not “friend” parents of the children that attend First Circle. We urge you to use privacy settings that will keep your photographs viewable by “friends” only.

Digital photographs are an important method to document children’s progress. For privacy and liability reasons, any photo taken at First Circle is considered our property. You may use your own phone but the photographs (whether printed or on file) must remain at First Circle. You may not post pictures taken at First Circle to ANY social networking site or use them for personal use (as wallpaper on your phone or home computer), regardless of whether the family has given you permission.

You are prohibited from making disparaging comments about First Circle, your supervisors, co-workers, or members of any First Circle family. In other words, never write or say anything you wouldn’t want read by your supervisor, published to a website, or used in a court of law. Unless given permission, you are not authorized to speak on behalf of First Circle, or to represent that you do so.

Phone calls and visitors

We ask that you schedule your phone calls outside working hours. Your cell phone should be off while you are in the classroom. Because your position requires your constant attention be on the children, phone calls must be made outside the classroom and on First Circle phones, unless you are on an unpaid break. On occasion, personal calls may be necessary, but we ask you to limit them to emergencies or essential personal business, and to keep them brief.

All visitors must obtain permission before spending time on our premises. At no time can visitors be with you in the classroom.

Office equipment

Each location has office equipment (such as laminator, labeler, copy machine, staff laptop) for shared use by staff. Specific equipment varies by location. Please ask Admin first before using the equipment for personal use. Educators using the equipment for educational use have priority over staff using it for personal use during break time. Please be polite! Please do not download programs to the company computers unless you have approval from Administration.

Solicitation and distribution policy

We expect your work hours at First Circle to be dedicated to your job responsibilities and child care. Solicitation of staff or children’s family members is prohibited, unless the item or activity is approved in advance by the Administration. Non-employees are never allowed to solicit or distribute materials on center property without First Circle’s approval.

Solicitation and/or distribution of materials between employees is prohibited during work hours, but allowed during break or meal times, if it does not interfere with the employee’s job responsibilities and does not take place in the classroom.

Workplace privacy and right to inspect

First Circle property includes but is not limited to cabinets, phones, computers, tablets, desks, workplace areas, vehicles, or machinery. First Circle property remains under company control and is subject to inspection at any time, without notice to any employees, and without their presence. You should have no expectation of privacy in any of these areas. We assume no responsibility for the loss of, or damage to, your property maintained on company premises including that kept in lockers and desks.

audio/video monitoring + recording policy

As an important part of our quality assurance, training, and security, we have cameras throughout all areas of the center (excluding bathrooms areas). To protect the security and privacy of the students and adults at the center, First Circle has the following policies governing their usage:

  • First Circle reserves the right, but is not required, to retain any audio/video recordings for any period of time, unless specifically directed by a law enforcement agency or a state agency.

  • We do not guarantee that all interior and exterior areas of the center will be covered by audio or video monitoring (typically due to system limitations or other technical issues). 
  • Audio and video monitoring will never be used as a substitute for the direct supervision of children.
  • First Circle will fully cooperate with authorities investigating suspected child abuse or neglect.

Awareness and Consent

All First Circle staff and parents are aware of the monitoring and recording on premises and provide their consent as a condition of employment or enrollment. There should be no expectation of privacy except in the bathroom areas. In addition, notices are posted in the building.

Access to Live Monitoring

Watching the live monitor is consistent with First Circle’s Open Door policy and parents may view with administrative staff only. Recording the sound and/or images displayed on the monitors is not permitted. 

Access to Recordings

All recordings are the property of First Circle Learning Center, and we have the right to restrict access to any recording of any time and any location from anyone. Review of recordings is allowed only with the specific approval of the executive team. 

Weapons policy

First Circle prohibits all persons who enter company property from carrying a handgun, firearm, or other weapon regardless of whether the person is licensed to carry the weapon or not. This policy applies to all company employees, contract and temporary employees, visitors, and customers. The only exception to this policy is police officers acting within their professional capacity.

Conflict of interest

Our employees must meet high ethical standards in their job performance. We ask that you not engage in any activities outside First Circle that conflict with your job performance; if you know of something that will impact it, please advise the Director.

Smoking policy

There is no smoking or vaping allowed inside First Circle under any circumstances at any time. Outside the school, there is no smoking or vaping allowed during operating hours within 10 feet of the building. If employees smoke or vape outside the 10-foot radius of the building, the following guidelines apply:

  • You must show discretion and not be seen smoking in front of parents or children.
  • You must clock out while smoking.
  • All cigarette butts must be disposed of and not left on First Circle grounds.
  • You must make every effort to minimize the smell of smoke on your person.
  • At no time may you have a vape device in the classroom.

Babysitting policy

Although many early childhood programs prohibit babysitting for families, First Circle chooses not to. However, if you babysit for First Circle families, please remember that you are always an ambassador of First Circle. How you conduct yourself will, whether at work or in someone’s home, reflect on us as well. The following guidelines apply to staff who choose to babysit:

  • Babysitting for families is not allowed during First Circle’s operating hours.
  • Employees must not discuss any aspect of First Circle business with families.
  • Babysitting is a private transaction between you and that family. First Circle is not responsible in any way for the care of that child(ren) during those services.
  • You must adhere to the confidentiality policies stated in this manual.

Personal appearance/hygiene

We want First Circle to be a relaxed environment, where children, staff, and families feel comfortable. We ask that staff use their best judgment when dressing for working with children:

  • All clothing (even jeans) should be clean, free from excessive wrinkles, and in good repair (without holes or tears).
  • Comfortable shoes are essential. Please do not wear heels. We recommend that footwear cover toes and have a back strap or enclosed heel. Although flip-flops are not prohibited, you risk injury when making a choice not to protect your feet and toes (especially on the playground!). Bare feet are never allowed.
  • Dress for participation in outdoor activities.
  • Your clothes should be appropriately sized, neither too small nor too tight.
  • Clothing with pictures or writing should be appropriate for children.
  • Please do not wear see-through clothing or clothing that allows undergarments or their straps to be exposed. Before coming to work, please make sure that sitting, bending, or reaching doesn’t expose skin or undergarments.
  • Shorts and skirts should be of a reasonable length: mid-thigh or lower (with your arms hanging down, make sure your garment is at or below your fingertips), skirts higher than knee-length require shorts underneath.
  • Show good taste in your attire: pants/bottoms with high enough waist to cover the skin of your midsection (front and back), tops with high enough neckline to hide bra or chest hair, (and long enough to keep skin of your midsection covered), shoulder straps must be a minimum three fingers in width (no spaghetti straps) and no strapless tops are to be worn.
  • When you wear leggings or stretch pants, please wear a top that reaches to the hip. Please don’t wear spandex, bike shorts, bathing/swimming wear, or sleepwear (unless for a planned event or occasion!).
  • Long nails, dangling earrings, and other protruding jewelry should be avoided.
  • Please wear deodorant/antiperspirant, especially during warmer months.
  • Please wear a bra or suitable support.
  • Please avoid wearing cologne/perfume, as strong odors of any kind can be offensive, and some people are allergic to perfume.

Employee accommodations

Disability

First Circle complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and all applicable state and local fair employment practice laws. We are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to qualified individuals with disabilities, including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, such as lactation or the need to express milk for a nursing child. Consistent with this commitment, First Circle will provide reasonable accommodation to otherwise qualified individuals where appropriate to allow the individual to perform the job, unless doing so would create an undue hardship on the business.

If you require an accommodation because of your disability, it is your responsibility to notify your director. You may be asked to include relevant information such as:

  • a description of the proposed accommodation
  • the reason you need an accommodation
  • how the accommodation will help you perform the essential functions of your job

After receiving your request, First Circle will talk with you to determine the precise limitations of your disability and explore potential reasonable accommodations that could overcome those limitations. Where appropriate, we may need your permission to obtain additional information from your medical provider. All medical information received by First Circle in connection with a request for accommodation will be confidential.

First Circle encourages you to suggest specific reasonable accommodations you believe would allow you to perform your job. However, we are not required to make your specific accommodations and may provide an alternative accommodation, to the extent any reasonable accommodation can be made without imposing an undue hardship on First Circle. If leave is provided as a reasonable accommodation, that leave may run concurrently with leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and/or any other leave permitted by state and federal law.

First Circle will not discriminate or retaliate against employees for requesting an accommodation.

Pregnant workers fairness acts policy

The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act prohibits discrimination against employees due to pregnancy or conditions related to pregnancy. The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are pregnant or have a condition related to pregnancy. Conditions related to pregnancy include, but are not limited to, morning sickness, lactation, or the need to express breast milk. The procedures for requesting an accommodation are described in the Massachusetts Disability Accommodation policy.

Where an individual is suffering from a pregnancy-related disability or condition, reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to:

  • more frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks
  • time off to attend to a pregnancy complication or recover from childbirth with or without pay
  • acquisition or modification of equipment or seating
  • temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position
  • job restructuring
  • light duty
  • private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk
  • assistance with manual labor
  • modified work schedule

Breastfeeding policy

First Circle is committed to providing a breastfeeding-friendly environment for our enrolled children and staff.

DESIGNATED PLACE:

As much as possible, we provide breastfeeding mothers, including employees, a private and sanitary place (other than a bathroom) to breastfeed their babies or express milk. This area has an electric outlet, comfortable chair, and nearby access to running water. Mothers are also welcome to breastfeed in front of others if they wish.

STORAGE:

We provide refrigerator space for expressed breast milk. Mothers should provide their own containers, clearly labeled with name and date.

SUPPORT:

First Circle is committed to supporting breastfeeding mothers, including providing an opportunity to breastfeed their baby in the morning and evening, and holding off giving a bottle, if possible, when mom is due to arrive. Infant formula and solid foods will not be fed to a child unless requested by the mother.

TRAINING:

All center staff will be trained in the proper storage and handling of breast milk, as well as ways to support breastfeeding mothers. First Circle follows human milk storage guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid waste and prevent foodborne illness.

STAFF:

First Circle will provide nursing mothers reasonable unpaid break time to express milk. You are encouraged to discuss the length and frequency of these breaks with the director. Expressed milk can be stored in company refrigerators or in a personal cooler. Label your milk to avoid confusion for other employees who may share the refrigerator.

Time allowed for nursing or expressing milk does not exceed the normal time allowed to other employees for lunch and breaks. For time above and beyond normal lunch and breaks, PTO may be used, or the employee can come in earlier or leave later to make up the time.

Religious

First Circle is dedicated to treating its employees equally and with respect and recognizes the diversity of their religious beliefs. All employees may request an accommodation when their religious beliefs cause a deviation from the company dress code or the individual’s schedule, basic job duties, or other aspects of employment. First Circle will consider the request but reserves the right to offer its own accommodation to the extent permitted by law. Some, but not all, of the factors that will be considered are cost, the effect an accommodation will have on current established policies, and the burden on operations, including other employees. At no time will First Circle question the validity of a person’s belief. If you request an absence to observe a holy day, you must provide us with at least 10 days’ notice. First Circle may require you to make up the time lost. If you require a religious accommodation, please speak with the director.

Regulatory compliance

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is our licensing agency. All policies and procedures listed in this handbook comply with EEC regulations. A copy of the regulations is available from Administration. Specific regulations all educators must be aware of and follow include:

Postings

EEC requires us to post the following information in an area easily visible to parents, educators, and visitors:

  • the current license
  • emergency information by each phone
  • a list of all emergency or life-saving medications (including EpiPens, inhalers, and anti-seizure medications), specifying which children they belong to, and a list of allergies and/or other emergency medical information for each child, in a manner that protects the privacy of each child
  • the location of the health care policy and the location of the first aid kit
  • emergency and evacuation procedures next to each exit
  • diapering and toilet training procedures in diapering areas

First Circle provides classrooms the following required postings:

  • Five Rights of Medication
  • Nut-free program
  • Emergency Procedures
  • Handwashing procedures by each sink
  • Cleaning/Sanitizing/Disinfecting Instructions
  • CPR instructions
  • Exclusions from Care
  • Annual Themes

Ratios

DURING THE FIRST AND FINAL 2 HOURS OF THE PROGRAM DAY

GROUP SIZE # OF EDUCATORS LIMITS ON AGES
1-6 1 No more than 2 infants;
No more than 3 children younger than 2.
1-6 2 No more than 6 children younger than 2.
7-8 2 No more than 2 infants;
No more than 3 children younger than 2.
7-10 2 No more than 3 infants
No more than 6 children younger than 2.
7-10 3 No more than 6 children younger than 15 months.

ALL TIMES OTHER THAN FIRST/LAST 2 HOURS OF THE DAY

AGE GROUP MAX GROUP SIZE EDUCATOR:CHILD RATIO EDUCATOR QUALIFICATIONS
Infants
up to 15 months
7 1:3 – one additional educator for 4-7 infants At least 1 Infant/Toddler Teacher
Toddlers
15 to 33 months
9 1:4 – one additional educator for 5-9 toddlers At least 1 Infant/Toddler Teacher
Preschoolers
33 months and up
20 1:10 At least 1 Preschool Teacher

Qualifications

Work qualifications are based on education and previous work experience.

Supervision of children

According to EEC regulations, educators must supervise children at all times, including indoor and outdoor activities, mealtimes, naptime, transportation, field trips, and transitions between activities.

  • Children younger than 6 months at the time of enrollment must be under direct visual supervision at all times, including while napping, during the first 6 weeks in care.
  • Educators must be:
    • aware of children’s activities
    • positioned to see and/or hear children in their care
    • close enough to children to intervene quickly when necessary
  • Educators must not engage in any activities that could divert their attention from supervising the children.
  • In programs serving infants and toddlers, educators must not leave a child unattended in an infant seat, on a changing table, or on any other surface that could result in a fall.
  • No child may be outdoors without adult supervision.

Interactions/curriculum

The following requirements apply to all programs:

  • Educators must respond to children’s individual needs and support the development of self-esteem, self-expression, autonomy, social competence, and school readiness.
  • Educators must nurture and respond to children by:
    • frequently expressing warmth by holding babies, having conversations, joint laughter, eye contact, smiles, and communicating at children’s eye level
    • providing attentive, consistent, comforting, and culturally sensitive care
    • being consistent and predictable in their physical and emotional care of children, and when implementing program rules and expectations
    • recognizing signs of stress in children’s behavior and responding with stress-reducing activities
  • Educators must support children in the development of self-esteem, independence, and self-regulation by:
    • demonstrating courtesy and respect
    • encouraging expression of both positive and negative emotions
    • encouraging their efforts, work, and accomplishments
    • assuring all children have equal opportunities to take part in all activities and use all materials
    • offering opportunities for children to make choices and decisions
  • Educators must support children in the development of social competence by:
    • promoting language use by talking to and with children frequently
    • encouraging children to share experiences and ideas, and to listen, help, and support each other
    • modeling cooperation, problem-solving strategies, and responsible behavior
    • teaching social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and working together
    • coaching children to resolve conflicts, problem-solve, and make decisions
    • helping children to:
      • understand and respect people different from themselves
      • respect each other’s possessions and work
      • learn effective ways to deal with bullying, teasing, or other forms of intolerance
  • Educators must guide children in a positive and consistent way by:
    • encouraging self-control, recognizing and reinforcing children’s appropriate behaviors, having reasonable and positive expectations, setting clear and consistent limits, and redirecting
    • helping children learn social, communication, and emotional regulation skills they can use in place of challenging behaviors
    • using environmental modifications, activity modifications, adult or peer support, and other teaching strategies to encourage appropriate behavior and prevent challenging behaviors
    • intervening quickly when children are physically aggressive and helping them develop more positive strategies for resolving conflict
    • explaining rules and procedures and the reasons for them to children, and where appropriate and feasible, allowing children to participate in the establishment of program rules, policies, and procedures
    • discussing behavior management techniques among staff to promote consistency
  • Educators must have a method of communicating effectively with each child.
  • Educators must guide children with the goal of maximizing growth and development, while protecting the group and the individuals within it.

What to do when EEC arrives

We have a good working relationship with our licensors because they can count on us to always follow regulations. Our licensor can visit unannounced any time for spot checks or to follow up on an injury or complaint. When our licensor arrives, there is no reason to be anxious. Please double check your cabinets are locked, attendance sheets are in order, and you have an accurate headcount.

Daily program management

Procare

Procare Solutions is the management software that First Circle uses to organize all child and family information. Administrators use Procare on their desktops to keep up-to-date head counts and ratios, and create reports that are distributed to the classrooms. These reports include sign-in/out sheets, child emergency forms, new enrollment notices, and staff time sheets. In addition, educators use the Procare system to clock in and out each day.

In conjunction with Procare Solutions, we use a tool called Procare Engage to document curriculum, observe and assess children’s development, and communicate with families. Information about each child and their authorized pick-up and emergency contacts is synced from Procare Desktop to Engage. Educators receive an invitation from Procare Engage to create an account and it can be accessed using an app on the classroom tablets to document daily activities and curriculum as well as document observations for assessments. (Assessments are done on the web at procareconnect.com.)

In Engage, families can send notes regarding attendance, changes in patterns or schedules at home, and other information that can help us support their child. In the infant and toddler programs, parents fill out specific information regarding their child’s wake up time, last diaper change, and last bottle/meal prior to drop off. Throughout the day, teachers must log the times of each child’s nap(s), bottles, snacks, meals, and diaper changes. All First Circle families receive an end-of-day email noting the day’s logged information, curriculum, activities, and any special notes or information specific to the classroom.

Typical daily schedule

A typical day at First Circle follows this general schedule, with a variety of curriculum activities, free and organized play, and regular diaper changing/bathroom visitation included throughout:

Early Dropoff/Morning Arrival

  • Arrive a few minutes early
  • Open center (if applicable)
  • Set up classroom
  • Help children transition into classroom
  • Record arrival on sign-in sheet
  • Notify office of absences
  • Update Engage
  • Keep up with general housekeeping
  • Relay information to classroom teacher when they arrive

Snack

  • Clean preparation counter and tables
  • Wash hands before preparing food
  • Wash children’s hands
  • Serve food
  • Clean up food from surfaces and floor
  • Clean and sanitize tables and preparation surface
  • Wash your hands and children’s hands

Outside

  • Survey playground to make sure there are no hazards
  • Line up bikes, put toys away before coming inside

LUNCH

  • Same steps as snack (above)

Rest Time

  • Prepare children’s sleeping area
  • Help children to sleep as necessary
  • Provide quiet activities to children who wake up after resting
  • Pack up sheets and blankets
  • Sanitize mats before putting them away

Snack

  • Same steps as snack (above)

Outside

  • Same steps as outside (above)

Afternoon/Pickup

  • Update Engage and parent notification board on a regular basis
  • Keep up with general housekeeping
  • Help transition children out of classroom
  • Record departure time on sign-out sheet
  • Close the classroom
  • Clean toys and materials as necessary
  • Clean and sanitize all hard surfaces

Opening

OPENING THE SCHOOL

At least two staff members are scheduled to open and responsible for:

  • turning on ALL lights
  • unlocking ALL doors
  • checking attendance voicemail and writing down messages
  • taking down chairs in opening classrooms
  • emptying dishwasher (if applicable), putting all dishes away
  • placing clothes from the washing machine (if applicable) in the dryer, folding clothes from the dryer
  • turning on printer and copier
  • checking the ProCare sign-in system to ensure it is running
  • mixing and replenishing large sanitizer jug if necessary

OPENING THE CLASSROOM

The first educator assigned to each classroom in the morning must complete these tasks by 8:00 a.m. Task completion should never interfere with classroom responsibilities or interactions with children and families.

  • ensure sign-in sheet is accessible and correct
  • set up choices in toddler and preschool classroom areas
  • read notes left by staff or Admin
  • make sure entryway outside classroom is clean and organized
  • retrieve toys and/or laundry from previous day from dishwasher, Zono, or dryer
  • restock spoons, forks, gloves, plates, tissues, paper towels, diapers/wipes, diaper paper, diaper bags for the day
  • for infants, ensure toys are available on the mats
  • preschool teachers prepare snacks and water for the day

Children’s arrival

Children arrive at different times in the morning.

EARLY DROPOFF

Some locations have an early dropoff option before 8:00 a.m. for an additional fee. Children who arrive before 8 a.m. are grouped with children in the same program (infants, toddlers and preschoolers).

DROPOFF

Parents are responsible for bringing children into the classroom and letting the educator know they’ve arrived. For safety, parents are not allowed to leave a child at First Circle:

  • before opening
  • before the child’s scheduled arrival time without office approval or
  • without making sure the child has been properly received by an educator

RESPONSIBILITIES

Your responsibilities when children arrive include:

  • Greet each child by name and acknowledge the family as they arrive.
  • Ensure the family provides all the information you need to care for their child.
  • Assist the parent in settling the child into the classroom. Ensure they complete the electronic record (if applicable). Encourage parents to notify you of any unusual behavior, disposition, or schedule changes. Parents should tell you if a child is feeling poorly, had a rough night or morning, has a parent out of town, or anything that might alter their child’s mood. Make a note of this information.
  • Take a moment to observe the child’s general health and well-being. Assess any potential illness or health issue that may impact the child or their ability to participate in the program. Refer to the illness policy to determine whether the child can stay at First Circle.
  • Note any scratches, bumps, or bruises. If you have a question about your observations or need clarification, speak with the parent, and complete an Injury Report with the family if applicable.
  • Help the child transition into the classroom by inviting the child to join in an activity (“Would you like to have snack with us, John?”). If a child is having difficulty, support and comfort as long as needed [see Curriculum section for more transition tips].
  • Reassure the parent that you will support and assist their child. Suggest that they call First Circle shortly to find out how things are going.
  • After engaging with parents, enter the child’s arrival time on classroom attendance sheet and check them into Procare Engage.
  • Remove any outdoor clothing and place the child’s belongings in a cubby.
  • Make sure the parent completes appropriate paperwork (e.g., Authorization for Medication). For infants and toddlers, parents must fill in the Engage information, indicating the time the child woke, ate, suggested menu for the day, any new foods tried at home, who is picking up and when, and contact information.

ABSENCE

We tell parents to call us as early as possible to report their child’s absence or let us know through Engage. We also ask to be advised if a child has been diagnosed with a contagious illness so we can notify staff and parents as necessary. We will notify you of any absence as soon as possible and advise you if any adjustments to the schedule have been made due to the absence, such as an additional educator who will no longer be needed to maintain ratios.

If you are notified directly of an absence, via voicemail or other means, you must notify Administration immediately. If a child has not shown up within an hour of their usual arrival time on a day they are scheduled and you have not been notified of the absence, please call (or ask an administrator to call) the parent to confirm the child is absent. Make every attempt possible to speak to someone rather than leave a message. Tuition is not refunded or credited for days missed due to illness.

DROP-IN

Drop-in requests are granted for enrolled children when space and staffing are available. If time permits, we will include the child on printed attendance forms. If not, you must write in the child and schedule, and indicate dropoff and pickup times. Drop-in children should be included in the plan for the day.

Parents are charged for the total hours requested (in full-hour increments), even if the child does not attend them all. If a child attends more than the requested hours, parents are charged additional hourly fees. No late pickup forms need to be filled out. Please notify Admin immediately if the hours attended do not match the hours indicated on the drop-in form.

Handwashing policy

We teach the children who are developmentally able to wash their hands frequently and that good handwashing takes three things: warm water, soap, and rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds.

Required handwashing for children and adults:
  • on arrival
  • after diapering or using the toilet
  • after handling body fluids (blowing or wiping a nose, coughing on a hand, or touching any mucus, blood, or vomit)
  • before meals and snacks, before preparing or serving food, or after handling raw food that requires cooking
  • before and after playing in water shared by two or more people
  • after handling pets and other animals or materials such as sand, dirt, or surfaces that may be contaminated by contact with animals
  • when moving from one group to another (visiting) that involves contact with infants and toddlers/twos
Additional required handwashing for adults:
  • before and after feeding a child
  • after assisting a child with toileting
  • after handling garbage or cleaning
  • before and after administering medication
Proper handwashing procedures for adults and children:
  • use liquid soap and running water
  • rub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds, including back of hands, wrists, between fingers, under and around any jewelry and under fingernails
  • rinse well
  • dry hands with a single-use paper towel
  • avoid touching the faucet with just-washed hands (use the paper towel to turn off water)
Other notes
  • Except when handling blood or body fluids that might contain blood (when wearing gloves is required), wearing gloves is an optional supplement, but not a substitute, for handwashing in any required handwashing situation listed above.
  • Do not use handwashing sinks for bathing children or removing smeared fecal material.
  • Sinks used for handwashing after diapering or toileting MUST be separate from sinks and areas used for food preparation and food service.
  • Using sanitizer instead of handwashing is not recommended for childcare settings. If sanitizer is used as a temporary measure, the amount used must keep the hands wet for 15 seconds.

Meals and snacks

OVERVIEW

When children sit and eat together, it’s a chance for them to interact in a more informal way with staff members, for staff to model prosocial behavior, and for children to socialize with each other.

Parents are responsible for bringing in meals and drinks for infants and toddlers. Preschool children must bring a meal and drink. Depending on the site, First Circle provides morning and afternoon snacks, and water to drink in the preschool classrooms.

We choose a variety of snacks that are low in sugar and fat. EEC requires the weekly snack menu to be posted. We keep a supply of meals and snacks on hand for children whose parents have forgotten to bring them from home. We also supply paper plates, bowls, cups, utensils, and bibs, but parents are welcome to supply their own.

GENERAL GUIDELINES

Meals and snacks are scheduled for the children’s developmental stage. Educators should follow these guidelines when serving meals and snacks:

  • Educators should be present, interact with, and assist children.
  • Allow children to eat a well-balanced diet at a reasonable, leisurely rate.
  • Encourage children to serve themselves when appropriate.
  • Ensure each child receives an adequate amount and variety of food.
  • Help children with disabilities to participate in meal and snack times with their peers.
  • Offer activities for children who have finished their snack or meal.
  • Serve water in pitchers at snack time. Offer water to children at frequent intervals and upon request.
  • Never pressure a child to eat or drink, or to stop eating or drinking, unless it is for health and/or safety reasons.

FOOD HANDLING

  • Educators must wash hands before preparing meals and snacks.
  • Children must wash hands before and, if necessary, after mealtimes.
  • You may only give a child food that has been provided by First Circle or by their parent.
  • If you drink a beverage in the classroom, you must use a covered container.
  • Make sure all food containers belonging to a child are labeled. If not, mark the container with the child’s name, and remind parents of our policy.
  • If a child misses lunch or snack due to deviations from their regular schedule, offer a substitute meal at a different time.

CLEAN-UP

  • Encourage children to help clean up, put away their own things, etc.
  • Please return any unused snack in a sealed plastic bag or container to the snack area in a timely manner.
  • After children have finished eating, clean/sanitize/sweep tables, chairs, and floors.

FOOD SAFETY

For the health and safety of the children, we must prepare and serve food and drink in a safe and sanitary manner. All First Circle staff are trained in food health and safety. We follow these guidelines and require that parents do too:

  • New foods:

    For infants and toddlers, new foods must be introduced at home.

  • Temperature:

    For toddlers and preschool, parents must include an ice pack in an insulated cooler for all food requiring refrigeration. We store infants’ food in a refrigerator in each classroom. The refrigerator temperature is between 32-40 degrees verified by a refrigerator thermometer and logged monthly.

  • Allergies:

    Classrooms have Special Care Plans, Allergy Action Plans, and other pertinent paperwork for children with food allergies or special dietary needs. Please see Health + Safety for detailed information about prevention, management, and treatment.

  • Nut-Free:

    We are a peanut and tree nut-free program. All the snacks we serve are nut-free. We do not allow any nut products to be sent to school and require that parents check food labels and packaging. This includes nuts in muffins or bread and of course, peanut butter (however, soy nut and sunflower butter are fine!). If a parent sends a nut product to school, remind them that we are nut-free to keep children safe.

  • Storage and Sanitation
    • All food to be consumed during the day must be brought in containers labeled with the child’s name.
    • Any food that has not been served to the child must be sent home at night. As required by EEC, educators must dispose of, or return to the parent, milk, formula, or food unfinished by a child, as directed by the parent.
  • Choking hazards:

    Over 10,000 children each year end up in the emergency room because of food-choking injuries. Per advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), First Circle requires that children’s food be sent to school as follows:

    • Vegetables like carrots, celery, and green beans should be diced, shredded, or cooked and cut up.
    • Fruits like grapes, cherry tomatoes, and melon balls must be cut into quarters.
    • Meats (especially hot dogs) and cheeses must be cut into very small pieces or shredded.
    • Hard candy and gum are not allowed at First Circle.

DAILY SHEETS FOR INFANTS and TODDLERS

Ask parents to note in Procare Engage any food preference or intolerance, any change in patterns or schedules at home, and any other information that can help us best support their child.

If you’re assigned to the infant classroom, record what was offered, what time you started and ended the feeding, and how much was consumed. Note any preference or intolerance, and any observations related to developmental changes in feeding and nutrition.

INFANTS

Mealtimes are an opportunity to completely focus on the infant and have quality one-on-one interaction. Hold children to drink their bottle, and when they are ready to hold their own bottle, support their learning to feed independently. Feed infants in a highchair. Sit with them either to help feed or support their self-feeding skills. You should make lots of eye contact, smile, speak softly, narrate what is happening, tell a story, or sing a song.

Breastfeeding
  • First Circle is committed to providing a breastfeeding-friendly environment for our enrolled children and staff. Nursing mothers are welcome to come and nurse their infants at any time.
  • Breast milk must be labeled “breast milk” so that it is stored and handled appropriately.
Supplies/storage
  • Parents must bring in pre-made formula and/or breast milk each day in plastic bottles (no glass) with all parts of the bottle labeled with the infant’s first name and initial of last name.
  • Because babies occasionally need more food than their parents have provided, parents should provide extra breast milk or formula to be stored in our freezer (frozen breast milk must be labeled with an expiration date and can be stored up to 3 months).
  • Refrigerate infants’ meals and bottles. We have storage available for dry, non-perishable food and formula.
Serving
  • Heat infant bottles in hot water, never in a microwave. (Heat the water in microwave instead of running hot water on the bottle.)
  • A bottle offered to an infant and partially consumed must be disposed of after 1 hour unless requested otherwise.
  • Infants are fed on an individualized feeding plan. Parents suggest timelines, but you are responsible for interpreting the child’s requirements and adjusting the schedule as needed.
  • Do not feed an infant directly from a baby food jar. Pour a portion of the jar into a bowl, refilling as necessary.
  • Infants who cannot hold a bottle must be held while being fed. Do NOT prop bottles.
  • Wash and sanitize any serving utensils and bowls after use.
  • Clean, sanitize and rinse highchair trays before and after each use.

TODDLERS and PRESCHOOLERS

Toddlers and preschoolers eat as a group and follow a group schedule. However, if a child is hungry and a snack or mealtime is not scheduled soon, offer them a choice from the foods they have brought to meet their individual needs.

Parents are asked to supply food based on their child’s schedule. All food for the day must fit into the child’s lunchbox or a separate insulated container. We do not have additional refrigerators in all classrooms.

  • At least one educator must sit with the children to eat and engage them in conversation. Mealtime is a social time and should be shared within the classroom—if you wish to save your lunch for your break, you may choose to eat healthy snack food to be a good model for the children.
  • Children must be allowed free access to beverages throughout the day.
  • If you choose to eat in the classroom, it must be at shared meal or snack times.
  • When serving snack to children, be aware of any special dietary needs.
  • If a parent sends in a choking hazard, you must return the item.
  • You must wear gloves when distributing snack (to preschoolers only). Use a measuring device for portion control.
  • Clean and sanitize the area used to prepare snacks and serve lunch prior to and after each use.
  • If a parent has not provided a lunch, you must call the parent and ask if they can bring a meal, or if you can serve whatever is available from the snack supply area.
  • Whenever possible, encourage preschoolers to serve themselves, improving skills such as independence and counting.

Rest time

Children attending school for 4 hours or more are required by EEC to sleep, rest, or engage in a quiet activity as appropriate to their needs. Please be respectful of the rest times of neighboring classrooms.

BEDDING

Parents must bring the following supplies labeled with their child’s name or initials:

  • Sleeping bag or standard crib sheet and blanket
  • Two pacifiers (if desired)
  • Small pillow (if desired)
  • Stuffed animal, doll or sleeping support (to be kept in cubby until nap time)
  • Parents must take home all bedding at the end of their scheduled week to be laundered.

Rest time routines

Infants and safe sleep policy

A baby is most at risk of SIDS between the ages of 2-4 months and during the first few weeks of a new childcare arrangement. Children younger than 6 months at the time of enrollment must be always under additional direct visual supervision, including while napping, during the first 6 weeks they are in our care.

  • All infants under 12 months of age must be placed to sleep on their back in a high-quality wooden, safety-rated crib free of pillows, comforters, stuffed animals, and other soft, padded materials.
  • Once placed on their backs to sleep, infants may be allowed to assume any comfortable sleep position when they can easily turn themselves over from the back position.
  • If an infant falls asleep in a bouncy seat, swing, or car seat, they must be moved to their crib and placed on their back.
  • Some families may have written permission from their health care provider authorizing the infant to sleep in a position other than on their back in a crib. In these cases, the Alternative Sleep Plan must be kept in the child’s file and in the classroom. All educators involved in the infant’s care must be notified and a notice posted by the crib.
  • Babies may have a sleep sack.
  • Infants over 12 months of age may use a blanket in the crib or on a mat.
  • Do not wake a sleeping infant unless it is for medical needs.
Toddlers and Preschoolers

Rest time occurs after lunch until about 2:30 p.m. Dim the lights, play restful music, and assist children as necessary to get to sleep. Children need less daytime sleep as they grow, so younger children may sleep for 2 or more hours during rest time, while older children may wake sooner or not nap at all.

  • Children should begin the rest period on their mats and be encouraged to rest there.
  • If a child that usually sleeps is not sleepy, rub their back, or provide other support so that they fall asleep.
  • You MUST respond to children who need support during rest time. It is unacceptable to continuously tell a child to “get on your mat” and offer no support for them.
  • If a child hasn’t fallen asleep after 45 minutes, they should not be required to keep trying.
  • Children who are awake after 45 minutes MUST be given alternate activities on their mats, at tables, or in another quiet area such as books, magnet boards, or puzzles.
  • Staff in classrooms with children who are awake should encourage a reasonable amount of quiet— avoid banging, jumping, or high energy activities, and use inside voices.
  • If a parent requests a limit to rest time, work with them to determine what is best for the child’s needs. Advise the parent that if they request the child does not sleep, you will not help the child get to sleep but will not keep them forcibly awake. One suggestion is to position the child’s mat in a high traffic area and allow them to have activities earlier than other children to help them stay awake.

PROHIBITED PRACTICES

  • Never put an infant to sleep in a car seat, swing, or bouncy seat, unless we have medical authorization for those alternate sleep positions.
  • For infants under 12 months, you must not have any toys, loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed animals in a crib.
  • Never speak harshly to children having a difficult time or ignore requests for activities—you are required to engage with children who need help.
  • Never restrain or force a child to lie down or stay on their mat or rest.

Toothbrushing

*Currently suspended until further notice

All children must brush their teeth for 2 minutes (with as much assistance as necessary, based on each child’s individual skills) when they are in care for more than 4 hours or after they consume a meal at First Circle.

Clothing

Parents are advised to send their child to school dressed in comfortable clothing and shoes for active play. We want children to be comfortable to play freely in their classroom and outside. Each classroom should provide parents with required seasonal clothing lists.

SEASONALLY CORRECT CLOTHING

  • For the winter, coat, snow pants, boots, gloves, hat
  • For the summer, bathing suit, water shoes, hat, and sunglasses if desired
  • Appropriate footwear: rubber-soled shoes or tennis shoes/sneakers are best; dress shoes are discouraged. For safety’s sake, all shoes must have backs or backstraps.

Playground

By EEC regulations a minimum of 60 minutes of age-appropriate gross motor activity (outside, inside, or a combination of both) must be incorporated into each full-time child’s day.

Toddler and preschool children must be taken outside every day, weather permitting. Staff may be advised to stay inside if it is raining or snowing heavily, if the heat index is above 90°F, or if the temperature (including wind chill) falls below 15°F.

During the summer months, and on exceptionally hot days, we limit outside time to before 10:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. Administration will notify you if an outdoor schedule is adjusted. We provide shaded areas on each playground.

Management

Teaching teams should work with the children in your class to establish cooperative play and safety “rules” for the playground. The rules you create and communicate to the children should include the following:

  • No crashing bikes into the gates, doors, or each other.
  • No kicking or throwing balls toward the building or fences.
  • No standing on the swings.
  • Which objects (man-made and natural) stay on the ground, and which can be thrown or tossed.

Bring water outside for children every day—remember to bring it in when you come in.

Maintenance

All educators are required to:

  • Periodically rake mulch into any low spots under swings or climbing equipment.
  • Bring back anything that you or the children brought outside.

Morning playground check

  • Pick up any trash.
  • When needed, empty barrel, replace bag, and replace lid tightly.
  • Sweep paved areas.
  • Dispose of broken toys (and advise an administrator when you do).
  • Make sure all paths are clear in case of evacuation.

Evening playground check

  • Place all trash in barrels; replace lid tightly.
  • When needed, move barrel inside to be emptied.
  • Place all small toys in storage bins.
  • Move all large toys under canopies or in bike shed.
  • Park bikes neatly in shed or against the wall on the playground.
  • Bring in any children’s belongings.
  • Coil hose after use.
  • Bring in blankets/mats and store strollers.

Sunscreen

We are vigilant about ensuring that children use sunscreen before going outside from May through September. We encourage parents to provide hats, sun-protective clothing, and sunglasses for use at school.

We require that families apply sunscreen to their child prior to arriving at First Circle. If a parent has forgotten to do that, provide them with center sunscreen to apply before they depart. If the parent wishes to apply aerosol spray sunscreen, ask them to do so outside.

With morning sunscreen already applied, educators do not need to apply it for morning playground time. As part of the enrollment and reregistration process and documentation, parents authorize their consent to use the school supplied Rocky Mountain Sunscreen, or must provide an Authorization for Topical Medication Form if they choose to provide their own brand of sunscreen.

Sunscreen must be applied to each child for afternoon playground time. To apply sunscreen:

  • Use gloves.
  • Apply at least 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Re-apply if more than 2 hours has passed and you are going outside again.
  • Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, especially arms, legs, shoulders, face, and ears.
  • Store sunscreen out of children’s reach.

insect repellants

Some parents may choose to provide insect repellent for us to apply daily between May and September. An authorization for topical application form must be completed for it to be applied. Please follow instructions for application and use on the product.

Departure

End of the day

  • Once inside the classroom, “quiet time” should be planned so children can wind down from the day, families can pick them up in a more relaxed environment, and educators can begin to clean up the classroom.
  • Suggested quiet time activities are circle time, reading, puzzles, pegs, or table activities. Give children choices that help them with the transition.

PARENT RESPONSIBILITIES

We ask families to arrive on time at the end of the day. We encourage parents to come early enough to allow time for visiting before their child’s scheduled departure time. When picking up, parents have been advised to:

  • Connect with the teacher in the classroom, letting you know they are picking up.
  • Check cubby for artwork or projects, notices, or correspondence from the center.
  • Take any refrigerated food (even unused), lunch boxes, bottles, etc.
  • Remain with their child, supervising their safety and following classroom rules, until they both leave the premises. They should not let their child leave the classroom or building without them.

EDUCATOR RESPONSIBILITIES

Every staff member should be familiar with each child’s pickup time, and each family’s pickup style. Parents need to inform you when they pick up their child. Remind them to supervise and stay with their children until they leave the premises.

  • COMPLETELY fill out daily info electronically for each child and prepare any paperwork for parents.
  • Morning staff must brief afternoon staff, so they can inform parents at the end of the day.
  • Check children’s belongings prior to pickup to avoid any missing bottles, cups, socks, blankets, clothing, etc.
  • Make sure any mark or scratch on a child has an Injury Report documenting it, whether the injury was witnessed or not. Morning staff must inform afternoon staff about an injury so they can communicate it to the family.
  • Greet the parent or authorized pickup, and give a summary of the child’s day, including the child’s mood, eating, toileting, and nap. Tell at least one positive story about the child’s day.
  • Remind families to take artwork, paperwork, and all unconsumed bottles, cups, and food.
  • Make sure parents take home all sleeping supplies for washing on the last scheduled day of the week.
  • Mark the child’s departure time on the classroom attendance sheet and adjust the head count. Make sure each educator in the classroom knows the number of children in their care at all times.

EXTENDED DAY

In some sites, we have an extended day option after 5:00 p.m. for an additional fee. Children who stay after 5 p.m. should be grouped together regardless of age. Bring all the children’s belongings into the designated extended day classroom at 5 p.m. Parents are responsible for picking the children up from the classroom and letting the teacher know they are leaving.

AUTHORIZED PICKUP

We cannot overstate the importance of making sure that a child is picked up by an authorized person. All employees must know this policy and follow it without exception.

  • If a person other than a parent or guardian is picking up, they must be listed as an Authorized Pickup on the child’s Information Sheet or have a written (note, email, fax) note of authorization from the parent. Under no circumstances can we release a child to a person who does not have written authorization, even if the child and a staff member are familiar with the person. This includes First Circle staff or parents of other First Circle children. When in doubt, consult with Administration.
  • Before releasing a child to someone unfamiliar to you (including parents), educators must obtain a picture ID to make sure it matches the Information Sheet or note. If another staff person can identify the person, the photo ID match is not required.
  • Educators should not allow themselves to be intimidated, hurried, or bullied by anyone attempting to pick up a child, regardless of their relationship to the child. If you are not 100% certain that the person is authorized to pick up, you may not release the child to this person and must seek immediate assistance from an Administrator.
  • Staff at First Circle have their own responsibilities in the classroom. Therefore, only staff who are not scheduled to work until closing can be an alternate pickup.
  • All rules for pickup and dropoff also apply to staff members’ own children at First Circle, or staff members picking up or dropping off other children.

LATE PICKUP

If children are still in attendance after closing, a teacher will be asked to stay with a member of Administration until the last parent picks up. The teacher must complete a Late Pickup form for the family when they arrive to pick up their child. The form outlines the time and fee that will be charged. Families are not charged for the first time they are late, although you should still submit a form. Families who arrive after closing are charged a late fee of $10 for any part of the first 10 minutes after closing, and $5 per minute after that. The fee is determined by the time they leave First Circle. The late fee is paid directly to the teacher and can either be paid directly at the time of pickup or included with their next tuition payment. Teachers are paid their regular hourly rate (minus taxes) for their time with the next paycheck.

When families arrive late to pick up children who are scheduled to depart at 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., the same procedure applies; however, late fees are not paid to the staff member. They are given to the classroom budget if the fee exceeds $20.00.

CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS

Parenting arrangements can change over time. If the legal custody status of a child enrolled at First Circle is changed by court order, parents must give us a copy of legal documents immediately. We cannot withhold release of a child to their parent without legal documentation.

Once official custodial papers are obtained, we will work with parents to develop a plan to comply with the legal requirements. All administrators, front office staff, and the child’s teachers will be informed of the custody change. If a parent legally loses custody of a child, steps will immediately be taken to revoke the non-authorized parent’s access to the center.

SAFE TRANSPORT

Children need to be transported safely. Use of drugs or alcohol or the lack of use of an appropriate car seat can create an unsafe transportation situation. If you are concerned that a child cannot be safely transported, you must immediately let Admin know. We will not release the child to the individual and will contact an alternate pickup person instead.

Closing

Closing the classroom

The afternoon staff is responsible for closing tasks. The closing teacher is responsible for making sure these tasks are completed:

  • Sanitize and put away classroom toys in appropriate bins and shelves.
  • Clear all clutter from the tops of cubbies and blue cabinets, entrance counters, etc.
  • Put bag of mouthed toys into the dishwasher, if applicable.
  • Fill sanitizer bottles for next day.
  • Make a note for morning staff about anything that happened on your shift.
  • Lock all doors AND WINDOWS.
  • Turn off radios, fans, CD players, and noise machines.
  • Remove changing table pads, sweep out sand, spray with sanitizer, wipe clean, re-apply sanitizer, and let air dry.
  • Follow cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting poster.
  • Move any classroom laundry washed throughout the day to dryer.
  • Bring any paperwork to office.

Cleaning, sanitizing + disinfecting

Housekeeping

General Guidelines

  • Restock any supplies that are running low from the shed or supply areas (refer to stocking schedule posted in the bathroom).
  • Let an administrator know if supplies are running low.
  • Put items away when you have finished using them.
  • DO NOT leave dirty dishes or paintbrushes in the sink “to soak.” Wash them immediately and put them away.
  • In Lexington, do not leave toys or other items in or around the water table.
  • Do not store things anywhere but in your classroom without prior approval from Admin.

General Tasks

All educators are responsible to:

  • Restock all paper supplies—spoons, forks, gloves, plates, tissues, paper towels, diapers/wipes, diaper paper, diaper bags.
  • Put away supplies from morning activities and clean off tops of cubbies.
  • Bring all laundry (bibs, cleaning cloths, etc.) to the laundry room—load and start the washer.
  • Use early morning/late afternoon (when numbers are low) to perform general housekeeping tasks; use rest time to perform larger cleaning and housekeeping duties.
  • Keep clutter from accumulating on top of the cubbies, cabinets, counters, etc.

cleaning guidelines

Cleaning is essential to classroom management. It maintains safety, provides children with an organized and healthy environment, and preserves the longevity of furniture and equipment. All tabletops, diaper areas, toys, and school materials used by children must be cleaned and sanitized with a sanitizer, laundered in a washing machine, or washed in a dishwasher. The frequency of usage and whether the object is mouthed determine the frequency of cleaning. The chart posted in each classroom lists cleaning frequencies which must be followed with no exceptions.

Daily tasks

  • Clean microwave and wipe down the lunch counter after lunch.
  • Use carpet sweeper/dustpan to clean food off the floor.
  • Sweep debris out of diaper tables throughout the day.

Weekly Tasks

All educators are responsible for coordinating with their classroom team to accomplish the following tasks weekly, or as needed:

  • Launder all dress-up clothes and soft toys on your scheduled day.
  • Wash all toys in dishwasher or Zono on your scheduled day.
  • Sanitize cribs and mattresses—this should also occur between use by different children.
  • Bring in barrels from the playground for cleaners to empty trash.
  • Clean and sanitize vinyl furniture, push and riding toys.
  • Empty classroom refrigerator, if applicable, and clean shelves and drawers.
  • In infant classroom, launder (if available) swing and exersaucer seats, bouncy seats, and boppy covers.
  • Wipe down windowsills and cubbies (inside, outside, and top).

cleaners

First Circle employs a professional cleaning company to clean the building nightly including ONLY:

  • cleaning and sanitizing bathrooms and kitchen area
  • emptying diaper pails and trash receptacles
  • vacuuming carpets and mopping floors

The carpets are cleaned and disinfected on a quarterly basis. To minimize airborne bacteria and improve air quality, the duct system and air vents are cleaned and deodorized periodically.

infection

Types of infections

There are four types of infectious diseases:

Virus (colds, chicken pox, flu, Covid)
  • frequently get better on their own
  • limited treatment, other than rest and control of symptoms
  • few medications treat viruses
Bacteria (strep throat, TB, e-coli)
  • often need treatment with antibiotics
Fungus (ringworm, thrush, diaper rash)
  • often on surfaces of body and can be treated with creams or oral medications
Parasite (head lice, Giardia, malaria)
  • typically causes diarrhea
  • often needs treatment with antiparasitic medications

HOW INFECTIONS SPREAD

Airborne

Viruses can spread in the air as small droplets or tiny aerosol particles. Germs can spread to the hands by sneezing, coughing, or rubbing the eyes and then can be transferred to others. Simply washing your hands can help prevent such illnesses as the common cold or eye infections.

Fecal-oral

Germs such as norovirus and rotavirus can cause gastroenteritis, leading to diarrhea and/or vomiting. Usually, germs are transmitted from unclean hands to food or hands by someone who didn’t wash their hands after using the toilet. This is easily prevented by always washing your hands after using the toilet and before preparing food items.

Contact

Some infections spread directly when skin or mucous membrane (many parts of the body such as the nose, mouth, throat, and genitals) comes in contact with the skin or mucous membrane of another person. Infections spread indirectly when skin or mucous membrane comes in contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.

HOW WE COMBAT INFECTION

Each staff member is trained in infection control procedures upon hire and every year thereafter.

Gloves

To reduce the spread of germs and the risk of exposure to disease, use single-use vinyl gloves for:

  • toileting or diapering
  • handling bodily fluids (e.g., blood, runny nose)
  • applying topical medications (e.g., ophthalmic ointment for conjunctivitis)
  • applying sunscreen
Sanitizer/Disinfectant

We do not use bleach and water because it irritates skin, is corrosive, and stains furniture and clothing. Most importantly, bleach can exacerbate symptoms in those with asthma and breathing issues.

We use a hospital-grade disinfectant cleaner called Oxivir Five 16. Oxivir is an EPA-approved cleaner and disinfectant that kills a variety of bacteria and viruses and is environmentally friendly. Oxivir is effective against the AIDS virus, hepatitis B and C, staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), salmonella, avian flu, COVID-19, and norovirus.

Oxivir Five 16 comes in a concentrate that we dilute (10 oz. to 5 gallons of water).

Dishwasher/Washing Machine

Some locations have a dishwasher and washing machine to launder and sanitize toys, bibs, and cleaning cloths.

Disposable materials

Any items that come in contact with blood, vomit, or other bodily fluids must be cleaned thoroughly with disposable materials and a sanitizing solution. For vomit, scoop it up (either with paper towels or paper plates) and then sanitize and dry the area (any materials used in cleaning up vomit must be bagged before disposal). All contaminated materials and/or clothing must be double-bagged and sent home, all clean-up materials placed in a plastic bag and disposed of in a covered trash can.

Building Air Purification System

Most of our schools have an air purification system installed directly into the HVAC system. The Reme Halo system kills microbes in the air and on surfaces. Dual ionizers reduce airborne particulates (dust, dander, pollen, mold spores), which help alleviate allergies, and are proven to kill up to 99% of bacteria, mold, and viruses.

Zono Sanitizing Cabinet

Most programs have a ZONO Ozone Cabinet. The Zono kills 99.99% of common viruses on surfaces and can sanitize items used for play and education like books, puzzles, game pieces, exersaucers, mobiles, sleeping mats, and even crayons. It requires no wiping or rinsing of items and leaves no residue.

difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting

When it comes to germs, the most effective steps to take are cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. What’s the difference? Based on Department of Public Health (DPH) guidelines, we define them as follows:

Cleaning

Cleaning is the process of removing soil from surfaces with a cloth or wipe and detergent, soap, or sanitizer. Cleaning does not kill or thoroughly remove bacteria or viruses from surfaces, but it is still essential. You should always clean before sanitizing and disinfecting because it improves the effectiveness of each process.

To clean hard surfaces, spray with Oxivir Five 16 and wipe/scrub using cloth towels whenever possible. (Note: if a surface is particularly dirty, you can also use soapy water as a first cleaning step without harmful interactions using Oxivir.)

Sanitizing

Sanitizing (after cleaning) is the proper treatment for most equipment and surfaces in Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs. Sanitizing reduces germs to levels considered safe by public health codes and regulations. We sanitize using Oxivir Five 16 or using the Zono cabinet.

Sanitize+

For fabric and mouthed toys, sanitize in the washing machine, dishwasher, or Zono.

Rinsing

After sanitizing with Oxivir, any surfaces that come into contact with food or a child’s mouth must be wiped, sprayed with water, and wiped again to rinse off any residue.

Disinfecting

Disinfecting (after cleaning) is the proper treatment for surfaces or equipment where safe contact requires a more powerful response to germs (such as surfaces involved with toileting and diapering).

To disinfect, clean first and then spray hard nonfood contact surfaces with Oxivir Five 16 and allow to air dry (should remain wet for 5 minutes).

cleaning supplies

Oxivir is our go-to cleaner. For bigger messes, in schools with a washing machine, use the mop and fill it with water (not sanitizer) to avoid any corrosion. In schools without a washing machine, we use a Swiffer.

schedule of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting

The frequency of usage and whether the object is mouthed determines the cleaning frequency. The chart posted in each classroom lists cleaning frequencies which must be followed with no exceptions. Oxivir is our cleaner, sanitizer, and disinfectant, depending on the amount of time left on the surface.

  • Remove mouthed item when the child is done and place it in the mesh wash bag in the classroom. When bag is full, place in dishwasher or Zono. When done, hang bag to allow toys to air dry/cool. Remember to come back for your bag!
  • Always clean tables before and after a meal with Oxivir. Then reapply, let sit for one minute, spray the table with water, and wipe. Spray chairs (including sides and bottom) with Oxivir, clean, reapply Oxivir, and let dry for one minute after each meal.
  • In infant classrooms, spray the bouncy seats, exersaucers, and other equipment with Oxivir, clean, re-apply Oxivir, and let air dry after each use. Spray exersaucer toys or any other equipment/toys that come in contact with a child’s mouth with water after one minute and wipe down.
  • Wash hands after using Oxivir sanitizer.
  • Spray toys on shelves and let air dry.

Toileting + diapering

diapering

overview

Regular and frequent diaper changing is part of the everyday routine at First Circle. We strictly follow the requirements and guidelines for safety and sanitation from the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Department of Public Health (DPH). The step-by-step procedure posted over every changing table must be followed without exception [see Appendix].

Specifically:

  • Diapers must be changed or checked every 2 hours, or immediately after a child has had a bowel movement.
  • Educators record on a daily sheet (paper or electronic) the time of each diapering, whether the child was wet or had a bowel movement, and any additional information.
  • Each changing table is disinfected after each use.
  • Children and teachers must wash hands after each change.

Diapering is an important opportunity for one-on-one interaction and for modeling language, learning about self-care and personal hygiene, and building trust between caregiver and child. We encourage children to participate by lifting their legs and bottom, holding their feet, holding the diaper in place, and then progressing to pulling pants up or down, and washing/drying their hands.

Families provide diapering supplies, including diapers, wipes, creams, and ointments as desired. Due to aspiration and irritation risks, we do not allow talcum powder or cornstarch. If a child experiences diaper rash, we suggest to parents an over-the-counter diaper cream or petroleum jelly. Please note, as required by EEC [see Health & Safety section]:

  • Non-prescription topical ointments and sprays such as diaper creams, petroleum jelly, etc., can only be administered to a child with a signed Topical Medication Authorization form. Forms are valid for one year.
  • To apply topical ointments to wounds or broken skin, First Circle must have an Authorization for Medication form signed by the child’s healthcare provider.

toilet learning

overview

We use the term “toilet learning” instead of “toilet training” because learning implies children play an active role. Children need attuned, communicative parents and educators to support and facilitate the toilet learning process, which is individual to each child. Our commitment is to partner with family to make it as easy and smooth a transition as possible for all.

Your job as an educator is to:

  • wait until the child has shown most of the readiness signals
  • proceed slowly and take cues from the child
  • teach children words for body parts, and the process
  • create an environment to ensure success (such as a potty seat or small potty, etc.)
  • expect and handle “accidents” without emotion
  • avoid punishment and excessive praise around toilet use (it can make children feel bad when they aren’t successful)
  • assist parents in helping children master the process

Children should never be forced to use the toilet before they are ready, nor disciplined for accidents or for refusing to use the bathroom. The purpose of toilet learning is to help children gain control of their bodily functions. If a child is ready, the process can provide a sense of success and achievement. If a child is not ready, toilet learning becomes an unnecessary struggle for control between adults and children.

AVERAGE AGE

The physical maturity and readiness skills needed for toilet learning appear in girls and boys between the ages of 18 and 30 months. The average age to complete training is 29 months for girls, 31 months for boys, but these are just averages. Ninety-eight percent of children have completed toilet learning by 36 months. The time is right when a child naturally begins displaying signs of toilet readiness, and their family is physically ready for the learning to begin.

PREPARING TODDLERS

You should begin the experience with children at the diaper table. Encourage skills like pulling up and down their pants. Engage children in conversations about the bathroom. Take toddlers to the toilet and encourage them to sit on it at every diaper change. Create a supportive and pressure-free environment that encourages a child’s natural curiosity about the toileting process.

READINESS INDICATORS

Effective toilet learning doesn’t begin until the child shows signs they are physically, cognitively, and emotionally ready. There is no “right” age or stage to start. Cultural differences in handling toilet learning make it important to communicate with families so they can best support the child in this process.

There are 3 types of readiness signs:

Physical

Bladder and bowel capacity and muscle control are crucial to mastering toilet learning and develop at different times in children. There can be many months between the age children begin to recognize they are wet and when they can hold their urine for an extended period of time. The child will need to have:

  • ability to stay dry for at least 2 hours
  • ability to walk, pull pants up and down independently, and get onto/off of the toilet (with help)
  • awareness of the need to go – (squatting, grunting, going red in the face, hiding and/or pointing to wet or soiled clothes and asking to be changed)
  • some regularity of bowel movements
Cognitive/language skills

The toilet learning process combines physical and cognitive tasks. The child must learn and become familiar with their body and functions, associate the physical sensation with the proper response, picture what they want to do, create a plan to get to the potty, get there, pull down clothing, then use the potty. They need to remain there long enough to finish, which requires memory and concentration. They must also understand and respond to instructions. Cognitive/language skills necessary for toilet learning are the ability to:

  • have a vocabulary for toilet learning (pee, poop, BM, potty, wet/dry, pants)
  • follow instructions
  • play symbolically
  • plan, problem-solve, and remember
  • imitate and model behavior
Emotional

Emotional readiness usually comes last and is both the most fragile, and the most powerful. The child should not be afraid of the toilet, and use “pretend” bathroom behavior.

The most important sign of readiness is a desire to use the toilet. Not every sign needs to be present for you to suggest to parents to start toilet learning. If you/parents notice a few signs, a child may be ready to try, but if you’re not sure whether the child is ready, it’s probably better to wait a little longer. Problems in toilet learning usually arise because adults ignore the child’s lack of interest and/or readiness.  A child is emotionally ready for toilet learning when they:

  • master their body and environment – “I can do it”
  • attain adult approval
  • imitate and be like others
  • understand what the potty/toilet is for

PARTNERING WITH PARENTS

Once a child has shown most of the readiness signs, ask parents to start the process.

Steps parents can take

As each child’s individual signs of readiness and curiosity about the bathroom emerge, tell parents they should encourage toilet learning by:

  • walking into the bathroom together and then alone to see the toilet
  • helping them change a wet diaper while standing in the bathroom
  • having the child try to take off a wet diaper inside the bathroom
  • having the child practice pulling his/her pants down and up before and after diaper changes until it is routine
  • encouraging the child to try the toilet
  • giving the child a wipe to practice with

Parents should always be nearby supervising.

At home

Preparing the environment at home for success is critical. See the Parent Handbook “At Home” section for specific information about what parents can do to set the environment at home.

Once a child has consistently practiced sitting on the potty, flushing the toilet, pulling pants up and down, and is asking or showing interest in taking the next step, it’s time to begin. This should be a consistent and calm time in the household. When children are going through a significant change, it is advisable to wait. Common situations that cause stress and are not a good time to start the final phase of toilet learning include:

  • an upcoming or recent family move
  • beginning new childcare arrangements (or a new classroom)
  • switching from a crib to a bed
  • when parent is about to have or has recently had a new baby
  • if there is a major illness, a recent death, or some other family crisis
  • during the holidays
AT SCHOOL

During the early stages of toilet learning, children are usually more successful at home than at school because they can be so busy playing at school they don’t recognize the need to use the toilet until it’s too late. You should encourage them to practice their toilet learning by:

  • visiting the toilet after naps and about 45 minutes after meals or snacks
  • asking them frequently if they would like to go to the toilet
  • reminding them to “check themselves” for feelings, signals, or sensations that they need to use the toilet (pay close attention to children’s body language, and when you see “cues,” use a phrase like, “When you’re wiggling like that it shows me that you may need to use the bathroom.”)
  • taking off a wet diaper inside the bathroom and trying the toilet regularly with occasional success
  • removing a dry diaper inside the bathroom and using the toilet with frequent success
  • instructing the child on how to wipe properly, and assisting them as needed

DRESSING FOR SUCCESS

underwear

Underwear is the final phase of toilet mastery. Children should wear cloth underwear all day at home for several days (a long weekend is best) before wearing them to school. Wearing diapers and pull-ups is a familiar sensation so many children prefer their convenience to the hard work of transitioning to underwear. Advise parents to pick a weekend or certain day to say good-bye to diapers during the day and transition to underwear.

pullups

Children can successfully transition from diapers to underwear without the use of pull-ups. It’s important for children to recognize that their diaper is wet to develop a connection between the physical sensation of going to the bathroom and the result in their pants. When compared to a diaper, pull-ups reduce the amount of wetness a child feels against their skin. While pull-ups are marketed as “practice underwear,” they can be confusing for children as they figure out how to use the toilet. We therefore advise parents to skip pull-ups and go straight to underwear.

convenience

Children should be dressed for success at school and able to independently put on/take off all their clothing throughout the day. Advise parents to avoid “tricky clothing” like onesies, button pants, overalls, and belts. Pants with snaps or elastic waistbands work best, as they allow for the most ease and independence in dressing and undressing. Make sure the parent has provided plenty of extra underwear and clothing when the child is toilet learning. Although we have extra clothing available, children prefer to put on their own dry clothes.

Consistency

Consistency in routine is crucial to the toilet learning process. Work in partnership with all the child’s caregivers (home, school, grandparents, babysitters, etc.) to be sure the child’s toilet learning process is CONSISTENT AND CONVENIENT.

At school, educators should take the children to the bathroom at regular and consistent intervals throughout the day and provide verbal reminders (“Two more minutes and we’ll save your toys here while we try the bathroom!”). It may also be helpful to use an incentive chart but be sure to make it something that is readily available, and consistently used [See Incentives & Motivators, below].

Work with the family to develop a predictable daily routine to be carried out consistently at home and at school and include:

  • the times the child uses the bathroom
  • the words that are used at home and in school
  • how the child is responded to through words and/or actions
  • the physical steps of the bathroom process
  • how using the toilet will occur in a variety of environments

Accidents

If a child does not make it to the bathroom before their underwear or clothing becomes wet or soiled, respond as follows:

  • Remind them with matter-of-fact language that what has happened is perfectly acceptable, and it happens all the time when kids are toilet learning.
  • Listen to and respond to their words, feelings, or body language to support self-esteem. No child should feel ashamed about wetting or soiling themselves.
  • Help them collect a change of clothing.
  • Help the child clean up and redress. When possible, let the child redress themselves.
  • Follow the child’s lead about whether they would like to wear diapers or underpants. Show the child we believe they can wear underpants again.

Although occasional accidents are normal, if a few more weeks go by and the child still isn’t making it to the toilet—or has no interest in trying — they may not be ready. It’s better to take a step backwards until they show interest.

Incentives and Motivators

Incentives and praise can motivate many children. Building a “Potty Chart” system into the toilet learning process can get a child excited about going to the bathroom and on track for consistent success.

Potty Charts individualized to each child’s motivators are most successful. Earning a sticker (the shinier, the better!) for each successful encounter with the bathroom can happen at several stages:

  • each time the child sits on or stands at the toilet
  • each time the child urinates into the toilet
  • each time the child makes a bowel movement into the toilet

Never take away rewards a child has earned. Phrases like “That’s OK, we’ll try again next time,” can be helpful in situations when a child has had an accident or an attempt on the toilet was unsuccessful.

Setbacks

It’s common for a child that has mastered the toilet learning process to have an accident unexpectedly, and a normal part of the learning process. Sometimes, children are interested in using the toilet one day, but not the next. Here are some common reasons for setbacks:

  • The child is afraid of change and wants to be a baby again. Respect the child’s timing and let them take time off from the hard work of learning to use the toilet.
  • Sometimes, a child fears the toilet. Watch for signs of fear and try putting the feelings into words for the child: “You seem afraid of using the toilet.” or “That toilet sounds very loud, doesn’t it?”
  • Some children have trouble with constipation. Increasing fiber in the child’s diet can help.
  • Toileting can become a power struggle between parent and child. Sometimes a parent insists that the child go, but this is a losing battle that can lead the child to refuse to use the toilet.
  • A child is under stress. Stressful events like moving, a new sibling, and starting a new childcare program can trigger accidents and setbacks.
Nighttime + naptime

The bodily mechanisms that enable a child to hold urine during the day are not the same as those used while sleeping. There may be a delay, sometimes a significant one, between when a child has mastered holding their urine during the day, and when their body is able to hold urine during sleep. Until a child can hold their urine consistently while sleeping, the use of a pull-up for rest time is suggested.

Lack of interest

If a child is over 3 and shows little interest in the toilet, teachers can encourage interest by working on self-help skills (like dressing and undressing), changing the child in the bathroom, and talking excitedly about how to use the toilet. Modeling bathroom behavior and using phrases like “Someday it’ll be your turn,” and “Maybe next time you can try the potty if you want,” can increase interest. It can also be helpful to offer a child a book to read or song to sing while he or she is sitting on the toilet.

TOILETING PROCEDURES

See Appendix for our toileting procedures.

Health, safety + security

We developed our health care policy with guidelines from the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to ensure each child in our care is kept as healthy and safe as possible. A complete copy of our Health Care Policy is available in the office.

prevention and wellness

Prevention

Health and safety are our top priority at First Circle. We focus on preventing illness and accidents before they occur.

Training

We have written policies for reducing the risk of infectious disease and provide annual training to all staff in CPR, Five Rights of Medication Administration, and emergency management.

Nut-Free

We keep First Circle nut-free and latex-free (gloves and band-aids).

Healthcare Consultant

We are required by EEC to have a Healthcare Consultant who is available to the program for consultation as needed. Our pediatric Healthcare Consultant approved this policy and approves our annual First Aid training and training in medication administration for staff.

Healthy habits

We encourage habits that promote good health and prevention of disease and practice them ourselves.

Classroom design

Our classrooms are designed to have separate food preparation, toileting, and diaper changing activities, as well as prevent accidents.

Pets in the classroom

From time to time, First Circle has kept small pets in our classrooms, including gerbils and fish. We have the following policy about pets, per EEC regulations:

  • Pets must be appropriate for the children in care. Before introducing a pet to the program, we must consider the effect on the children’s health and safety, including possible allergies, and notify parents in advance, or prior to the child’s enrollment.
  • Educators must closely supervise all interactions between children and animals and instruct children on safe behavior when close to animals.
  • When pets are kept in the program:
    • ensure that animals, regardless of ownership, are free from disease and parasites and are licensed and/or vaccinated as prescribed by law
    • do not allow children to clean the animal’s cage
    • keep litter boxes inaccessible to children
    • ensure that pets are kept in a safe and sanitary manner
    • do not allow children to have physical contact with reptiles. Reptiles in the program must be kept in accordance with Department of Public Health Guidelines.
Safe environment

First Circle promotes a safe learning and working environment for all children, staff, faculty, and visitors. We do not allow smoking on or around the premises. We strictly prohibit any weapons in our building at any time, including firearms, ammunition, and any other object that could reasonably be perceived as a weapon.

Idling

Massachusetts state law prohibits idling of automobiles, so we tell parents to not leave their car idling. Also, we insist they not leave any children unattended in their vehicle, no matter how briefly!

Healthy routines

Coughing/sneezing

We teach children to sneeze and cough into their elbows to prevent the spread of germs.

Sunscreen

We support sun safety measures at First Circle to minimize a child’s chance of getting skin cancer from excessive sun exposure. [see DAILY PROGRAM MANAGEMENT for detailed information].

Toothbrushing

We assist children in brushing their teeth when they are in care for more than 4 hours or consume a meal at school. [First Circle does not offer toothbrushing at this time.]

Handwashing

We follow strict hand-washing guidelines in all classrooms to reduce the spread of germs. [see DAILY PROGRAM MANAGEMENT].

Safe Sleep Policy

First Circle follows the Safe Sleep procedures implemented by EEC [see DAILY PROGRAM MANAGEMENT].

Children’s Health records

Annual Physical/Immunizations

First Circle Administration ensures that each child enrolled in our program has up-to-date immunizations and an annual physical exam on file.

For parents who have religious or medical objections to their child being immunized, we must have a signed statement (from the doctor for a medical reason or from the parent for religious reasons prior to the child’s first day of enrollment).

Special health conditions

At enrollment, and yearly thereafter at re-registration, we ask parents whether their child has a condition that may impact his or her life in school. Such conditions include:

  • chronic medical conditions requiring special attention
  • developmental, behavioral, or mental health conditions or concerns
  • allergies; medications the child takes on a regular basis; special diet
  • hearing, visual, or dental conditions
  • limitations to physical activity
  • any other emergency response needs

If a child has any of these special requirements, we (together with the parents and/or health care provider) will complete a Special Care Plan (a.k.a. Individual Health Care Plan), a confidential school health record maintained in both the classroom and the child’s file. It contains information, guidelines, and standards that promote a student’s health and educational goals. The Plan describes the nature of the condition, symptoms, any medical treatment that may be necessary while the child is at First Circle, the potential side effects of that treatment, and the potential consequences to the child’s health if the treatment is not administered.

Emergency response plan

For any child with a condition requiring emergency management, an Emergency Response Plan will be completed and on file, in conjunction with a Special Care Plan. The Emergency Response Plan details the health condition, any prescribed medications, triggering events, symptoms/signs to watch for, and action. All educators in a classroom with a child with an Emergency Response Plan will receive training to handle an emergency effectively.

Bloodborne pathogens

Childcare providers may be exposed to bloodborne pathogens when diapering, toileting, feeding, or cleaning up the vomit of children in their care, breaking up fights between children, or if bitten by a child. To protect yourself from bloodborne illnesses, you must follow the steps outlined in DAILY PROGRAM MANAGEMENT.

safety

Supervision

Our highest priority as educators of young children is to keep them safe. This requires effective and consistent supervision. The 6 basic principles of supervision:

1. Prepare
  • Make sure the height and arrangement of furniture and equipment allow effective monitoring and supervision.
  • Scan for potential safety hazards.
  • Ensure equipment is organized for play.
  • Teach children appropriate and safe use of each piece of equipment. (For example, using a slide correctly – feet first only – and teaching why climbing up a slide can cause injury.)
  • Have clear and simple rules for children. (Example: walking feet inside.)
  • Know and follow the daily schedule.
  • Know and maintain staff/child ratio.
2. Position
  • Place yourself so you can see and hear all the children.
  • Make sure there are always clear paths to where children are playing, sleeping, and eating so you can react quickly.
  • Stay close to children who may need additional support.
3. Communicate
  • Listen closely to children to identify signs of potential danger. Specific sounds or the absence of them may signify reason for concern.
  • Pay attention to the sounds of the environment.
  • Maintain communication both inside and outside the facility.
  • Inform a new teacher/assistant entering the classroom of the headcount and any medical restrictions or safety concerns.
4. Scan and count

Maintaining accurate head counts of the children in our care is critical to preparedness. Conducting frequent head counts allows us to identify a missing child and take immediate action. No child should ever be outside the classroom without adult supervision.

  • Know the number and names of children present. Identify children by name to face before and after transitioning from one area or activity to another.
  • Continuously scan the entire environment so you know where each child is and what they are doing.
  • Keep the WEEKLY SIGN IN AND OUT and EMERGENCY CONTACT SHEETS on the same clipboard.
  • Notify any new staff member covering in the classroom (including breaks) of the current count.
  • Enter the time on the sign in and out sheet IMMEDIATELY when a child arrives/departs.
  • Do a headcount before leaving the room with the entire class, and again upon reentering the classroom.
  • If one staff member is taking a small group of children out of the classroom, ensure the remaining educator knows how many and which children are with whom (“I have x number, you have x number”). If necessary, write down the names and cross them off when they return.
5. Anticipate
  • Know each child’s abilities and anticipate children’s behavior.
  • Know who is in charge.
  • Review supervision procedures with facility staff and parents.
  • Be sure you know First Circle’s emergency preparedness plan.
6. Engage and redirect
  • Provide individualized, responsive caregiving and intervene when children are unable to problem-solve on their own.
  • Focus on the positive to teach what is safe for the child and other children.
  • Assist or redirect according to each individual child’s needs.

Classroom safety

We expect you to use common sense and good judgment when performing your duties. Follow these basic safety rules:

Prohibited objects
  • We do not allow latex balloons, glass/ceramic objects, or pushpins in the classrooms.
  • Toys in the classroom must be developmentally appropriate and not a choking hazard.
Keep out of reach at all times
  • educators’ belongings, including backpacks, and pocketbooks
  • scissors, pens, and pencils
  • sanitizer bottles and cleaning materials
  • sunscreen, ointments, and medications
  • hot items (above 110° F), including coffee (Hot liquids must be kept in a travel thermos on the microwave or on top of the cubbies. Do not walk around the classroom with hot liquids.)
  • electrical cords
Safety practices
  • Conduct daily safety checks and remove hazardous or dangerous objects.
  • Wipe up liquid, sand, or other spills from floors immediately.
  • Keep a First Aid kit and a CPR mask in the classroom.
  • Lift heavy objects or children properly by bending your knees.
  • Use a stepstool, not a chair when reaching for overhead items.
  • Wear gloves on both hands when diapering or helping children with toileting or first aid.
  • Know and follow evacuation procedures (a copy of our evacuation routes is posted in each classroom) and assist the children in a safe and comforting manner.
  • Take care handling equipment, cribs, or other cumbersome items.
  • Be wary of strangers in the building and feel comfortable asking strangers their business.
Safety rules for children
  • Children may not climb stairs with toys, stuffed animals, etc. in their hands.
  • Children must sit when eating or drinking.

Playground safety

Teaching teams should work with the children in your class to establish cooperative play and safety “rules” for the playground. The rules you create and communicate to the children should include the following:

Prohibited objects
  • Blankets, pacifiers, stuffed animals, and inside toys are not allowed outside.
  • Children may not wear jewelry or clothing with strings or laces that could become entangled or wedged in playground equipment and present a strangulation hazard. If worn, you must tie or remove them, or have the child change their clothes.
Supplies
  • Have emergency phone information and the attendance list with you on the playground.
  • Bring water outside for children every day—remember to bring it in when you come in.
  • Bring basic first aid items outside, including gauze pads, band aids, and tissues for runny noses.
  • Bring outside the child’s EpiPen for any child requiring an EpiPen for insect bites.
Safety practices
  • Be sure children’s clothes are weather appropriate; if not, borrow from the extra clothing located above the kids’ sinks.
  • Confirm safety mats remain in each fall zone.
  • Supervise and “spot” children when they are on climbing structures.
  • Stay close when the children are on the swings; they can easily fall off.
  • Circulate and monitor all areas of the playground.
  • Notify another staff member if you are taking a bathroom break, bringing in a child for first aid or to the bathroom.
  • Follow established cleaning guidelines for the playground.
Safety rules for children
  • No crashing bikes into the gates, doors, or each other.
  • No kicking or throwing balls toward the building or fences.
  • No standing on the swings.
  • No climbing with anything in children’s hands.
  • No playing near the doors or gates on the playground.
  • Identify which objects (man-made and natural) stay on the ground, and which can be thrown or tossed

Field trip safety

Prior to departure for each field trip, the Director confirms appropriate preparedness is in place. See APPENDIX for full details.

Supplies
  • Take a first aid kit in all vehicles on all field trips, and emergency supplies such as water, snacks, tissues, sunscreen, medicines, emergency consent forms, etc.
  • Be sure you have any emergency EpiPens or Benadryl for children with allergies.
  • Bring current emergency contacts for all children in attendance including contacts and telephone numbers.
  • Have a working cell phone available.
Safety practices
  • On each field trip, we have a Transportation Coordinator in charge in case of emergency. The Transportation Coordinator will designate a co-teacher to assist.
  • We maintain EEC staff-to-child ratios.
  • Each child must wear a distinctive t-shirt to immediately identify them as a child with a First Circle field trip.
  • Each child must wear a wristband with First Circle’s address and phone number.
Emergency
  • If an accident or acute illness occurs while on a field trip, the Transportation Coordinator will take charge of the emergency, assess the situation, and administer first aid as needed, as well as determine the method and urgency of transportation for the child to receive medical treatment, based on the severity of the emergency or illness. If necessary, call 911. The Transportation Coordinator will also make the necessary communications (911, First Circle, parents, etc.).
  • The Transportation Coordinator must notify Administration as soon as possible of the nature and extent of the injury and the proposed plan of action.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE PROCEDURE

If you are injured or ill, you are responsible for letting Administration know if you think the injury or illness may cause you to seek medical attention or lose time from work. The procedure must be followed for your medical bills – if any – to be covered by our Workers’ Compensation (WC) insurance:

  • Staff member (or witness) reports injury to member of Administration.
  • We complete a FORM 101 (Employer’s First Report of Injury or Fatality), including as much detail of the injury as possible, within 5 days of the injury.
  • We give the injured employee the following information to be provided to the health care provider: Our insurance carrier’s name, phone number, and policy number as well as the newly assigned case number. Any additional questions should be referred to the Business Manager.
  • If the injury results in just medical bills, or fewer than 5 full or partial calendar days of disability, we will report it to our WC carrier, supplying them with all pertinent information from the form and receiving an assigned case number.
  • If the injury results in 5 or more full or partial calendar days of disability, we will report the injury to the DIA (Department of Industrial Accidents) as well as our WC carrier within 7 days of the injury.
  • All initial medical bills will be covered through our Worker’s Comp Insurance.
  • The employee will be paid only for hours worked, and the day of the injury is considered the first calendar day of disability.
  • The insurance company has 14 calendar days from the date they receive the Employer’s First Report of Injury or Fatality – Form 101 to either:
    • mail a check and the Insurer’s Notification of Payment – Form 103 to the employee;
    • or contest the claim, by sending a certified letter denying compensation via an Insurer’s of Denial – Form 104.
  • The caseworker assigned to the claim will contact the injured employee and all subsequent reasonable and necessary medical treatment needs will be approved.
  • You should start getting a check (60% of total gross average weekly wage) within 3 to 4 weeks after your injury or illness. You will receive compensation for lost wages for any days you are disabled after the first 5 full or partial calendar days. (You are not compensated for the first 5 calendar days of incapacity unless you are disabled for 21 calendar days or more.)

security

Communication

Each classroom has its own phone so you can communicate directly with parents during the day. First Circle does not allow the use of personal cell phones to communicate with parents unless it is an emergency.

  • Emergency phone numbers are posted by every phone.
  • We use Procare Engage to rapidly communicate with parents in the case of an emergency.
  • If we must evacuate, Admin will bring cell phones for any communication with authorities.
  • Educators must have an emergency contact information sheet for each child in their classroom.

Safe Access

All our facilities are locked. We keep to a minimum the number of families that have access to the code or biometric fingerprint system, which uses fingerprints to unlock the door. The biometric ID pad is not just a security measure; it also allows us to track a child’s attendance in the program. EEC requires us to keep records of the arrival and departure times of all children in our care. Each time the pad reads an associated person’s fingerprint, a child(ren) will be automatically logged into or out of First Circle’s attendance record.

Safe release

It is crucial that you make sure each child is picked up by an authorized person. All employees must know this policy thoroughly and follow it without exception [see DAILY PROGRAM MANAGEMENT for full policy].

illness and communicable conditions

Overview

Preventing the spread of communicable disease is a high priority. We follow all requirements and recommendations of the DPH and EEC.

As a childcare center, we must balance the health of the children and staff with sensitivity to the pressures of families’ work commitments. We try to be as flexible as possible within the EEC and DPH guidelines, but are conservative to protect the health of other children in our care.

We ask parents to use good judgment in deciding whether their child is well enough to attend school. We cannot provide care for a child with a diagnosed communicable disease, nor one who is not well enough to participate in a normal active school day. A child who is too sick to go outside or who cannot participate in the group’s activities is usually too sick to be with other children.

Symptoms

First Circle cannot accept a child who has exhibited symptoms of an infectious disease (flu, chicken pox, measles, mumps, hepatitis, conjunctivitis, infectious rash, strep infection) within the previous 24 hours. If a child develops or displays any of the symptoms below while at school, contact the parents and advise them they must come pick up their child. [see the Exclusions from Care chart hung in each classroom].

  • FEVER ABOVE 100.5o on the forehead (measured twice, 15 minutes apart)
  • diarrhea more than once in a short period of time (unless caused by antibiotics)
  • one bout of vomiting
  • pink or red eyes with yellow discharge from the eye or tearing
  • rash with a fever or behavior change
  • difficulty breathing
  • mouth sores, unless the child’s healthcare provider states that the child is non-infectious
  • signs of an ear infection (discomfort, pulling on ear), unless the child is fever-free and able to participate in school activities
  • blisters or rash consistent with chicken pox
  • head lice
  • any other symptom of communicable disease, especially if there is another confirmed case within First Circle

Mild illness

If a child is mildly ill, has no fever, seems unusually irritable, lethargic, or generally “not themselves,” but shows no other symptoms, consult with Admin. If you inform the parents, you must tell them your plans to accommodate the child’s needs. If they can participate in the daily program, including outside time, they may remain in school.

If the child’s condition worsens or symptoms of contagious illness appear [see Symptoms above], or if the child cannot be cared for by classroom staff, contact the parents to arrange pickup. A child who has been excluded from care may return after a) meeting the requirements below, or b) being evaluated by a healthcare provider and receiving written confirmation that they are not infectious and pose no serious health risk to themself or to other children. Nevertheless, First Circle has the right to make the final decision concerning the inclusion or exclusion of the child from attendance.

Parent pickup

If a child is sick, call the parents as soon as possible, following these guidelines:

  • If they don’t answer and you get voicemail, leave a message.
  • Tell the parent when they answer or when leaving a message that the child is okay, but not feeling well. List the ailment, tell them they need to be picked up as soon as possible, and that we’re doing everything to keep them comfortable.

Our policy is that parents must pick up their child as quickly as possible (within an hour), unless special circumstances apply (discuss with Admin). If you cannot reach a parent, contact an emergency contact(s) and ask them to pick up the child.

Once you have contacted a parent or their emergency contact:

  1. Let Admin know you have contacted parents to pick up the child.
  2. Make the child comfortable in a quiet area of the classroom or in the office to rest under the supervision of teacher(s) or Admin. Clean and disinfect any toys, blankets, or mats used by an ill child before use by other children.
  3. Complete a Sent Home Sick form and get an administrator’s signature. Ask the person who picks up to sign the Sent Home Sick form. During your conversation with the parent, update them on the child’s condition at pickup, remind them that to prevent the spread of infection, the child must remain out of school until they have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours without medication. Please refer to the Exclusions From Care chart for specifics.
  4. If a child exhibits a symptom listed above on a field trip, contact the parents and, depending on logistics, decide with them whether they should meet their child at First Circle after the bus returns, or drive to the field trip site to pick up their child. Either way, make the child comfortable and keep them apart from other children as much as possible.
  5. Any questions about or exceptions to First Circle policies can only be decided by Admin.

Sent home sick form

If a parent informs you that their child has contracted a communicable disease or serious illness, report it to Admin immediately. As required by the DPH, children with certain contagious, report-worthy diseases must stay home until all danger of contagion has passed.

For any communicable conditions, we will notify the staff in the classroom directly. We will also notify parents by email in the classroom where it occurs with information about the disease and symptoms to watch for. If a child needs to be excluded due to other non-typical communicable disease or for other health reasons, we will contact our Healthcare Consultant or the local Public Health Department, and you will be notified of any further instructions. The child may return to First Circle when approved by the health care provider or DPH.

Head lice

What are lice?

Head lice are a common condition among children, second only to the common cold. About 80 percent of schools across the country have at least 1 outbreak of head lice per year. Preschool and elementary school aged children are most affected, girls more frequently than boys.

Anyone can get head lice. Lice are not due to poor hygiene; in fact, lice prefer clean heads. Lice carry no diseases. However, getting rid of them requires the parent’s vigilance, using treatment with a lice-killing shampoo and manually removing all nits from the hair.

How are lice transmitted?

Lice crawl quickly but do not jump, hop, or fly. Lice pass from one child to another through head-to-head contact. Current research shows that 99% of cases are spread this way. At school, we work to limit head-to-head contact but can’t prevent every instance.

Lice can also spread by sharing of personal articles like hats, towels, brushes, helmets, hair ties, etc. Although First Circle has very few of these items, during a lice outbreak, articles such as dress-up hats should be removed from the classroom until the outbreak is over.

How lice are not transmitted:

Head lice and nits (eggs) are not viable once off the human scalp. As a result, the chances of transmission through clothing, hats, linens, stuffed animals, and sleeping bags is highly unlikely (the remaining 1% of cases). However, as a precautionary measure, during a lice outbreak at First Circle, classroom staff should remove and bag all stuffed animals, dress-up clothes, dolls, and pillows and expose them to high heat.

How do I identify lice?

Lice are small, wingless insects. Their color varies from whitish brown to reddish-brown. Typically, one only sees the nits (eggs) on the hair shaft, not the adults. Nits may be seen as specks glued to the hair shaft, ranging in color from yellow to gray. It’s difficult to see nits without magnification, but they are typically found within a half-inch of the scalp and near the nape of the neck or over the ears. Nits can be confused with dry skin: to tell if it is a nit, flick it or blow on it. If it moves off the hair shaft, it is not a nit.

If we are notified that a child at First Circle has contracted head lice, Administration will notify the classroom(s) and families in the classroom(s) involved via email and provide fact sheets and instructions on how to look for, treat, and remove lice. Once an outbreak occurs, it is common for the other children in the classroom to become infected.

To prevent spreading and re-occurrence, we need you to:

  • Follow the same instruction we have provided to families and examine the children in your classroom every few days looking for any additional cases.
  • Wear gloves and use craft sticks to separate the hair.

A child or staff member who has contracted lice may return after they have been determined to be nit-free. Daily checking of the child or staff member’s head should occur for 14 days after their return.

AIDS/HIV

First Circle follows the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s HIV Infection/ Aids Policy.

Epidemic illness

As mandated by the Board of Health, if an epidemic illness has been brought into the school and is spreading rapidly and uncontrollably, First Circle may be forced to close its doors to air out the school. In the event of illness believed to be part of an outbreak or disease cluster, First Circle will consult with the local Board of Health to receive further instructions.

We may need to close our program temporarily without notice in the event of an epidemic or pandemic health crisis. We would consult the local and state agencies responding to the emergency when making the decision.

Staff health

Bi-annual physical

We expect all employees to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional health so they are able to perform their job responsibilities to the fullest and keep the children in their care healthy. As required by licensing, all employees are responsible for providing documentation of a physical exam every 2 years after the start of employment.

Illness

Please keep the director apprised of any changes to your health, including any communicable diseases, injuries, pregnancy, or illnesses. You will be allowed to work if it is medically safe for you to do so and poses no danger to you, your co-workers, or the children.

In keeping with our Health and Safety Policy, and to protect your health and that of your co-workers, staff who have experienced the following symptoms during the previous 24 hours must be excluded:

  • fever of 100.5° or over
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • pink or red eyes with discharge from the eye (conjunctivitis)
  • rash
  • any symptoms of communicable disease including flu, chicken pox, measles, mumps, hepatitis, conjunctivitis, infectious rash, scabies, strep infection, especially when there is another confirmed case within First Circle
  • head lice (must be nit-free)

Our policy is to make reasonable accommodations for staff that are occasionally ill. Staff members who are chronically ill should re-evaluate their suitability for working in a field where dependability is crucial. (see Job Performance, Attendance/Absences).

All staff must report accidents and injuries at once, no matter how minor, and complete an Incident Form within 48 hours.

 

Bloodborne Pathogens

Childcare providers can be exposed to bloodborne pathogens when diapering, toileting, feeding, or cleaning up the vomit of children in their care; breaking up fights between children; or if bitten by a child. It’s important that educators become familiar with bloodborne pathogens (diseases transmitted through exposure to infected blood/body fluids that contain infected blood) and how to protect themselves from becoming infected.

To contract a bloodborne disease, blood (or blood-containing body fluids) from an infected person must be introduced directly into your bloodstream through a needle stick, a cut, an opening in your skin, or through mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth. To protect yourself from bloodborne illnesses, follow these simple steps:

  • Assume everyone, including the children in your care, is infected (practice universal precaution).
  • Always wear disposable gloves when coming in contact with blood or other body fluids.
  • Remove immediately any garment contaminated by blood and bag up (in diaper bag) for return to family.
  • Always wash your hands before putting on and after removing gloves. If you believe you have been exposed to a bloodborne pathogen, immediately wash the affected area with soap and water; report the incident to the appropriate personnel and/or agency and proceed immediately to your physician or nearest emergency room.

allergies

Allergies list

Each classroom has an allergy list that includes all the children in the school with a known allergy or cultural dietary preferences. This list should be posted for easy access in a manner that protects privacy.

Prevention

We take allergies very seriously and collaborate with parents to respond to their child’s needs in the safest and most consistent way possible.

  • First Circle is a nut-free and latex-free (gloves and band-aids) school.
  • In the case of severe food allergies, we will eliminate serving that food in a classroom.
  • In the case of a known allergy to a chemical or other material, we post this information and eliminate exposure in the classroom environment, if possible.
  • All educators are trained annually to handle allergic reaction emergencies.

Management

Allergy action plan

If a child has a known or suspected allergy, you’ll receive a Special Care Plan and Allergy Action Plan. The Allergy Action Plan details the specific allergy, preventative measures to be taken, symptoms of the allergy and expected treatment, and exact details of any medication to be given.

Treatment

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can occur quickly (as fast as a couple of minutes) and may be life threatening. Time is of the essence with an allergic reaction. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of an allergic reaction, which can include:

  • MOUTH: Itching, tingling, or swelling of lips, tongue, mouth
  • SKIN: Hives, itchy rash, swelling of the face or extremities
  • GUT: Nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
  • THROAT: Tightening of throat, hoarseness, hacking cough
  • LUNG: Shortness of breath, repetitive coughing, wheezing
  • HEART: Irregular pulse, fainting, pallor, blueness
  • NEURO: Disorientation, dizziness, loss of consciousness

For a child with a known or suspected allergy, notice any symptoms and determine the course of action based on the child’s Special Care Plan:

Antihistamine

If the child’s Special Care Plan indicates antihistamine for symptoms presenting:

  • One staff member must stay with the child at all times.
  • Give the medication listed on the form.
  • Contact parent/guardian.
  • Notify Administration.
  • Closely monitor for improvement or worsening of symptoms.
Epinephrine

If the child’s Special Care Plan indicates an EpiPen for an allergic reaction,  refer to the Plan and determine whether the presenting symptoms call for use of the EpiPen:

  • One staff member must stay with the child at all times.
  • Call for help from the office.
  • Inject EpiPen [see below]. Note time of injection for EMTs.
  • Have another teacher or Admin call 911.
  • Contact parent or emergency contact.
  • Take used EpiPen unit and child’s file in the ambulance to the hospital.

Directions for using epipen or Jr.

Prepare the EpiPen or EpiPen Jr Auto-Injector For Injection
  • Remove the auto-injector from the clear carrier tube.
  • Flip open the yellow cap of the EpiPen or the green cap of the EpiPen Jr Auto-Injector carrier tube.
  • Tip and slide the auto-injector out of the carrier tube.
  • Grasp the auto-injector in your fist with the orange tip pointing downward. With your other hand, remove the blue safety release by pulling straight up without bending or twisting it.

Note: The needle comes out of the orange tip. Never put your thumb, fingers, or hand over the orange tip.

Administer the EpiPen or EpiPen Jr Auto-Injector
  • Hold the auto-injector with orange tip near the outer thigh. Swing and firmly push the orange tip against the outer thigh until it ‘clicks.’
  • Keep the auto-injector firmly pushed against the thigh at a 90° angle (perpendicular) to the thigh. Hold firmly against the thigh for around 10 seconds to deliver the drug. The injection is now complete.
  • Remove the auto-injector from the thigh. The orange tip will extend to cover the needle.
  • Massage the injection area for 10 seconds.

asthma

Asthma action plan

For any child with a history of asthma, we require an Asthma Action Plan on file and a Special Care Plan. The plan specifies any known or suspected asthma triggers, any environmental control measures, pre-medications, and/or dietary restrictions that the child needs to prevent triggering an asthma episode, symptom management, and any medication that may be needed. All educators in a classroom with a child with asthma will receive appropriate training to handle emergency asthma episodes.

Treatment

To effectively manage a child’s asthma at First Circle, follow these guidelines, below.

medication

Trained First Circle staff can administer prescription and non-prescription medication with written approval from both the child’s healthcare provider and parent. An Authorization for Medication form signed by the parent and an authorization from the child’s healthcare provider must accompany any medication to be administered to a child during the school day. A prescription label is considered written authorization by the healthcare provider. These consents are valid for one year.

Prescription medication must be in the original container with the original prescription label attached and legible.

For a chronic medical condition, the educator must successfully complete training given by the child’s health care practitioner or, with their written consent, given by the child’s parent or First Circle’s health care consultant. The training must specifically address the child’s medical condition, medication, and other treatment needs.

For non-prescription medications, the child’s healthcare provider must provide written and signed instructions including:

  • type of medication
  • route of administration
  • child’s previous experience with the medication
  • reason(s) for the medication
  • dosing instructions
  • indications for when the medication is to be given if prescribed “as needed”
  • possible side effects to watch for
  • storage instructions

PRESCRIPTION + NON-PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS

All teachers at First Circle receive training to recognize common side effects and adverse reactions of various medications. We are strictly regulated by both the DPH and EEC regarding medication. There are absolutely no exceptions to these policies:

Parents must provide all medication
Form

An Authorization for Medication form must be filled out each time a child needs a new medication. It must be dated and clearly indicate the kind of medication, dosage, and if non-prescription, criteria for administration if specified “as needed.”

Container

All prescription medication must be in the original pharmacy container and include the child’s name, the name of the medication, the dosage, the number of times per day, and the number of days the medication is to be administered.

Labeling

Non-prescription medication must be labeled with the child’s full name, the date that medication was authorized by the child’s healthcare provider, the provider’s name, expiration date, period of use, and instructions on how to administer and store it. Use a plastic bag if necessary to fit all the information.

Storage

Parents must hand all medications directly to the teacher. You must store medications in a locked container or cabinet in the classroom or under locked refrigeration storage (if required), located in the staff room or kitchen.

Directions

Medications must be dispensed following the directions on the original container, unless authorized in writing by the child’s licensed health care practitioner. Medications without clear directions on the container must be administered in accordance with a written physician’s order.

First dose

We cannot administer the first dose of any medication to a child, except under extraordinary circumstances and with parental consent. New medication must be administered at home at least one hour prior to bringing the child to First Circle.

Training

For children with Special Care plans, parents with written permission from their child’s health care provider may train teachers to implement their child’s plan.

Physicians

As specified by the State of Massachusetts, healthcare providers cannot prescribe medication for their own children.

Return

Return any unused, discontinued, or outdated medications to the parents for disposal.

Logs

First Circle maintains logs of the administration of any medication (excluding topical ointments and sprays applied to normal skin), as part of the child’s file.

Recording

Each time a medication is administered, you must document in the child’s record the name, dosage, time, and method of administration, and who administered the medication.

Unanticipated

Any unanticipated administration of medication or treatment for a non-life-threatening condition requires that the teacher must make a reasonable attempt to contact the parent(s) prior to administering the medication or beginning treatment. If the parent(s) cannot be reached in advance, they must be contacted as soon as possible after such medication or treatment is given.

As-needed medications

When a child has a chronic condition requiring routine medication administration or conditions requiring EpiPens, the classroom will receive a Special Care Plan as well as an Authorization for Medication for that child.

Nebulizer policy

For children with respiratory conditions that require a nebulizer, we can administer the nebulizer treatments with the following stipulations:

  • Parents must complete an Authorization for Medication form stating the dose and times of treatment each day.
  • A child requiring multiple nebulizer treatments a day must receive the first treatment prior to arrival at First Circle.
  • The nebulizer medication must be in the original prescription box with dosage clearly stated. The doses must be pre-measured and individually wrapped.
  • We cannot make the decision about giving children a nebulizer treatment on an “as needed” basis. If we think a child’s breathing needs to be assessed during the day, and the nebulizer has already been administered as indicated on the medication form, you must call the parents and ask them to come in to decide about administering medication an additional time.
  • For a child who is wheezing or coughing and has an Asthma Action Plan on file, you must call the parent to verbally authorize additional administration of the nebulizer.

Topical medication

Administration of non-prescription topical ointments and sprays such as diaper creams, petroleum jelly, sunscreen, insect repellent, etc., require a signed Topical Medication Authorization form. The signed form is valid for one year and includes a list of topical non-prescription medications.

To apply topical ointments to wounds, rashes (except diaper rash), or broken skin, you must have an Authorization for Medication form signed by the child’s healthcare provider [see DAILY ROUTINES: Playground, Sunscreen and Insect Repellents]

ASTHMA ACTION PLAN

GREEN ZONE – NO SYMPTOMS

SYMPTOMS

  • No coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, or difficulty breathing
  • Can work, play, exercise, perform daily activities without symptoms
TEACHER ACTION
  • Monitor for symptoms

YELLOW ZONE – CAUTION, HAVING SYMPTOMS

SYMPTOMS

  • coughing or wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest tightness
  • difficulty breathing
  • other: refer to Asthma Action Plan
TEACHER ACTION
  • Stay with child. Speak softly and stay calm.
  • Keep child sitting upright and encourage slow deep breathing.
  • Give medication indicated.
  • Have another teacher or Admin contact parent or emergency contact.
  • If medication doesn’t take effect, proceed to Red Zone below.

RED ZONE – Alert! Be prepared for emergency action!

SYMPTOMS

  • Breathing difficulty remains or worsens
  • Continuous spasmodic coughing
  • Increasing anxiety or confusion
  • Struggling or gasping for breath
  • Skin pulling in around collarbone and ribs with breathing
  • Child stopping play and not able to start activity again due to breathing problems
  • Lips or fingernails darkening

TEACHER ACTION

  • Stay with child. Speak softly and stay calm.
  • Have teacher or Admin contact parent or emergency contact.
  • Keep child sitting upright and encourage slow deep breathing.
  • Give medication indicated.
  • Have teacher or Admin call 911.
  • Administer CPR if breathing stops and continue until paramedics arrive.

emergencies

Children have unique needs and vulnerabilities based on their dependence on adults, their limited mobility, and their developing communication skills. They need our protection and comfort.

Emergencies occur suddenly and can be overwhelming, but being prepared ensures that we’re ready to make decisions and take appropriate actions before, during, and after the emergency.

definition of an emergency

The terms “emergency” and “disaster” mean any event or situation that could pose a threat to the health or safety of children in our care. Emergencies include acts of nature such as a tornado, flood, or blizzard; accidents such as a severely injured child or hazardous material leak; public health events such as a pandemic; or manmade events such as an act or threat of violence. Disasters can strike anywhere at any time. In addition to natural disasters, the United States is also uniquely at high risk for shooter violence and manmade threats.

emergency plan

All staff members are trained in emergency preparedness and management annually. The safety and well-being of the children in our care and our staff always take priority over all other considerations. EEC requires us to have a written Emergency Management Plan with procedures for addressing potential emergencies. We keep the plan current. It meets the needs of all children in our care, including children who may need additional assistance during an evacuation (those with disabilities and others). The plan includes procedures for:

  • evacuation, relocation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown
  • communication and reunification with families
  • continuity of operations
  • accommodation of infants and toddlers, children with disabilities, and children with chronic medical conditions
  • staff emergency preparedness training and practice drills

three phases

Effective crisis and security plans help us effectively manage the operation of First Circle during a crisis incident or medical emergency. Emergency preparedness is the ability to react appropriately by knowing what measures should be taken during the THREE PHASES of an emergency (before, during, after). The more prepared we are, the shorter the response and recovery time for any emergency.

1. Preparedness

The preparedness phase takes place BEFORE an emergency or disaster. It includes being informed, making plans, building emergency/disaster supplies kits, and training staff on emergency plans. Practicing scenarios and drills are a critical part of being prepared.

2. Response

The response phase begins DURING the moments you are alerted to an impending emergency and when the emergency occurs. During this phase, we implement the plans that have been created for the preparedness phase.

3. Recovery

The recovery phase occurs AFTER an emergency. It includes determining long-term plans for the center to return to regular operations. This is primarily the administration’s responsibility, but will require staff support.

A critical element to all three phases: COMMUNICATION

  • Emergency phone numbers are posted by every phone.
  • All schools use Procare Engage to notify families of an emergency.
  • In the event of a school evacuation, Admin brings cell phones for necessary communications with the fire department or other appropriate authorities.
  • To effectively communicate with families, educators must have an emergency contact information sheet for each child enrolled in their classroom.

preparedness

Methods

[see HEALTH & SAFETY section above]

  • Maintaining accurate head counts
  • Keeping children safe in the classroom and on the playground
  • Preventing injury
  • Conducting emergency evacuation drills
  • Maintaining and accessing parent emergency contact information

Emergency evacuation drills

EEC requires us to conduct evacuation drills every month in accordance with local fire department guidance, which is identified on posted evacuation plans in each classroom.

response

Each hazard has its own protocol, so it’s important to be familiar with the specific procedure for each one. Staff must refer to the What to do in Case of Emergency Posting in the classroom and the specific responsibilities in the Appendix.

Response may include some or all the following:

  • Identifying that a crisis is occurring and the appropriate response
  • Activating the Emergency Management Plan
  • Closing the building or canceling the program
  • Determining if evacuation, shelter-in-place, lockdown, or other procedures need to be implemented
  • Establishing what information needs to be communicated to staff, families, and the community
  • Maintaining appropriate communication with all involved

Identification

  • Emergencies can be identified by anyone. If you see, smell, or hear something that seems like it might present a danger to people or property, let an administrator know.
  • Admin will work with local authorities to identify whether it is an emergency and remedy the problem.

Closing the program

Most of our families need care to work at their jobs, so we remain open as much as possible. For safety reasons, extreme weather or a loss of utilities can prompt us to close the program. Site administration and executive administration collaborate on the decision to close a program.

EVACUATION ON SITE

We evacuate on site for situations such as fire, local hazmat situation, carbon monoxide etc.

EVACUATION OFF-SITE

In extreme circumstances (i.e.: chemical spill that cannot be contained, widespread fire, etc.) and in consultation with emergency personnel, we will evacuate to the school’s designated off-site location. This decision will be made based on the projected duration of the evacuation, and conditions at both locations at the time.

EVACUATION CHECKLIST

When we must evacuate the center, classroom teachers are responsible for:

  • Daily attendance
  • Emergency Information Sheets for each child
  • Medications and supplies that will be vital for care for the next 1-2 hours (including all emergency medications, like EpiPens)
  • Blankets in cold weather
  • One diaper per child who needs one and a box of wipes.
REVERSE EVACUATION

Movement of children and staff back into the center due to a danger/emergency outside. An example of this is a suspicious or criminal act occurring nearby or a wild animal.

SHELTER IN PLACE

When a threat creates hazardous conditions outside the center, children and staff may need to shelter in place. This may also need to occur if it is not safe or there is insufficient time to move to a designated assembly area or relocation site. Sheltering in place involves keeping children and staff inside the building and securing the center for the immediate emergency. Examples of shelter-in-place situations include tornadoes, community violence, or a hazardous material spill.

LOCKDOWN

The purpose of a lockdown is to keep children and staff inside the building by securing them in a classroom or other safe area due to an immediate threat inside the center. Lockdown procedures will be used in situations that may harm people inside the center, such as a shooting, hostage incident, intruder, trespassing, disturbance, or at the discretion of the director, designee or public safety personnel.

types of hazards

Being aware of hazards helps us prioritize them and prevent them or limit their effects. Several hazards could impact our program, ranging in risk from possible to extremely unlikely.

natural
  • severe weather (snow, lightning)
  • flood
  • hurricane/tornado
facility
  • utility disruption (heat, water, power)
  • fire
  • hazardous materials
safety
  • accident/injury
  • missing child
  • epidemic illness
violence
  • physical/verbal threat
  • intruder
  • active shooter

Natural hazards

Severe weather may be predicted several days in advance in the case of hurricanes and winter storms, or within a few hours or less for tornadoes and other wind, rain, or ice storms. First Circle Administration will monitor the National Weather Service through multiple sources and keep you posted on all severe weather watches, warnings, and travel advisories

watch
  • A watch designation is used when the risk of a hazardous weather event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time for people to act.
warning
  • A warning is issued when a hazardous weather event is occurring, is imminent, or has a high probability of occurring. It is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.
advisory
  • An advisory highlights special weather conditions that are less serious than a warning. It is for events that may cause significant inconvenience and require caution to avoid situations that may threaten life and/or property.
Snow and ice storms

Our primary consideration when deciding whether to open is the safety of the children and our staff. We actively monitor weather to make the best decisions, and try to give families and staff advance warning, even if we sometimes need to change that decision at daybreak.

If we decide to close early, open late, or close for the entire day, we’ll update our Facebook page with the information, and notify you via Procare Engage.

  • If the course and impact of the storm are in question the evening before, we’ll delay our final decision about opening to the morning. If we change our opening hours, we’ll notify you by 6:00 a.m. [Consult the Benefits Handbook for Snow Tier instructions]
  • For an overnight storm, we may delay opening the next morning, or open for a half-day.
  • If driving conditions are predicted to be dangerous the entire day, we will close for the day.

If the timing of a storm is later in the day, we open on time and may close early if conditions will be dangerous.

Thunderstorms

Every thunderstorm produces lightning.  On average, lightning kills 300 people and injures 80 people each year in the United States. Lightning is unpredictable; it can strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall. Other thunderstorm-related dangers are tornadoes, strong winds, hail, wildfire, and flash flooding. If thunderstorms are forecasted, we will limit or cancel outdoor activities.

  • If you hear thunder while on the playground, immediately take everyone indoors and shelter in place.
  • If indoors during a thunderstorm, secure outside doors.
  • Do not use electrical appliances.
Flooding

Heavy precipitation can cause floods. Floods can build over several days or occur rapidly as flash floods. First Circle schools are not located in a flood zone. Should a flood warning be in effect in the area, we will heed evacuation orders from public safety officials.

Tornado

Tornadoes are occurring more frequently in Massachusetts. Weather fronts that can produce tornadoes may also generate severe rain, wind, and hail that can cause serious damage.

  • Tornado watch means that a tornado is likely over a large area. A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or is indicated on weather radar in a specific area.
  • When conditions outdoors pose an immediate and severe threat to the safety of staff and children, and town emergency personnel notify us to remain in the building, the administrator in charge will order a SHELTER IN PLACE [see Shelter in Place procedures].
Hurricanes

Hurricane season lasts from June through November

  • Hurricanes generate winds from 74 to 160 miles per hour, bring heavy rainfall, and sometimes floods.
  • Hurricanes typically arrive with plenty of warning, so if danger is anticipated, First Circle would be closed.

Facility hazards

These events come with little to no warning and can include things like fire, gas leaks, utility disruption, or other environmental threats. Administration will assess each situation as it arises. We will make every effort to keep the center open, while ensuring compliance with regulations. If the event requires that we close, First Circle will reopen as soon as the situation is resolved.

Utility disruption

Utilities may be disrupted during a storm or a more localized incident. We must be able to meet regulations and requirements for water use, heat, and power to remain open in such circumstances.

  • We are usually prepared to operate without utilities for 2-5 hours. For instance, emergency lighting is inspected several times a year, and we keep extra water on hand for drinking and flushing toilets during an emergency. Our Framingham (FRA) location also has an emergency generator.
  • Emergency supplies are in Janice’s office (FRA) or on the top shelf in the snack area (Lexington) or the classroom (Stoughton) as well as the office.

Fire

Fire is the most common of all business disasters. More than 4,000 Americans die and more than 20,000 are injured by fire each year.

  • Fires can spread quickly and are dangerous not only because of the flames but also the heat, smoke, and poisonous gases emitted. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire-related deaths.
  • Cooking is the leading cause of fires in childcare centers, but fire can occur for many reasons, including damage from an earthquake, wind, or water to electrical equipment, etc.
  • In the event of a fire, follow the evacuation plan posted in each classroom, and evacuate the children to their designated spot as practiced in monthly drills.
  • If the fire is small and the building has been evacuated, administrators with proper training may use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. At no time should staff attempt to fight the fire if there is an imminent threat to their safety.

Hazardous materials

A hazardous materials accident could occur in the form of a natural gas leak, spilling of a solvent, or on a roadway or factory or processor in the immediate area. In these cases, follow these procedures:

  • Notify Admin immediately of any suspected gas leaks or suspicious smells.
  • The administrator will notify the gas company and fire department and follow their safety directions.
  • Be prepared to isolate the immediate area, evacuate, or take other precautions like sealing windows, doorways, shutting off air intake systems to provide protection from airborne hazardous materials.
  • If there is a temporary threat specific only to the premises, we will follow evacuation procedures, then follow the off-site evacuation procedures.
  • In the event of a major environmental hazard that necessitates a large evacuation – such as several neighborhoods – the local government agency will determine the mass shelter location. All educators must accompany their assigned children to the shelter and remain with them while the family/guardian/emergency contacts are notified, and arrangements are made for pickup.

safety hazards

For treatment of minor injuries, see HEALTH & SAFETY above. There are some safety hazards we can prevent, and others we can only prepare for.

Serious injury

In the event of a serious injury (such as a seizure, a serious cut, or a possible broken bone), strictly follow the procedures outlined.

Missing, lost, or abducted child

Most abducted children are taken by someone they know. It is essential that educators release children only to designated individuals and account for children at all times.

Epidemic illness

As mandated by the Board of Health, if an epidemic illness has been brought into the school and is spreading rapidly and uncontrollably, First Circle may be forced to close to air out the school or close classrooms to contain the spread of the disease. If the illness is believed to be part of an outbreak or disease cluster, First Circle will consult with the local Board of Health to receive further instructions. We may need to close our program temporarily without notice in the event of an epidemic or pandemic health crisis. We would consult with the local and state agencies responding to the emergency to make the decision. During an outbreak of infectious disease, follow these procedures:

  • Reinforce habits that protect children from disease by limiting the spread of infection (good handwashing; covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing; cleaning toys frequently).
  • Keep a good supply of things you will need to help control the spread of infection. (For example, plenty of soap, paper towels, and tissues.) Store the supplies in easy-to-find places.
  • Keep accurate records of when children are absent, including a record of the illness that caused the absence (e.g., diarrhea/vomiting, coughing/breathing problems, rash, or other). We need this information to report an outbreak of illness to the Board of Health.
  • Check children each day as they arrive to see if they are sick. Do not allow sick children to remain at the program.
  • Stay home if you are sick. If you become sick while at work, go home and stay home.

violence hazards

Statistically, violent crimes are extremely unlikely to happen within First Circle. It is still important for us to be prepared for the improbable.

The following information is a general response to physical threats that may present at First Circle. This includes threats from outside the center, such as community violence, and inside the center, like an intruder. In every situation, Admin and staff members will evaluate the situation, and only address the threat when their safety is not compromised. If any person in the center does not feel safe in the situation, local emergency services (911) will be contacted, provided it can be done in a safe manner.

Verbal and physical threats

Intruder

Every staff member is responsible for ensuring that all persons on the premises are authorized to be there. If you notice an unfamiliar unaccompanied person, ask that person how they can be helped. Should someone exhibit strange or aggressive behavior, report this to an administrator immediately. Each situation is different, and we will all do our best. There is no way to plan for every possibility, or how each of us will react.

Active shooter

While no one wants to think about the possibility of an active shooter in their school, it’s good practice to prepare for active shooter events.

Staff must be aware of their surroundings and be prepared to respond if they ever find themselves in such a situation to protect the children in the center and themselves. Active shooter situations are unpredictable, and the event often evolves quickly. Consult the What to do in an Emergency poster in the classroom.

Abuse + neglect policy

By law, every childcare staff member is a mandated reporter, and must file a report when they believe a child is being abused or neglected.

Massachusetts law requires mandated reporters to immediately make an oral or written report to DCF when, in their professional capacity, they have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 years is suffering from abuse or neglect. A mandated reporter may also notify local law enforcement or the Office of the Child Advocate of any suspected abuse and/or neglect.

Each staff member is responsible for reporting any suspected abuse or neglect, including abuse by another staff member. You should report any physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse; any indication of neglect, including malnutrition; any instance in which a child is determined to be physically dependent upon an addictive drug at birth; or death as a result of abuse and/or neglect. Any mandated reporter who fails to make required oral and written reports can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000.

First Circle’s complete Abuse and Neglect Policy is detailed in the Appendix. Under the law, mandated reporters are protected from liability in any civil or criminal action and from any discriminatory or retaliatory actions by an employer.

If a staff member has a concern about a child or fellow educator, the first step is to report the concerns immediately to the director or, in their absence, any First Circle administrator, with as much detail as possible. Staff must follow the requirements and process outlined in this policy with no exception. We provide regular training to all staff on recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect. For new staff, this is covered in the orientation.

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CONNECTION

Staff hiring

recruitment

Educators play a vital role in children’s development. Children’s early learning and experiences shape their views of themselves and the world, and can affect their success in school, work, and their personal lives. To offer an excellent experience, we invest time, effort, and money to hire quality staff.

job postings

external

We value employee referrals and give a bonus to staff whose referral results in an enrollment or a new hire. We post ads on Indeed and other professional job sites. We accept applications and fill positions as needed.

internal

If the administration posts a job description internally, internal candidates will be considered on the same merits as external ones, including experience and education.

qualifications

We select staff based on their knowledge and experience in the field of Early Childhood Education, and because their core values, personal educational philosophy, and teaching style are consistent with our core values and company culture. Many of our staff have specialized degrees or certificates in Education, Child Development, Psychology, or Sociology. We also train qualified candidates who do not have an Early Childhood background.

hiring

background record checks

Prior to hiring, each candidate must pass rigorous personal reference checks, a comprehensive health examination, and a state-mandated background records check, including a criminal background check, a SORI, and a Department of Children and Families check. Each applicant is interviewed extensively and must complete a supervised working interview in the classroom.

interviews

The interview process typically involves a phone interview, an in-person interview, and a working interview. Candidates for administrative roles will interview with several members of First Circle administration.

job offer

After completing all interviews and checking references, we prepare a job offer for desirable candidates. To ensure fair wage implementation for all employees, we use a compensation scale that incorporates a candidate’s experience and education. Once the job offer letter is sent, the candidate must confirm the offer.

onboarding

All new employees undergo a 90-day on-the-job training period. The training period provides an opportunity for both of us to determine whether we’re a good fit. The first 2 weeks of training are orientation. During those 2 weeks, the employee works closely with the director and team members to become familiar with First Circle’s policies, practices, and philosophies, and to shadow in the classroom. The New Employee Orientation includes:

  • detailed tour of the center
  • meeting with members of the Executive Admin Team
  • review of
    • the Employee Handbook, including job description, personnel policies, statement of purpose, statement of non-discrimination
    • health care policy, including medication administration policies and infant sleeping positions
    • information contained in the children’s records that is pertinent to the education and care of the children
    • the program’s confidentiality policy; child guidance policies and procedures for protecting children from abuse and neglect
    • suspension and termination policy
    • emergency plans and procedures
    • program plans
    • referral procedures
    • transportation plans
    • procedures for parent visits, input, conferences, and communication
    • the identification of the Department of Early Education and Care as the licensing authority
    • notification that 102 CMR 1.00 and 606 CMR 7.00 and 14.00 are available at the program site
  • opportunities for the new employee to ask questions and discuss issues
  • EEC’s required coursework
  • introduction to all staff and children in the relevant classroom(s)
  • review of the classroom(s) curriculum and daily schedule

Employees must sign an Employee Handbook sign-off form confirming that they have received, read, and understand the contents.

materials

All employees receive a link to the Employee Handbook, which contains all regulations, policies, procedures, and information pertaining to employment responsibilities, compensation and benefits, and employment policies. The handbook has information to support and guide the implementation of First Circle policy and practices in the classroom, with children and families, and with peers.

training period

During the remainder of the 90-day training period, the director and other staff will mentor the new employee, regularly observe and meet with the employee to oversee their training and provide support and assistance. Any new employee who does not meet First Circle’s performance standards during the training period may be dismissed without a warning.

At the end of 90 days, new employees meet with the director for a 90-day written review. Any areas needing improvement will be identified and a plan devised to assist the employee in meeting the established performance goals. Completion of the training period does not change the employee-at-will status.

mentoring

We use our experienced staff as a resource in the orientation process. Depending on your role, you’ll be paired with a veteran staff member who will communicate our high standards of excellence for safety, policy, quality care, and education. Take this time as an opportunity to learn our daily routines and ask questions.

Staff management

ongoing employment requirements

Employees are required to renew certain documents and certifications as part of their employment at First Circle, and fulfill specific health requirements. These requirements are:

HEALTH ASSESSMENT

Every employee needs an updated health assessment with a healthcare provider every 2 years.

PQ REGISTRY

Each educator must register annually with the EEC Professional Qualifications Registry. You must enter your information online, update it  regularly, and provide a printed confirmation to the Director. Please go to eec.state.ma.us/PQRegistry/ to complete the required forms and print your confirmation. You may use the computer in the staff room or complete it at home.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT and TRAINING

We value education and learning at First Circle, and believe that process begins with staff. We provide you with many opportunities and resources for growth and enhancement of your professional skills. Some workshops and training sessions are mandatory, some are optional.

Required Training Hours

State licensing requires us to provide a specific amount of training for all staff members throughout the year. You are required to complete this training. This includes the “EEC Essentials” training, 12 modules on topics that early education staff need to know about, such as health, safety, and child development. Training hours are calculated from January to December of each year. EEC requires that staff members attend the following amount of training hours (including online training required by EEC):

  • Educators working fewer than 10 hours per week: 5 hours per year, a minimum of 2 of those hours must address Diverse Learners.
  • Educators working between 10- 20 hours per week: 12 hours per year, a minimum of 4 of those hours must address Diverse Learners.
  • Educators working 20 or more hours per week:  20 hours per year, a minimum of 7 of those must address Diverse Learners.
Staff Meetings

Staff meetings are mandatory and are held every month on a Tuesday, immediately following the workday. Dinner is provided by First Circle. You must attend staff meetings unless the director approves your absence. All staff are paid for staff meeting time at their regular hourly rate.

Staff Training Days

We have mandatory staff training days during the year when the center is closed (see Benefits Handbook). Staff training days are important and cannot be missed unless approved by the director. All staff are paid at their hourly rate for time in staff training.

First Aid/CPR Certification

Each employee is responsible for maintaining a current First Aid certificate to be renewed every 3 years. All teachers must maintain a current CPR certificate to be renewed either every year or based on the date indicated on the card. Group First Aid/CPR training sessions will be conducted by First Circle on a yearly basis; employees needing certification or recertification are expected to attend. First Circle pays for 100% of employee First Aid/CPR and compensates employees for their time at their hourly rate of pay. If current employees do not attend the provided, scheduled First Aid/CPR training, they are responsible for arranging and financing alternate training within 30 days.

If an employee begins employment at First Circle before the annual First Aid/CPR training session and can’t provide current certification, we may ask that they arrange for certification on their own. First Circle will reimburse the employee for the cost of the First Aid/CPR training session and compensate the employee for their time if the training has been pre-approved.

personnel files

Personnel files are maintained for each employee, containing the following, as applicable:

  • employment application including general information, employment history, written references, notes from conversations with telephone references, resume, school records, EEC certification documentation and/or information, and First Aid/CPR training information and/or certification
  • medical information and W4 form
  • working interview review, written performance reviews and observations, letters of promotion, notices of counseling or disciplinary action
  • documentation of training, professional growth and development, and continuing education
  • records of time off and schedule change requests and unscheduled absence forms (these forms are kept in a separate locked file cabinet)
  • salary rate, raises, etc.

We maintain an additional separate, confidential, and locked file in a secure place, containing employees’ I-9 forms and current BRC information. Employees have the right to review their personnel and confidential files upon request at any time during their employment. Files will be made available to the employee within 24 hours of the request.

letters of reference

Requests for letters of reference for school applications, scholarships, and other non-employment related activities should be referred to the director. Please allow enough time for the processing of the letter of recommendation.

employment verification

Requests for employment verification from other employers regarding a former employee’s employment history should be directed to the HR manager.

staff departure

If you decide to leave your employment with us, we ask you to give at least 2 weeks’ written notice. Your respect is appreciated and will be noted favorably should you ever wish to reapply for employment with First Circle and when giving a reference to future employers.

Before departure, you will receive information about the balance of benefits you are owed, available C.O.B.R.A. benefits [see Compensation section], and the procedure for final paycheck(s). You will be asked to turn in any keys, books, or items belonging to First Circle. The Director and Administration may also ask optional confidential questions regarding your employment at First Circle towards the goal of improving operations and gaining insight about others’ performance.

Family management

enrollment

process

First Circle has open enrollment year-round. Interested families receive information by phone or email. We collect basic information and schedule a tour of the program with the director. Tours include:

  • a conversation in the office, providing a history and overview of the program and collecting information about the child and family
  • a visit to the classroom where the child would be enrolled
  • detailed descriptions of educational programs, activities, and daily routines
  • a walk through the rest of the program.

The director will let you know to expect a tour and bring the family and child into the classroom and introduce them to the classroom teachers. The director may also introduce other classroom staff and encourage you to interact, based on the needs and interest of the family.

When possible, we schedule tours in the morning, and at times least disruptive to the classroom and children’s daily schedule. She’ll use her judgment whether and when to introduce classroom staff. You may or may not be introduced or have an opportunity to interact.

We don’t expect that teachers will stop in the middle of an activity or interaction with classroom children, but want you to smile, introduce yourself, and say hello! Please remember that you have someone visiting who is making their decision about our program based on what they see and hear. We ask you to be aware of your audience and represent our program well.

If a family is interested in our program, we provide them with an enrollment packet and a copy of the Parent Handbook. Sometimes families schedule a follow-up visit if there is another family member who wants to visit the program, or if the parent wants to spend more time in the classroom observing.

Enrollment visits entail the parent and child visiting the classroom together and last an hour at most. You will be advised of the visit in advance, and if time permits, the visit will be noted on the schedule.

paperwork

Families who wish to enroll must submit the enrollment forms, pay the appropriate fees, and commit to a start date. We ask families to complete the child’s file at least a week prior to the first day to give classroom staff time to become familiar with the child’s history.

waitlist

First Circle has a waitlist for families whose enrollment cannot be accommodated. When space becomes available in a classroom, we turn to the waitlist to fill it.

classroom placement

When infants and toddlers enroll at First Circle, we place them in a classroom based on their age and developmental readiness. We discuss the child’s emotional, cognitive, and physical development with the family, consider family preferences, and observe the child when they visit the first time. We gather as much information as possible to determine any additional needs or concerns that would influence classroom placement. Preschool children are enrolled in a classroom usually according to their date of birth.

By EEC regulations, children may be assigned outside their age group with a review of the child’s most recent progress report or a narrative from the child’s parent addressing their abilities in mobility, fine and gross motor control, communication, social interactions, and cognition. Such decisions consider the needs of the child and the needs of the classroom on a case-by-case basis.

family on-boarding

New child visits

Depending on a child’s temperament and transition style, we usually recommend they have between 1 and 3 transition visits and spend partial day(s) in the classroom prior to the official start date. It helps them get used to the dropoff procedure. For instance, if a child seems anxious at dropoff, we may recommend that parents bring them in 2 hours per day for 3 days in a row before their official enrollment date to establish a consistent dropoff routine. We recommend families start care at least a week before they really need it, so there is some flexibility during this important time.

First days

Because enrolling a child in a new program can be overwhelming, we ask you to be especially communicative with families who are new to First Circle. Those early communications set the tone and quality of the relationship with the family. The director will facilitate the transition of a new child into the classroom as based on the needs of the family and child. If appropriate, you can assign the new child a “buddy” to help them acclimate.

All educators in the classroom should prepare for a new child. Before the child’s first day, educators must:

  • read the All About Me form
  • label the child’s cubby, mat/crib, and other personal area(s)
  • talk with the other children in the classroom about their new classmate

The more welcoming you are to the new child, the easier the transition will be for the child, the family, the classroom, and you.

Consider the child’s previous childcare experience. If the child has been at home with the parent or caregiver, the transition time might be longer or more challenging. If the child has been at another program, the parents may need to adjust to a different set of policies and ways of doing things.

On the child’s first day, take a picture of the child engaged in an activity and send it to the parents in Engage to show how well they are settling in.

The more time you invest in the relationship with the new family at the beginning, the easier the relationship will be. Make sure you spend quality one-on-one time with the child and observe regularly to see how they are adjusting to their new environment and classmates. These observations will help you provide specific stories and anecdotes to the family at pickup. You can also provide or suggest a phone check-in during the day to ease anxiety. Touch base with the family to ask how the transition is going to gain further insight and to show your support. Encourage them to talk to other parents in the classroom. Ensure every new child and family feels welcome.

Follow-up

During a child’s first few months at First Circle, Admin is in frequent contact with the family to discuss whether their child is transitioning smoothly and whether we are meeting their expectations. We encourage families to express their opinions candidly to help us assess the strengths and weaknesses of our program. We will share all pertinent information with individual staff or team(s), as appropriate.

family partnership

The foundation of a successful learning experience for young children is approaching the relationship between our program, educators, and families as a partnership. We strengthen this partnership when we work with parents to develop trust. Key components of our partnership are:

respect

It’s important to us that our program policies, practices, and communication respect and include all families.

culture

We’re proud of First Circle’s cultural diversity and encourage the inclusion of our families’ cultural backgrounds in every way possible. We welcome parent participation to support cultural, social, and individual diversity. Parent participation helps develop awareness, acceptance, and appreciation of differences such as gender, language, ethnicity, family composition, and differing abilities. Please encourage parents to contribute and share their culture by reading a book, sharing personal stories (especially about life as a child in different cultures), music, costumes, dance, specific traditions, food, and holiday celebrations, etc.

responsiveness

We pride ourselves on responding quickly to any communication.

engagement

We invite parent participation in program activities, field trips, classroom visitors, and volunteers, etc. To enhance the home/school connection, First Circle plans social events throughout the year. These events offer families a time to get to know each other and our staff in a relaxed environment.

We ask staff to attend as many of the social events as possible because they help build a positive, enjoyable community among parents, children, staff, and administration. We compensate you for this time. Some social events are mandatory. We also ask educators to plan and hold family social events regularly in each classroom (such as breakfasts, pajama day, week of young child activities, etc.).

support

A critical function of our partnership is support for children and families experiencing challenges. One of your main goals is to help children reach their fullest potential. Partnership means not judging parents’ approach, even when you have a different perspective of how a family “should” care for their child. Parents are experts on their own children. We value their role as the primary teacher of their child. In addition, First Circle has developed relationships with resources, schools, agencies, and institutions that support families.

open door

Childcare experiences are extremely important to the children and their families. We appreciate that and work to reduce the stress and anxiety involved when they leave their little one in our care. We maintain an open-door policy and encourage families to visit (announced or unannounced), observe, and offer suggestions and ideas for the program.

confidentiality

By EEC regulations, all information contained in a child’s personal file is confidential. You have the right to access the records of the children in your classroom but you cannot share the information contained in a child’s file with anyone without the written consent of the parent or guardian.

family information management

For complete and detailed information about children’s schedules and tuition, please refer to First Circle’s Program Information + Tuition, updated annually. Any parent interested in more specific information should be referred to Administration.

Here’s more detail on schedule and tuition information you may be asked about or that directly affects you.

tuition rates

Tuition rates are determined by the number of hours each day and the number of days each week a child is scheduled to attend First Circle. Parents are responsible for payment of this schedule whether or not their child attends.

schedules

First Circle offers 2 different schedule options: full days (8:00-5:00), or 3/4 days (8:00-3:00 or 9:00-4:00). Individual children’s schedules are determined at the time of enrollment.

schedule changes

When a family requests a schedule change, we ask them to submit a schedule change form at least 2 weeks in advance [forms are available here]. Schedule changes are approved based on availability. If there are concerns the change may negatively impact the child or classroom, we may discuss the request with classroom staff. All schedule changes must be approved by Administration. No schedule change is confirmed without notifying the classroom in advance.

If a child’s schedule is being decreased, even temporarily, we advise parents that unless they have specified an end date that we have approved, we can’t guarantee we’ll have space available to return to their original schedule. Temporary schedule changes must be for a minimum of 1 month (or 4 weeks).

early dropoff

For some sites, we offer early dropoff between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. for an additional charge. Parents must confirm early dropoff in advance so Administration can ensure proper staffing. Please refer inquiring parents to the office.

drop-in/extra time

We offer drop-in care exclusively for children currently enrolled in the program. Parents must submit a Drop-in Request Form [available in the lobby] in advance. We try to accommodate all requests for drop-in care. However, we will only confirm requests when space is available and we have no staffing constraints. Once we have approved a drop-in request, we will let you know so that you can plan accordingly.

family departure

We hope children depart only for kindergarten. But families may withdraw due to a move, changes in their job or financial situation, or because their child would benefit from a different program. Regardless of the reason for departure, let the departing child know they were a valuable part of our program and that they will be missed.

notification

When a family withdraws, the classroom receives a copy of the departure paperwork, including date of departure and any other appropriate information. If a parent communicates to you that they are leaving, please ask them to tell the office as well.

procedures

When a child departs the program, classroom educators should:

  • Prepare the child in a manner appropriate to the child’s age.
  • Discuss the transition in simple terms with the entire class (if appropriate). Be sure the parents have told the child the news first!
  • Prepare a farewell package including the departing child’s journal or portfolio, their artwork, and any class mementos.
  • Plan the transition and confirm plans for the child’s last day.
  • Collect the child’s belongings.

File any paperwork with the office after departure.

suspension or termination

First Circle is committed to the health, happiness, and well-being of every child. We do not want to bar a child from continuing at our school and will explore every option to avoid it. There are a few circumstances, however, where we may suspend a child’s enrollment:

  • failure to provide health information as required by EEC
  • failure to provide updated voucher information for children who attend on a voucher
  • tuition payment more than 1 month behind

Under rare circumstances, and after exhausting all other options, it may be necessary for First Circle to terminate a child’s enrollment, including:

  • Parent refuses to accept First Circle policies.
  • Unresolved differences in childcare philosophies interfere with First Circle’s standard of care.
  • A child’s physical or emotional challenges require an excessive amount of individualized attention, or impairment that can’t be reasonably accommodated at First Circle.
  • Parent refuses to seek help from appropriate agencies or professional resources.
  • A child repeatedly endangers themself or other children and interventions have failed.
  • Parents are consistently late or more than 1 month behind in tuition payment.
  • Parents’ continued failure to provide health information as mandated by EEC.
  • Parent behaves in a consistently inappropriate, disrespectful, or abusive manner.

First Circle reserves the right to suspend or disenroll a child under any of the above circumstances or if we believe alternate care is more suited to the child/family. Should this happen, the director will schedule a meeting with parent(s) and provide them with a 2-week written notice of termination. The director will help the parent(s) locate other childcare options and adjust the tuition. The classroom should follow all departure procedures listed above.

thank you

However long a family is with us at First Circle, we thank them for trusting us to help their child grow. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to be part of their family and to care for their precious child. Encourage them to stay in touch with us, provide a forwarding address (if applicable), and come back to visit anytime!

______________

 
COMMUNICATION

Our communication standards

Good communication is the foundation of a quality educational program and a healthy work environment.

We recognize that we all have different styles of communication. Our goal is to create a workplace where we communicate with respect, courtesy, and support. Open, respectful, and frequent communication with co-workers builds a strong team environment and collaborative culture.

In addition to monthly staff meetings, team meetings, and informal sessions, we will communicate with you via email and postings in the staff room and lobby – please look for communications!

Our strong, supportive, and effective partnership with families depends on regular and on-going communication. Families want information about their child’s day and their development.

As a program, we communicate our policies, procedures, and practices to families, as well as expectations for positive and respectful communications, interactions, and behavior from them. We expect you as educators to communicate daily with families through both verbal and written methods, supporting cultural influences and differences in styles of parenting, problem-solving, communicating, and relating.

Per First Circle’s standards, all communications should be:

  • warm, friendly, and supportive in tone
  • positive in nature (and humorous when possible)
  • thoughtful, clear, informational, and well-crafted
  • designed to establish trust and demonstrate flexibility and integrity
  • transparent and respectful

Verbal Communication

overview

Positive communication comes in both short and long conversations. Many times, a few words here and there will make all the difference.

General guidelines for verbal communication with parents and co-workers:

It’s a two-way street

Successful communication goes both ways. Parents want to feel their input and comments are welcomed and heard.  Co-workers want to feel respected and collaborated with. Both parents and coworkers have valuable insights that deserve your attention.

Choose the right time and place

Think through the best place and time to communicate your message. Ensure that you create a space where open communication can take place.

Listen actively

Communication is a two-way street and requires you to listen as well as talk. Signal that you’re listening with visual cues such as nodding and eye contact. Listen with respect by not interrupting, fidgeting, or pacing.

Be aware of what your body is saying

If your arms are crossed and shoulders hunched, communication can be hindered by body language that tells people you don’t want to talk or listen.

Adhere to rules of confidentiality

All formal conversations with First Circle administration that do not take place at a staff meeting are confidential. By EEC regulations, all information contained in a child’s personal file is confidential.

Feedback

If anyone at First Circle—a co-worker, an Admin member, or a parent—is speaking to you in a manner that feels discourteous or disrespectful, politely let them know. We can all learn from each other.

communication with parents

dropoff

Dropoff is a great opportunity to check in with families and find out any issues that may impact the child’s day. It’s also a great time to briefly tell parents what’s planned for that day [see Daily Program Management].

pickup

Greet the parent with a smile at pickup. Provide them with a brief summary or “snapshot” of their child’s day. Keep them informed about their child’s developmental progress and provide them with a sense of security that you are supporting their child in all aspects of personal and educational growth [see Daily Program Management].

parent-teacher meetings

Parent-teacher meetings are scheduled on an as-needed basis (meeting request forms are on the website). Types of meetings include progress reports, transitions, and/or concerns or issues identified by parents or educators.

telephone communications

Each classroom will have a phone to enable you to communicate with parents during the day. First Circle does not allow personal cell phone use to communicate with parents unless it is an emergency. Guidelines for classroom telephones:

  • Use your best judgment to determine if you can answer a phone call. For example, it could be appropriate if the children in your care are napping or occupied with other activities and are being supervised by another educator in the classroom.
  • If you’re unable to answer, let the call go to voicemail and return the call when it’s appropriate. Make sure the phone call is returned within 2-3 hours.
  • If a phone call becomes longer than a quick communication and is hindering your ability to supervise and interact with the children, please remind parents that the best time to call is during rest time (for toddler and preschool programs), or tell them you will call back when you are able.

communicating about accident/illness

Accidents and injuries occur daily in early childhood programs. If a child has a head injury, bleeding, or bruising, notify the parent right away so you are not approaching parents with bad news at pickup. When you communicate injuries to parents, be calm and factual. Communicate the nature of the injury and what was done to treat it and to comfort the child. Notify parents by phone of any injury that happens to the head (bump, scratch, scrape, bite), whether it breaks the skin or not.

communicating about biting/aggression

Biting is a typical behavior among infants, toddlers, and 2-year-olds. As children mature, gain self-control, and develop problem-solving skills, they usually outgrow it.

Biting upsets people more than any other behavior in childcare programs. Because it is upsetting and potentially dangerous, it is important that you communicate quickly and sensitively with the parents of both the child who bites and the child who is bitten.

When a child bites another child, notify the parents of all children involved. Let them know what happened but do not name or label the child who bit. Reassure them by telling how you handled the incident, and involve the parents in planning how to prevent and handle future biting. If a child bites repeatedly, develop a plan with the director [see CURRICULUM: Child Guidance section].

Written communication

daily sheets

In the infant and toddler classrooms, in addition to talking to parents, we communicate with families about their child’s daily activities via an electronic Daily Sheet. Families begin each day by communicating information to you, and you are responsible for recording basic information and a brief description of the child’s day. [Also see COMPLIANCE: Daily Program Management].

notes or emails

Each classroom has their own email address. Messages can be sent through Procare Engage as well. However you communicate to parents, please write using proper grammar and punctuation (and use spellcheck!). When in doubt, have a member of Admin check the email before sending it.

parent information area

Each classroom must have a parent information area. You are responsible for posting classroom information such as curriculum topics, developmental information, upcoming events or activities, and helpful resources.

Information you share should be neat, have correct grammar and spelling, and “speak” in a friendly tone to encourage parents to stop and read.

journals + portfolios

Portfolios (for preschool and pre-k) and journals (infants and toddlers) are collections of information, photographs, and samples that demonstrate each child’s developmental progress. They celebrate each child’s unique abilities, achievements, and progress, displayed through authentic samples of their work and experiences. Each child has their own. The content focuses on children’s individual interactions with their environment, materials, peers, and teachers.

Educators must add material to portfolios and journals regularly, documenting observations and experiences, and use that information to create assessments of progress and development. Portfolios and journals are kept in the classroom, accessible to parents at all times. Sometimes, families take the journal/portfolio home to read, or to add in family experiences.

newsletter

First Circle produces a monthly newsletter that provides updates and information about each classroom. By the monthly staff meeting, each teaching team is responsible for writing a classroom newsletter, about 2-3 paragraphs. Be creative, so families are not seeing the same content each month.

progress reports

We evaluate each toddler and preschool child every 6 months, and for infants and diverse learners, every 3 months. We create a summarized written evaluation for each child that includes observational, anecdotal, and developmental information. As part of the evaluation process, parents are invited to schedule a parent-teacher conference if they wish. [See CURRICULUM: Assessment]

social media

Social media is an important tool to interact with families and market the center to prospective families. We are always looking for photos of the children engaged in learning and having fun, so keep those cameras out! We love to post about school-wide activities and events, informational articles, and other First Circle news. Teachers are welcome and encouraged to propose postings, and should speak to Administration, who will help you develop your posting and add it to the page.

notifications

As part of our commitment to full and open communication, and as required by EEC, First Circle must notify parents in any of the circumstances listed below. The classroom must notify parents and Admin when any:

  • first aid is administered
  • injury happens to the head (bump, scratch, scrape, bite), whether it breaks the skin or not
  • serious injury is sustained that does not require first aid or medical care outside First Circle
  • as-needed non-prescription medication is administered

Administration will collaborate with staff and notify parents about:

  • injury requiring medical care outside FC
  • any communicable disease or condition in the program
  • staff changes
  • a child’s developmental, physical, social, or emotional concerns [see CURRICULUM: Referral]
  • any change in program policy or procedures
  • before introducing pets into the program
  • before using any herbicides or pesticides
  • any allegation of abuse or neglect involving children

Challenging communication

Every person has a different skill set and way of communicating. It takes time and effort to understand how to communicate best.

Every program has parents who present communication challenges: the difficult-to-please parents, the parents who communicate poorly or not at all, the negative or anxious parent who needs constant support…and many other personalities. Try to remember these challenging parents only want the best for their child, and everyone has different ways of communicating their wishes.

We also have times when differences in work style, pace, and standards can get in the way of a smooth relationship with our co-workers. Here are a few guidelines to help you use communication to build relationships:

listen

Make a point of being approachable and LISTEN. Make eye contact. Reflect what you hear so that the other person knows you are listening. Many times, that is all they need. After they have a chance to speak their mind, people often find the problem solved.

advice

Avoid offering advice unless asked. If you are asked, keep the advice on the level of suggestions. Try to offer more than one.  Back up your suggestions with examples and important considerations, such as lifestyles and family dynamics. Keep the tone and spirit of communication positive.

acknowledge

If you feel you are at fault to any degree, acknowledge it. Apologize. Communicate what you will do to ensure it does not happen again (upsetting incidents can be anything from an untied shoe to forgotten medication to a snarky-sounding comment you made which was not what you meant). Growth is a core value at First Circle, and we cannot grow without being able to acknowledge our mistakes, or, as we view them, our learning opportunities.

perception

Perceptions matter. You may not have meant to walk away from a parent when they were speaking to you or to interrupt a coworker, but that person’s perception may leave them feeling slighted.

prepare

Organize and clarify ideas in your mind before you communicate. Choose 3 main points and focus on those. That way, if the topic wanders off course, you can return to one of these points without feeling flustered.

confidentiality

Maintain confidentiality. Do not join in with other teachers talking about parents or co-workers in a negative light. Set an example.

Resolving conflict/grievances

overview

The heart of Early Childhood Education is in partnering with families to help children learn and grow. At First Circle, you may find yourself disagreeing with a parent who feels their child’s care could be handled differently. As a program and as professionals, we want to be open to receiving feedback and suggestions as we strive to improve ourselves. When a family raises a question about their child’s care, there are several possible outcomes:

  • The educator clarifies details of the issue in question and no changes are made.
  • There is room for improvement or alternate strategies, so the family, classroom staff, and Admin work together to develop an improvement plan. The plan is implemented over time, and all parties help it evolve. If the concern arose from a First Circle staff member not following policy, the staff member immediately undertakes corrective counseling and/or training.
  • On rare occasions, we can’t successfully collaborate with a family because our philosophies differ too much. Or there may be a disconnect between the family’s goals for their child’s care, and the realities of First Circle’s program or group care in general. In these cases, our professional responsibility is to support the family’s right to find a more suitable school or childcare arrangement [see CONNECTION: Departure].

procedure with parents

If a parent communicates a serious concern or one best raised outside of the classroom, we follow this procedure:

communicate

We ask parents to communicate their concern to Admin as soon as possible.

clarify

The director clarifies the circumstances of the issue and any policies that apply. If the director determines that an educator has not followed a policy or procedure, we communicate this to the educator and the parent. We see these as opportunities for growth, not failure.

collaborate

If changes are needed, such as recommendations for follow-through at home, or program changes on site, we meet to collaborate on the best way to proceed.

investigate

If the allegations are serious, the director will investigate and/or clarify the situation with you. If warranted, the director may involve outside agencies during this part of the process.

document

All important information will be put in writing, including interactions, conversations, actions, etc. detailing who and/or what was involved, times, dates, etc. We’ll write a plan for action going forward, including support or retraining if needed.

implement

The plan should be implemented in the classroom and at home for at least 2 weeks, unless it’s clear the plan needs revision before then.

follow up

You and/or the director should check in with the family to ensure the plan is working for all parties and to determine whether it should continue, be deemed complete, or be revisited.

We advise parents that if they feel we are not following the state guidelines, they may contact EEC anytime. In the unlikely event a parent contacts EEC with a complaint, EEC will investigate the issue or concern directly with us.

procedure with staff

We encourage you to speak openly with Administration about any issue, question, or concern. We understand work-related problems can arise and do our best to notice that a potential issue may exist. We also encourage you to try to reconcile simple or personal issues. If this is not possible, our grievance procedure is as follows:

communicate

If you feel that a coworker, regardless of title, is not adhering to their job description, including requirements for communication and professionalism, we ask you to schedule a time to meet with that person and share your concerns.

be specific

Come prepared to the meeting with specific information and details about your concern. State specifically which area of the job description you believe is being neglected. Often simple issues or misunderstandings can be resolved through discussion, or a mutual understanding can be reached. If you resolve the issue, please let the director know of the issue and how it was handled.

ask for help

If you do not feel comfortable discussing your concern with the individual involved, ask to meet with the HR manager or the person’s direct supervisor. A meeting time will be scheduled with you. Come prepared to provide information and details about your concern, stating specifically which area of the job description you think is being neglected. Next steps are:

  • If the meeting results in corrective action for the other staff member, it will be handled with the staff member and you’ll be notified, or a second meeting will be scheduled with the staff member involved.
  • If the issue cannot be resolved in that meeting, an inquiry into the matter will ensue, including outside agencies if appropriate.
  • When all the facts are known or the inquiry has gone as far as possible, a second meeting will be scheduled, involving all appropriate parties. They will discuss the results of the inquiry and any other pertinent information with the goal of resolution, mutual understanding, or compromise.
  • If the meeting results in corrective action for the other staff member, it will be handled with the staff member and you will be notified.
  • Follow-up on the grievance will occur as appropriate. We will implement all aspects of agreements or decisions made and expect you will do the same.

Whistleblower policy

If you observe what you believe to be wrongful conduct, you have the right and the duty to report it without fear of retaliation.

DEFINITION OF WRONGFUL CONDUCT

Wrongful conduct includes serious improper actions that could impact First Circle’s integrity and operation. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Violations of federal, state, or municipal law
  • Sexual harassment or other forms of unlawful harassment or discrimination
  • Use of First Circle resources, funds, or property for personal gain
  • Using, or permitting sale, solicitation or use of narcotics or other illegal drugs, or prescription medication without a prescription, while on the job
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while at work
  • Inappropriate language or communication between families, children, or staff

REPORTING WRONGFUL CONDUCT

If you observe or are told something you believe to be wrongful conduct, you are responsible for reporting it to the director, executive director, or HR manager.  If the wrongful conduct implicates the HR manager, you should report it to the executive director. If the wrongful conduct implicates the director, or if you are not satisfied with the director’s response, you may report the issue to the HR manager or executive director or president. Your report should include specific details about the incident(s) with dates and names of individual(s) involved.

GOOD FAITH

Acting in good faith means that you have reasonable grounds for believing what you’ve witnessed or heard indicates wrongful conduct. Any allegations that prove to have been knowingly false will be viewed as a serious offense and could result in disciplinary action.

NO RETALIATION

No one who reports wrongful conduct in good faith will suffer retaliation (meaning termination, discipline, refusal to hire or promote) by any First Circle administrator. Any employee, including the director, who retaliates against you for reporting in good faith suspected wrongful conduct is subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment. If you feel you have been subject to retaliation, please report the specific retaliation in writing to the person you submitted your initial report to for follow-up.

CONFIDENTIALITY

Any reports of suspected wrongful conduct can be made in confidence without fear of retaliation. Reports of suspected wrongful conduct will be kept confidential, except to the extent necessary to conduct a complete and fair investigation.

HANDLING OF REPORTED WRONGFUL CONDUCT

The person (director, HR manager or executive director) to whom you submitted the report of suspected wrongful conduct will acknowledge receipt of your report within 5 business days. All reports will be promptly investigated. Appropriate corrective action will be taken if warranted.  You will be informed when the investigation has concluded. However, the extent to which you are informed of the findings may be subject to the advice of First Circle’s legal counsel.

Harassment

Overview

First Circle’s goal is to have a fair and respectful workplace free of harassment or discrimination. Employee harassment/discrimination is unlawful and will not be tolerated.

Employees are protected from harassment based on their race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender identity or expression, age, handicap (disability), participation in discrimination complaint-related activities, sexual orientation, genetics, or active military or veteran status.

First Circle takes allegations of harassment seriously. We will respond promptly to complaints. We will not retaliate or tolerate any retaliation against an individual who has complained about harassment/discrimination or who has cooperated with an investigation of a complaint.

Notification

If at any time during your employment at First Circle you feel you are being discriminated against or harassed by a staff member or a parent, let the director or the HR manager know immediately. We will respond promptly and confidentially to complaints. If it is determined that inappropriate conduct has occurred, we will act promptly to eliminate the conduct and impose any corrective action necessary. We reserve the right to take action for workplace conduct that we deem unacceptable, regardless of whether that conduct satisfies the definition of harassment or discrimination.

______________

 
CURRICULUM

Child development

Child development is the process by which children become able to handle more complex levels of moving, thinking, feeling, and relating to others. It is the cornerstone of our program.

At First Circle, we take care of children’s physical needs (food, bathroom, rest, and safety), while supporting each child’s development and learning. Understanding child development is an important part of teaching young children.

developmentally appropriate practice

Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is a child-centered approach to teaching and learning that incorporates children’s developmental needs, interests, and abilities. As educators, we use DAP to support children’s holistic development and help them achieve their full potential. To implement DAP in the classroom, we:

INDIVIDUALIZE INSTRUCTION

Think about children as individuals and how they progress and grow at their own pace.

  • Understand child development for your class’s age range and when to get additional help or support for a child outside developmental norms.
  • Celebrate developmental strengths.
  • Work on areas of challenge or need for a particular child.
  • Match activities and lessons to a child’s interest and developmental needs. This helps children engage more with the learning materials and achieve better learning outcomes.

ENCOURAGE ACTIVE LEARNING

Allow children to construct their own knowledge and develop critical thinking skills. Active learning can include hands-on experiences, problem-solving activities, and open-ended questioning.

BUILD SELF-ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE

Acknowledge the unique abilities and strengths of each child, which can build self-esteem and confidence. Children who are confident are more likely to participate in learning activities and take risks in their learning.

SUPPORT SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Facilitate play activities that encourage children to work together and practice communication and problem-solving skills. Young children are developing their social skills and need opportunities to interact with their peers. Practice through play can lead to better social skills, improved emotional regulation, and increased empathy and understanding of others.

PROMOTE INCLUSIVITY AND EQUITY

Take time to get to know and understand the children you work with through their culture, community, and family. This promotes inclusivity and equity by creating a classroom environment that values and respects all children and their backgrounds.

FOSTER CREATIVITY

Provide open-ended activities that allow children to express themselves through art, music, and movement. Young children are naturally curious and creative.

temperament

Each child is born with a biologically based temperament. Their individual temperament guides their approach to people, experiences, objects, and events. It remains fairly constant over time (although the intensity of traits can be affected by experience).

By understanding children’s temperament, caregivers can help them express their preferences, desires, and feelings appropriately.

When we consider a child’s temperament, we look at where they stand on the continuum of 9 separate areas.

activity level

quiet ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ active

How much does the child need to move around? Can they sit still without wiggling?

 

biological rhythms

predictable ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ irregular

How regular are the child’s eating times, sleeping times, and bowel movements?

 

adaptability

adapts quickly ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ adapts slowly

How quickly does the child adapt to changes in schedule, routine, new foods, new places?

 

approach withdrawal

approach ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ withdraw

How does the child usually respond to new people, new foods, new toys, new activities?

 

physical sensitivity

not sensitive ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ very sensitive

How sensitive is the child to noise or light level, temperature, touch, or movement?

 

intensity of reaction

mild reaction ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ intense reaction

How intense are the child’s reactions, positive or negative?

 

distractability

not distractible ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ very distractible

Is the child easily distracted, or is there intensity of focus that prevents them from being able to switch gears?

 

mood

positive mood ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ negative mood

How much of the time does the child have a positive mood versus negative mood?

 

persistence

long attention ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ short attention

How long will the child persist with a difficult activity?

 

In general, a child will show certain behaviors for each trait. For example, one infant may be extremely active and have a need to move continually, while another may be happy to move slowly around the environment watching things. One toddler may try something over and over until they experience success, while another may try something once and give up if it does not work.

These 9 temperamental traits often appear grouped in 3 temperament types:

    • Easy or flexible: Children with this temperament tend to be easy-going, happy, calm, and adaptable. They have regular sleeping and eating habits.
    • Active or feisty: Children with this temperament may be active, fussy, and have intense positive or negative reactions. They may have irregular sleeping and eating habits.
    • Slow to warm or cautious: Children with this temperament may be hesitant or fearful in unfamiliar situations, move slowly, and prefer to watch a situation for a while before joining in. They may struggle with changes, such as having a new caregiver or a shift in the daily schedule.

Some children have characteristics of more than one temperamental type. Understanding how an individual child expresses or experiences the 9 temperament traits will give you a deeper understanding of their unique needs and behavior than a specific style might.

classroom placement

age range

We partner with families to make the right classroom placement. Upon enrollment, infants and toddlers are placed based on their age and their developmental readiness. We discuss the child’s emotional, cognitive, and physical development with the family, make observations while the child is visiting for the first time, and gather information to determine if there are any additional needs or concerns that would influence classroom placement.

In Lexington and Framingham, children are enrolled in the preschool and pre-kindergarten classrooms according to kindergarten cut-off dates used by the local school systems in the area. In Stoughton, with 2 preschool classrooms instead of 3, we split the ages down the middle. Each educator should know the established age range for their classroom:

  • Infant 1: 1-10 months
  • Infant 2: 8-18 months
  • Toddler 1: 15-24 months
  • Toddler 2/3: 22-33 months
  • Preschool 1: 33-47 months (Exception – Stoughton PS1: 33-52 months)
  • Preschool 2: 47-59 months
  • PreK: 59-71 months (Exception – Stoughton PreK: 53-71 months)

exceptions

Per EEC regulations, children may be assigned to age groups outside their own based on a review of the child’s most recent progress report or a narrative from the child’s parent addressing their abilities in the areas of mobility, fine and gross motor control, communication, social interactions, and cognition. First Circle makes these decisions on a case-by-case basis, after considering the needs of the child and the classroom.

developmental goal

To enable children to derive maximum benefit from their time at First Circle, our curriculum is based on 52 developmentally appropriate learning objectives that include predictors of school success and are based on school readiness standards. The objectives align with state early learning guidelines. The full list of learning objectives with examples can be found in Learning Objectives with Examples, in the curriculum binder.

transition between classrooms

We have transition windows for infants and toddlers every other month. We transition children based on developmental criteria, age considerations, and family preferences, in that order. The transition process is routine to ensure the children are treated equally, but individualized and flexible to accommodate each child’s needs.

transition windows

We evaluate children throughout the year to assess their readiness for transition. We strive to transition children with their peers but are conscious that children develop at different rates. Every other month we evaluate children approaching the chronological age of the next classroom for developmental readiness [see Transition Process below].

infants/toddlers

For infants and toddlers, educators should use the readiness milestones to guide their decisions about transition into the next classroom. Those who are developmentally ready transition in small groups.

preschool

Children in the 3 preschool classrooms (except Stoughton) transition annually as a group in September and spend a full year in the Pre-K classroom, preparing them for the elementary school structure.

kindergarten

Entering kindergarten is one of the biggest transitions in a young child’s life. During the year in pre-kindergarten, teachers prepare children for this transition through the curriculum, social interactions, and daily routines. The pre-kindergarten curriculum is based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks to help every child achieve kindergarten readiness.

Some school systems send parents forms for their child’s pre-k teachers to complete. In addition to providing a reflection of the child’s readiness skills, they also give an opportunity to share information about personality, learning style, social development, individual personality, and temperament.

transition process

Assessing Children’s Readiness

About 6 weeks before the official transition date, each classroom receives a “Transition Notification Form” checklist with the names and birthdates of children old enough to transition. The transition decision is based on whether:

  • a child is developmentally ready and has met or is beginning to meet transition milestones
  • the child meets the chronological age range for the classroom
  • the family feels transition would be beneficial for the child at this time

 

Upon receipt of the recommendation form, you should:

  • Make sure any children you think may be ready are on the list OR add their names to the list.
  • Mention transition informally to the family and gauge how they feel about it. Find out any family circumstances that may impact the transitioning of specific children, such as new siblings, impending move, death in the family, etc.
  • Based on family information, the child’s progress report, and your knowledge of the expectations in the next classroom, rate each child’s readiness as instructed on the form.
  • Return the completed recommendation form to the director.
Partnering with Families

Transition can be a sensitive issue for parents. Communication with each family is key to success. Those moving to a new classroom are unsure of what they will find there, and those not transitioning sometimes feel their child has been “left out.”  Learn about families’ excitement or concerns ahead of time. Teaching teams in both classrooms are responsible for making families feel like partners in the process.

In preparing for transitions:

  • Well before the next transition window, discuss children who could potentially transition with the director.
  • Well before the next transition window, discuss the transition process with families. Talk about how transition is a normal process of aging and development, tell them about the transition “windows,” and share specific information about the readiness signs their child is showing.
  • Seek out the families that will potentially transition into your classroom and share some of your observations about their child.
  • Link families who have children transitioning together so they know their peer group is moving together.
  • Remind families that age ranges in each classroom benefit their child because they are developmentally appropriate, allowing each child to explore the skills they have and the challenges they are facing. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW THE RANGES.
  • Let families know that you will be watching the transition process carefully. Some children will need to “visit” the classroom to get used to it, some will transition comfortably. We will pace transition based on their child’s needs and will keep them informed of how their child is doing.
  • Refer any families with concerns about the transition process to Administration.
  • Inform families ahead of time about the way visits work, when and how long their child will visit the next classroom. Follow families’ cues as to what is appropriate—the child may be ready to spend a full day in the next classroom, but the family may need time to build up—be flexible.

 

To assist families who do not want their child to transition from your room, be a good listener and hear their concerns. Focus your discussions on developmental cues and attempt to compromise with the family if necessary. Assure them we will assess their child’s adaptation and involve them in each step. Facilitate opportunities for the family to see their child in action in the classroom. Introduce the family to the teachers in the next classroom and encourage them to observe that group.

When a child transitions, both the new and old classroom teachers should reassure parents they’ll be watching the transition process carefully and supporting their child.

Collaboration among educators

Once we decide a child is ready to transition, we give parents a transition packet outlining the process with important dates and steps. They will be asked to authorize the exchange of information between educators in the 2 classrooms. After authorization, the 2 classrooms should meet to discuss all the transitioning children. This meeting should include:

  • review of All About Me forms
  • review of any behavior plans, etc.
  • plan for assisting each child with the transition consistent with the child’s ability to understand
  • copies of emergency information forms to the new classroom
  • Special Care Plans, including all attached Plans

Transition visits

We send parents of transitioning children information that outlines the process about a month before the scheduled transition date.

Children will visit the new classroom in increasing amounts over the 2 weeks before the transition. Some children may need more visits. Families may have scheduled absences during the visitation weeks, so please plan accordingly. Remember that available space in a classroom on any given day may depend upon the enrollment and staffing in several other classrooms.

Classroom teams are responsible for collaborating on how visits should happen. We will try to schedule extra staff during these times, if possible, but please be flexible and confirm with your coworkers that the plan for the day works for all. Sign the children in and out of your classroom’s attendance sheet for each visit. Write the name in if necessary. Whatever a child’s transition schedule, educators should inform parents daily about how the visits are going and answer any questions they have.

transition open houses

Classrooms should plan a Transition Open House for transitioning families before the first week of classroom visits. At the Open House, parents can meet the teachers and assistants in the next classroom, learn about the curriculum and activities there, and receive materials to assist them and their child during the process. This also offers a chance to reflect on the visits that have happened so far, discuss strategies, and get a sense of how families are feeling.

Staff attendance at the Transition Open House is crucial to the transition’s success. Here are guidelines for materials and information you should provide to parents at the Open House:

  • Samples of artwork, creative projects, etc.
  • Location of each child’s belongings (food/lunchbox, diapers, nap items)
  • The daily schedule (activities and choices)
  • An idea of what their child will be experiencing in the classroom, how you interact with them, and what things may be different (expectations, daily schedule, classroom guidelines, etc.)
  • Encouragement to get to know other families transitioning into the classroom at the same time
  • Something about you to help families get to know you better

assessment

Assessment is the process of observing and documenting children’s development and learning over time. We know each child is an individual, with specific interests, skills, strengths, and their own developmental timetable. To measure and report children’s progress, we assess them to find out what they know and can do at any given point.

Educators evaluate each child’s strengths and needs to help them be successful. We do not test children. We observe what children do and say as they participate in activities in the classroom, and document those observations.

Assessment is closely linked to our learning objectives and curriculum. When assessing children, observe and nurture the skills and knowledge we want them to acquire in our program. Adjust the curriculum and instruction to meet each child’s learning needs.

progress reports

Throughout the year, parents receive regular feedback about their children’s learning and developmental progress. We are required by EEC to evaluate each toddler and preschool child every 6 months. For infants and diverse learners, we evaluate every 3 months. As part of the evaluation process, parents are invited to schedule a parent-teacher conference if they wish.

The daily sheets, conversations, and progress reports we use to communicate with families are records of their child’s growth and development. Often a child has issues that need to be addressed. More often, we are reporting progress.

Progress reports should not be used to vent or complain about a child’s annoying habits, but as a chance to outline the ways you support the child to learn appropriate interactions.

Communicate in a supportive manner to families. The following guidelines can help you decide the right words to use.

  • Begin and end with a positive—put yourself in the family’s shoes.
  • Follow areas of improvement with a positive: “Jason struggles to remember the rules for safety. We continue to offer him gentle reminders.”
  • Instead of describing a child as “cute” or “adorable,” describe a specific asset: “We never get tired of seeing Oliver’s smile!”
  • Describe concerns in behavioral terms and offer suggestions or choices rather than advice. “We continue to monitor Lucy’s speech development. Keep reading to her at home and using language. If she hasn’t developed more words in the next few months, we can discuss options for referral.”
  • Keep it simple and respectful of each family’s individual needs and cultural differences.
  • Tell the parent what you do to support the child: “We still notice that Jose is biting when he is frustrated. We try to intervene before he becomes overwhelmed, and model ways to cope with the situation. Jose learns new ways to communicate his feelings every day!”

Sometimes you have already addressed an issue with a parent. Instead of rehashing, say, “Let’s meet again to discuss the progress Jose is making with his biting.”

HAS MASTERED
ACCEPTABLE PHRASES
UNDESIRABLE PHRASES
  • demonstrates strong verbal skills
  • gets along well with others
  • likes to learn
  • enjoys new experiences
  • follows the rules
  • expresses his/her feelings
  • likes to take the lead
  • finds new ways to solve problems
  • contributes to discussions
  • helps
  • is outgoing
  • is creative
  • is blossoming
  • is enjoying…
  • will ask for help
  • has strong motor skills
  • is developing…skills
  • has adjusted well to
  • likes to be busy with….
  • perfect
  • cute
  • well-behaved
  • obedient
  • adorable
  • mild-mannered
  • smart
  • intelligent
  • good
  • delightful
  • active
WORKING ON
ACCEPTABLE PHRASES
UNDESIRABLE PHRASES
  • can be sad when…
  • sometimes resists help with…
  • can find it difficult to…
  • has been working on/is still working on…
  • is still adjusting to…
  • needs encouragement to…
  • we encourage him/her to…
  • we remind her/him to…
  • sometimes struggles to…
  • moody
  • destructive
  • bad
  • aggressive
  • lazy
  • rude
  • disruptive
  • manipulative
  • pushy
  • never…
  • does not…well
  • can’t
  • won’t
  • bothers
  • antagonizes
  • headstrong
  • whiny
  • stubborn
  • possessive
  • fresh
  • nosy

PORTFOLIOS/JOURNALS

Upon enrollment at First Circle, the assigned primary caregiver should start a journal for each infant and toddler, and a portfolio for each preschooler.

The primary caregiver contributes to each child’s journal or portfolio on a regular basis (at least monthly). Include information such as photos, anecdotes, and samples of children’s work. Please encourage infant and toddler families to bring the journal home and share information with us about their child’s home life. The information they provide can be used to have an ongoing conversation about the child’s learning experience. Although portfolios for preschool children do not go back and forth between home and school, you should plan and implement opportunities for parents to view and comment.

Each journal follows the child through the program from classroom to classroom until they reach preschool when it goes home for good. Portfolios are created in each Preschool classroom and go home at year end or when the child leaves the program. Children should have opportunities to contribute to their portfolio.

PARENT/TEACHER CONFERENCES

Parent-teacher conferences are scheduled as needed for infants and toddlers. Each preschool classroom chooses a specific date to offer short, 10-minute conferences that parents can sign up for. If requested or deemed necessary, the director may be included.

Parent/teacher meeting request forms are always available on our website. If a family indicates interest in meeting, please meet with the director beforehand to discuss the content of the meeting and determine whether Administration should be present. The director should schedule the conference so that it is convenient to everyone’s schedule.

diverse learners

Diverse Learners are children who, because of gender, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, differing ability levels, learning styles or disabilities, may have needs that require varied instructional strategies to help them learn.

MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES

The theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University. The theory suggests that traditional ways of understanding intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, are too limited. Dr. Gardner said our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence, but there are 6 other types of intelligences that get less attention in society but are equally important. The 8 types of intelligences are:

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Our culture places a high value on people with strong language and logic skills. However, the theory of multiple intelligences helps us develop children who show gifts in the other intelligences: the future artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, mechanics, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live.

Being aware of multiple intelligences helps teachers present information multiple ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role play, multimedia, field trips, inner reflection, and much more. It helps all learners succeed.

DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS

Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers develop at different rates and patterns. Most children acquire skills during predictable time periods called developmental milestones. When children have not reached milestones by the expected time period, it can be due to a developmental delay or a developmental difference. Developmental delays and differences can occur in any of 5 areas (cognitive, social, emotional, speech and language, fine and gross motor).

Types

Types of developmental delays/differences include:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Behavioral/emotional disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Autism spectrum
  • Gifted and talented
  • Speech and language disorders
  • Blindness and low vision
  • Hard of hearing or hearing impaired
  • Kinesthetic learners
Early identification/treatment

Early identification seeks to determine which children have developmental issues that may delay learning or place them at risk.

For some children, developmental differences and delays are temporary; for others, they may persist, making the child’s referral for evaluation important for their success in school. Currently, there are no clear ways to predict whether developmental delays or differences that appear in the early years may persist.

Research has shown earlier assistance to address a developmental delay or difference helps the child progress faster, and face fewer challenges to learning. Therefore, when a toddler or preschooler demonstrates early developmental difficulties, we don’t know if they may at risk for a learning disability or other developmental issue at an older age, but adopting a wait-and-see approach or hoping that the child will grow out of their problems is not in the child’s best interest.

Signs of developmental delays/differences [see Appendix]

When to intervene

Educators’ jobs are not to diagnose, but it is important that teachers be aware and act on signs of developmental delays/differences. You should take action if:

  • The child’s frustration and anxiety are interfering with learning.
  • The child exhibits challenging behavior. [see CHILD GUIDANCE section]
  • The child’s basic skills are delayed and they are not meeting developmental milestones.
Getting a child help

The journey from identifying a child with developmental/behavioral concerns to implementing a treatment plan has multiple steps:

Step 1: Implement principles of universal design. [see Learning Environment section]

Step 2: Implement individualized accommodations and keep notes.

Step 3: Meet with family. Refer child for assessment if appropriate.

Step 4: Create a plan for support with family.

Steps occur as needed.

Steps 1 and 2: Universal Design and Individualized Interventions

All classrooms have principles of universal design and accommodations built into the classroom. Step 1 is in place.

If the teaching team has concerns about a child’s development, or if the child is experiencing social, physical, or behavioral difficulties in the classroom or in informal interactions with peers, the teaching team should:

  • Consult with director and previous classroom’s teaching team.
  • Try individualized interventions, including accommodations to the curriculum or classroom:

INDIVIDUALIZED INTERVENTIONS

IF A CHILD HAS DIFFICULTY…
Try This…
  • Paying attention
  • Give explanations in small, distinct steps
  • Provide visual backup to oral instructions (schedules)
  • Have child repeat directions
  • Look directly at child
  • Place hand on child’s shoulder
  • Ask for eye contact before giving instructions
  • Following directions
  • Use fewer words
  • Provide examples
  • Repeat
  • Have child repeat
  • Provide checklist in pictures
  • Use auditory and visual direction
  • Expressing themselves
  • Ask questions requiring short answers
  • Provide prompts/cues
  • Learning by listening
  • Provide visuals
  • Give explanations in small, distinct steps
  • Remove extra words
  • Provide schedules/routines in pictures
  • Get input about the child from the parent.
  • Review the child’s record, and complete an observation report with anecdotal notes, behavior logs, and examples of tried accommodations/strategies/interventions over 2 to 4 weeks. [see Behavior Support Plan]
  • After keeping the observation log for a sufficient time, if adequate progress has not occurred, the teaching team should meet with the director to review attempted interventions and develop a Classroom Accommodations Plan, including:
    • Individual interventions, including accommodations to curriculum, classroom, or schedule or behavioral interventions or strategies.
    • Engaging an outside consultant to observe and make recommendations.
  • If the individual interventions and strategies succeed, and the child is on target for developmental milestones and/or challenging behavior decreases, the teaching team should continue to implement the strategies and monitor results.
Step 3: Meet with family. Refer the child for assessment if appropriate

If individualized interventions and strategies fail, and the child continues to show delays and/or differences, the teaching team and director should meet with the parents to recommend further evaluation or special services and develop a referral plan. In the meeting, the parents should receive a written summary of the reason for referral, a summary of First Circle’s observations related to the referral, and any efforts the school has made to accommodate the child’s needs.

Communicating with Parents

Many families are open to seeking assessment and services by qualified professionals if warranted. However, some families may have difficulty hearing the information. They may deny a problem exists because they fear or feel threatened by its possibilities and consequences.

Family cooperation is crucial to helping a child address a developmental issue. Teachers must recognize and be sensitive to family responses, including cultural differences in viewing and addressing a disability, and provide appropriate support.

Our curriculum

overview

Curriculum is the heart of any learning program. Curriculum is comprised of all the care and learning that happens in our program. It includes all the experiences, activities, and interactions that foster children’s learning and development. The nurturing relationships between teachers and children, the learning environment, daily schedule, children’s skills assessments, and our partnership with families are part of curriculum too.

Our curriculum’s mission is to help children develop the critical skills, knowledge, habits, attitudes, and character traits they need to thrive in school and life.

The goals of our curriculum are to support children in:

  • successfully meeting all developmental objectives
  • learning real-world content
  • developing their imagination, curiosity, self-esteem, and a love for learning
  • building resilience
  • communicating well
  • becoming compassionate and supportive friends, family members, team players, and responsible citizens of the world around them

how children learn

We’ve designed our curriculum to incorporate the core elements of early childhood education that help young children learn best.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY

We believe children learn best through play and that childhood should not be rushed. Children need time and space to develop in their unique way at their own pace. Because play enhances all areas of development in young children, we base our curriculum on play-centered learning.

Playful learning engages and motivates children in ways that enhance development and life-long learning. Studies of learning through play show that more than direct-instruction methods, play teaches children to be more imaginative and better problem-solvers. Without adequate opportunities for play, children burn out from academic pressure.

Making learning fun is our prime objective. In our classrooms, we encourage all types of play (for example, exploratory, sociodramatic, sensory, construction, imaginative, physical), and, by asking questions or offering suggestions, teachers should take advantage of teachable moments during play. Educators should give children opportunities for extended, self-directed, uninterrupted play, both indoors and outside, and guide and support each child’s learning.

BALANCED LEARNING ACTIVITIES

Children need balance. Children learn in different ways, so learning activities throughout our program should be a balance of structure and flexibility; individual, small-group, and large-group experiences; child-initiated and teacher-led; quiet and active periods; and multi-sensory approaches. Each program should encourage children to build upon learned skills and previous experiences, with opportunities to reflect, revisit, and connect.

Activities should be intentional and use the learning centers. Each classroom must implement curriculum in an age-appropriate manner using these standard elements:

  •  sensory-based activities
  •  language development
  • large and small motor skill development
  • creative movement
  • music and singing
  • art activities
  • games
  • dramatic play
  • cooking
  • nature
  • pre-math activities
  • pre-reading activities
  • story and circle time
  • science activities

 

Teachers should ensure that daily activities and teaching goals are engaging, flexible, and accessible for all children. When considering learning activities, teachers should:

  • use multiple approaches to tap into children’s interests
  • work to engage all types of learners
  • consider how long children are sitting
  • achieve a balance of teacher-led and child-directed activities
  • encourage involvement and discussion
  • consider children’s prior experience with the information and whether their knowledge provides enough foundation to learn new information
  • offer feedback and encouragement
  • repeat activities throughout the week to reinforce learning and help skill mastery

TRUSTING RELATIONSHIPS

Teaching children to trust is the root of every good relationship. Teacher-child relationships influence young children’s social and emotional development. Teacher interaction helps children build positive and emotionally secure relationships with adults.

The quality of teacher-child relationships predicts children’s competence, persistence, enthusiasm for learning, and academic success. Educators should respect children, listen to them, get down to their level, and calmly implement clear and consistent limits. Offer lots of love, support, hugs, and individual attention.

Specifically, educators should:

  • Communicate in a positive and respectful manner. Use clear, age-appropriate language with children, encourage them, and build their self-esteem.
  • Respond. Address children’s needs and interests. Provide individualized support and attention. Look for children’s cues. Respond promptly and appropriately to their requests.
  • Support children emotionally. Children need to feel safe and secure. Provide emotional support, helping children to develop a sense of trust, attachment, and self-regulation. Comfort and reassure them when they are upset. Validate their feelings and experiences.
  • Provide positive feedback. Praise and encourage children’s positive behavior and achievements. This reinforces good behavior and helps build children’s self-esteem, motivation, and confidence.
  • Be affectionate. Children who experience warm, caring, and affectionate interactions with their educators are more likely to feel safe, secure, and valued, which can lead to greater confidence and self-esteem.
  • Build positive relationships. Get to know children as individuals, taking time to understand their interests, strengths, and needs.
  • Listen actively. Listen attentively to children, validate their feelings, and respond in a way that shows you have heard them.
  • Provide opportunities for play. Offer ample opportunities for play-based learning activities. Actively participate in play with children, facilitating their learning and exploration.
  • Encourage self-expression. Provide a safe and supportive environment where children can express themselves freely. Encourage expression through art, music, and movement.
  • Foster a sense of belonging. Creating a welcoming environment in the classroom where children feel valued and included.

 

POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

Children need a safe and stimulating learning environment with physical space, learning centers, equipment, materials, and outdoor learning to stimulate children’s bodies, minds, and imaginations. Classrooms should:

  • be safe, inviting, and stimulating
  • include well-rounded and engaging learning centers and open-ended materials
  • foster children’s growth in language, large and small muscles, creativity, imagination, self-help skills, and cultural awareness

Each classroom’s schedule and routines reinforce learning with enough structure to provide children security and predictability and the flexibility to meet children’s needs. [See LEARNING ENVIRONMENT]

HANDS-ON EXPLORATION

Active learning takes advantage of children’s natural motivations, abilities, and interests, so hands-on exploration is key to our curriculum. Young children are natural, enthusiastic learners. They discover the world through their senses, exploring materials, moving throughout the classroom, and interacting with one another. They like to ask questions, investigate, explore, examine, and experiment.

Children understand concepts and develop skills through hands-on experiences. Projects allow them to study a topic in depth and collaborate with their peers. Working on projects with other children involves teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking, all goals of 21st-century learning.

FAMILY ENGAGEMENT

Parent involvement enhances children’s achievement, attitudes, and behavior, and helps them feel more comfortable in new settings. We respect and support each family’s background, culture, values, and traditions, and encourage feedback, input, and open communication. We welcome parents as experts on their children, and as partners in setting goals to best serve their child’s needs, strengths, and interests. We offer an open-door policy, allowing parents to visit and participate in our programs any time.

Parents are encouraged to lend their knowledge and talents to the classroom. Involvement can range from contributions that family members can make from home to volunteering in the classroom. Parents can get involved in their child’s education by:

Sharing a talent or job

Family members can share their knowledge and experience with the children. Examples include playing an instrument, teaching children about carpentry, or demonstrating a skill.

Sharing their culture

Families who share aspects of their cultural heritage enrich the program greatly. They could cook a traditional dish with the children, teach them dances, read a traditional story, or tell stories of their childhood.

Making things for the program

Parents can do projects at home that benefit the children. They can collect materials for the art area (like fabric scraps, ribbons, yarn, paper towel cardboard), objects for sorting and classifying (like buttons, shells, keys, or bottle caps), or props for dramatic play. Willing parents can make things for the classroom such as doll clothes, curtains, or record stories for the library area.

what children learn

AREAS OF LEARNING

ME + YOU: learning about myself and those around me
  • managing and expressing feelings, developing empathy
  • developing positive self-esteem, self-identity, and self-management
  • building character and learning emotional intelligence
  • making friends and building positive relationships
  • beginning awareness of history, geography, economics, civics, diversity, and culture
BRAIN POWER: learning how to think about the world around me
  • developing knowledge in STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math
  • fostering inquiry, problem-solving, critical thinking, and reasoning skills
  • improving memory and processing skills
WORD SMART: learning how to communicate in the world around me
  • understanding and using language
  • learning to communicate thoughts, needs, and experiences
  • developing emergent reading and writing ability
HEALTHY ME: developing a healthy body and learning to take care of myself
  • developing large and small motor skills
  • understanding physical health
  • learning safety practices
  • learning how to make healthy choices in daily activities
IMAGINE THAT: learning to express myself creatively
  • understanding and appreciating visual art and artists
  • exploring materials and media
  • exploring music with voices and instruments
  • playing dramatically
  • exploring dance and creative movement

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Connecting My World™ incorporates developmentally appropriate goals and learning objectives of nationally recognized curricula, as well as our own research-based objectives that align with Massachusetts state guidelines and frameworks.

Learning objectives are broken into the 5 areas of learning and outline a clear set of milestones and skills children reach from infants to kindergarten. This allows teachers to accurately assess children’s abilities to report progress to parents and to develop experiences and activities to meet each child’s needs.

Learning objectives are divided into several sub-objectives for infants through pre-kindergarten [see Learning Objectives with Examples for a full description].

ME + YOU: learning about myself and those around me

Teach prosocial skills

Prosocial skills help or benefit another individual or the group. The 3 main prosocial behaviors for young children are helping, sharing, and cooperating.. Here are ways to help children learn prosocial behavior, which will help prevent challenging behavior:

  • Be affectionate. You can be affectionate toward children by smiling, hugging, carrying, sitting with, and speaking with children at their eye level throughout the day. You should be available and responsive to children.
  • Promote empathy. Guide children to treat each other with respect, and to care for each other. Encourage them to share experiences, ideas, and feelings. Listen to them with attention, interest, and respect. Include children in conversations. Describe your actions, experiences, and events – then listen and respond to children’s suggestions.
  • Encourage independence. Encourage children’s independence and responsibility through routine activities like cleaning up the classroom, taking care of their own belongings, and obtaining and caring for materials. Give children choices; teach them how to choose activities and make decisions. Encourage them to discuss and resolve conflicts on their own or with an educator’s assistance when necessary.
  • Give children names for feelings and help them “use their words.” Empathize with and validate children’s feelings. Be attentive even when you don’t understand what the child is trying to say. Give children the vocabulary to express and name their feelings. Help them to solve their problems verbally.
  • Promote entry into play groups. Young children frequently need encouragement to enter playgroups. Preschoolers tend to enter groups by:
    • approaching and watching with no attempt to participate
    • starting the same activity as another child and blending into the ongoing activity
    • making social greetings or invitations
    • offering informational statements or questions
    • asking to join
    • approaching and trying to control the group or get attention


Help children negotiate conflict

Teachers need to help children develop negotiating skills to handle conflicts. Children use social problem-solving skills to resolve issues in a matter that benefits them and is acceptable to others. Here are 6 suggested steps for teaching conflict resolution:

  1. Identify and define the conflict.
  2. Invite children to participate in solving the problem.
  3. Work together to generate possible solutions.
  4. Examine each idea for how well it might work.
  5. Help children with plans to implement the solution.
  6. Follow up to evaluate how well the solution worked.

Use the classroom

Prepare the classroom environment to best help children learn prosocial skills. Here are some ideas:

  • To encourage discussion and problem-solving, place exploratory activities in the science area that can be played by 2 or more children.
  • Introduce books that deal with perspective taking, feelings, and emotions in the literacy corner.
  • Include a dollhouse with people of many cultures represented in the housekeeping area.
  • Place giant floor puzzles in the manipulative area so children can work together towards a common goal.
  • Play a parachute game where cooperation is necessary during large motor times.
  • Promote helping skills and acts of kindness by setting up opportunities in the dramatic play area such as a pet hospital.
  • Set up bath time for baby dolls in the sensory table. Model caring and helping behaviors.
  • Supply paint, brushes, and a very large piece of paper for the whole class to make a mural in the art area.
  • Display children’s work in the classroom at their level.

Self-regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to internally regulate one’s own behavior rather than depending on others to enforce it. Self-control helps children learn, supports their growth and development, and is fundamental to creating social order. Children demonstrate self-control when they

  1. control their impulses, wait, and suspend action,
  2. tolerate frustration,
  3. postpone immediate gratification, and
  4. initiate a plan and carry it out over time.

As educators, our ultimate goal is to teach children to manage their own behavior. Teaching children to self-manage increases the likelihood that appropriate behavior will last. It allows teachers to spend more time teaching and less time trying to control behavior. Here are 4 suggested strategies:

  • Use direct instruction to let children know what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate. For example, restricting certain behaviors (“Five more minutes on the swing.”) or redirecting children’s behaviors (“You can bounce the ball outside.”).
  • Implement logical consequences (throwing sand means leaving the sandbox for another activity).
  • Integrate emotions, development, and experience to help children make an internal map. (“When you share the chalk with Tommy, it makes him happy.”).
  • Provide repeated opportunities for children to practice self-control and refine their behavior. Self-control evolves over time.

BRAIN POWER: learning how to think about the world around me

We want to teach children 21st century skills. Young children’s natural curiosity of how the world works makes early childhood an optimal time to introduce them to STEM- based learning (science, technology, engineering, and math). Our goal is to harness young children’s innate drive to observe, interact, discover, and explore to set them on a path to develop a love of scientific inquiry and creative problem-solving.

Educators can create a fun and engaging learning environment that helps young children develop their scientific skills and build a strong foundation for future science learning. Early childhood educators do not need a strong background in science to teach these skills effectively. They can use resources such as books, online materials, and professional development opportunities to deepen their understanding of scientific concepts and teaching strategies.

Science

Science encourages investigation, inquiry, hypothesis testing, experimentation, and reflection. Early childhood educators can teach science skills to young children in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Encourage children to ask questions and explore the world around them through hands-on activities and investigations.
  • Use materials like magnets, magnifying glasses, and microscopes to engage children in scientific investigations and exploration.
  • Provide outdoor activities, such as nature walks or garden exploration, for children to observe and investigate the natural world.
  • Use children’s books that incorporate scientific concepts, such as animals, weather, or the human body, to introduce children to scientific language and concepts.
  • Introduce simple games and puzzles, like sorting or classification games, to help children develop their cognitive and problem-solving skills.
  • Help children see science in everyday activities, like planting seeds during garden time or observing the weather, to help them develop a positive attitude toward science and its practical applications.

Technology

Technology includes understanding the purpose of and use of simple tools like magnifying glasses, and more complex ones like microscopes. Here are some effective strategies for teaching technology skills:

  • Use child-friendly technology tools, like tablets, digital cameras, and simple coding toys, to engage children in hands-on activities and exploration.
  • Teach children about responsible digital citizenship, such as online safety and respectful communication, to help them use technology in a positive and safe way.
  • Help children see technology as a tool for learning and play by incorporating it into daily routines, such as using interactive whiteboards during circle time or playing educational games during center time.

Engineering

Engineering involves building or creating things while recognizing problems and testing solutions. Here are some fun ideas for teaching technology:

  • Use materials like blocks, Legos, or cardboard to engage children in hands-on engineering projects, like building towers, bridges, or vehicles.
  • Pose design challenges to children, such as building a structure that can withstand wind or creating a vehicle that can move a certain distance, to develop their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  • Encourage children to work together on engineering projects, such as building a city or a complex machine, to develop their collaboration and communication skills.
  • Help children learn from their mistakes and experiment with different solutions through trial and error, rather than focusing on finding the “right” answer.
  • Help children see engineering in everyday activities, such as building with blocks during free play or designing a fort during outdoor play, to help them value engineering and its practical applications.

Pre-math

Pre-math deals with numbers, patterns, shapes, organizational skills, and much more.

Fun and engaging ideas for helping young children develop their pre-math skills include:

  • Use manipulatives, such as blocks, counting bears, or playdough, to teach pre-math concepts like counting, sorting, and patterns.
  • Read children’s books that incorporate math concepts, such as counting or measurement, to introduce children to mathematical language and concepts.
  • Offer simple games and puzzles, like matching or memory games, to help children develop their cognitive and problem-solving skills.
  • Sing and dance to teach mathematical concepts, like counting and shapes.
  • Provide outdoor activities, such as exploring nature or playing with water, for children to practice measuring, comparing, and classifying objects.
  • Model mathematical thinking and problem-solving skills for children and provide scaffolding support as they practice and develop their skills.
  • Help children see math in everyday activities, like measuring ingredients during snack time or counting the number of students in the classroom, to instill a positive attitude towards math and its practical applications.

IMAGINE THAT: learning to express myself creatively

Arts

Arts use creative thinking and imagination while exploring a variety of materials and methods. Here are strategies to help young children develop art skills and build a strong foundation for future artistic expression.

  • Process over product: Focus on the creative process of making art rather than the final product.
  • Art exploration: Provide a range of materials, such as paints, markers, clay, and collage materials. Encourage children to explore them freely, use different techniques, and express their ideas and feelings through art.
  • Open-ended art projects: Offer open-ended art projects that allow children to use their creativity and imagination, such as creating abstract art or making sculptures.
  • Art appreciation: Introduce children to art styles and artists, both historical and contemporary, and encourage them to appreciate and discuss what they see.
  • Collaboration: Encourage children to work together on art projects, fostering collaboration and communication skills.
  • Sensory experiences: Provide sensory experiences, such as painting with hands or exploring textures and materials, to help children engage with art in a multi-sensory way.

It’s important to note that art should be used as a tool for learning and self-expression, not a performance-based activity. Additionally, teachers should provide developmentally appropriate materials and activities to ensure children can safely and successfully engage with art experiences.

Teaching dance and creative movement promotes children’s physical development, creativity, and self-expression. Here are some tips to teach dance and creative movement effectively:

  • Begin with basic movements such as jumping, hopping, skipping, and twirling. Encourage children to explore these movements in different ways, such as moving fast or slow, high or low.
  • Incorporate music and props such as scarves, ribbons, or balls to make the dance and creative movement activities more engaging and fun. Use music with a clear beat and rhythm to help children learn to move in time with the music.
  • Create a safe and supportive environment for children to explore and experiment with movement. Encourage children to try new things. Avoid criticizing or correcting their movements.
  • Provide opportunities for guided movement. For example, ask them to move like different animals or objects or use storytelling to inspire movement.
  • Encourage children to express themselves through movement and to share their ideas and feelings with others. Let children create their own dances or movements.
  • Adjust activities to accommodate individual needs. Provide modifications or adaptations as needed to ensure all children can participate and feel successful.
  • Be enthusiastic and playful when teaching dance and creative movement. Engage with children, join in the activities yourself, and have fun!

WORD SMART: learning how to communicate in the world around me

Pre-reading

Pre-reading refers to the skills and knowledge children acquire before they learn to read and write. Pre-reading components include:

  • Oral language: Children learn to communicate and express themselves through spoken language, developing vocabulary, grammar, and social communication skills. Talk to them, read to them, sing songs, recite rhymes, encourage conversation, play games that involve language, and use correct grammar and vocabulary.
  • Phonological awareness: Children learn to recognize and manipulate the sounds of language. Engage children in activities that involve rhyming, alliteration, and segmenting words into sounds.
  • Print awareness: Children learn about the physical features of written language, Provide print-rich environments, including posters, labels, and books, and help children learn about the directionality of reading, the meaning of letters and words, and the purpose of print.
  • Letter knowledge: Children learn to recognize and name letters of the alphabet, both in isolation and in context. Provide opportunities for children to learn about letters and their sounds, such as letter matching games, alphabet books, and letter tracing.
  • Story comprehension: Children learn to understand and engage with stories, identifying characters, settings, and plot. Read aloud to children on a regular basis, exposing them to a variety of books and stories, and modeling fluent reading and expression. Help children engage with stories, ask questions, make connections, and predict what will happen next.
  • Play-based activities: Incorporate literacy activities into play-based learning, such as writing shopping lists, creating menus, or labeling items in the classroom.

Pre-writing

Pre-writing covers skills and activities that prepare children to learn to write.

  • Fine motor activities: Playing with playdough, threading beads, and using scissors help to develop the small muscles in a child’s hands that are necessary for writing.
  • Drawing and scribbling: Encourage children to draw and scribble with a variety of materials, such as crayons, markers, and chalk. This helps them develop their hand-eye coordination and their ability to control the tools they use.
  • Tracing and copying: Provide children with tracing worksheets and allow them to practice tracing shapes and lines. As they become more confident, encourage them to copy simple words and sentences.
  • Sensory writing: Children can practice writing letters and shapes in different sensory materials, such as sand, shaving cream, or finger paint. This engages their senses and makes the learning process more enjoyable.
  • Gross motor activities: Playing catch and throwing a ball help to develop a child’s hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness, which are important skills for writing.
  • Letter formation: Teach children to form letters correctly, starting with the letters in their name. Use visual aids and songs to help them remember the correct formation.
  • Games and activities: Engage children in games and activities that require them to identify and match letters and shapes. For example, a memory game using letter cards, or a scavenger hunt to find objects that match a particular shape.

HEALTHY ME: developing a healthy body and learning to take care of myself

Developing fine and gross motor skills in young children is an important aspect of early childhood education. It promotes physical development, coordination, and overall health. Here are some tips:

  • Encourage activities that involve both gross motor skills (e.g. running, jumping, throwing) and fine motor skills (e.g. building with blocks, coloring).
  • Provide sensory materials such as sand, water, and play dough, which can help develop fine motor skills through manipulation and exploration.
  • Offer open-ended art activities that involve cutting, pasting, and drawing which develop hand-eye coordination.
  • Incorporate games requiring movement like throwing and catching and puzzles that involve manipulation and sorting.
  • Use music and movement activities, such as dancing, marching, or playing instruments.
  • Provide opportunities for outdoor play, for gross motor skills development through climbing, running, and playing on playground equipment.
  • Encourage children to practice self-help skills such as dressing themselves, feeding themselves, and using utensils.
  • Provide free play time, where they can explore their environment and experiment with different movements and activities.
  • Emphasize healthy habits such as washing hands and brushing teeth, which develop fine motor skills and promote overall health.

themes

Authentic learning occurs when activities or projects offer children an opportunity to apply their knowledge or skills to real-world situations. Children engage and learn more when activities, discussions, and materials are related to their surroundings and to real life examples.

Learning activities and content should be linked with a particular theme or project. Themes are ideal for integrating learning across the curriculum, creating an environment that supports language development, helps children see connections, and enables them to make their own connections. Thematic units support creative thinking, combine the different ways that young children learn, and make learning fun!

Themes provide structure and format for learning, but there is always room to follow children’s emerging interests. Our curriculum gives the teachers the flexibility to extend or shorten the time spent on a theme based on the level of interest.

When you observe an interest emerging, work with the children to find more ways to explore the topic and deepen their understanding. Take children’s interests and combine them with educational goals to plan engaging experiences. Research shows that when children are interested, they learn more from the experience.

Thematic goals are the specific knowledge related to a topic that teachers want children to learn. Teachers and children determine specific topics to investigate. Teachers plan experiences will teach children the procedural, factual and conceptual goals of the topic.

Our curriculum is divided into four broad themes. Each theme lasts approximately 3 months. The themes start with the child at the center, then move to the larger world, involving people and places all around the globe. Specifically, it guides children in an age-appropriate manner through an exploration of:

Myself and My Family
  • the most personal aspects of the child’s experiences, those that are most prominent in their daily life
My Friends, My School and My Community
  • other families, the child’s community, and the people who live and work within it
My World
  • all aspects of the physical and natural world
My Place in The World
  • the neighbors around me in this country and others, including their customs, culture and folklore; my place in space, the universe around me and my contribution.

With each theme, there are areas of focus. An area of focus is more specific than a theme, but still broad enough to allow for several topics to be explored within it. Each topic is designed for deep exploration through experiential activities and projects.

ready for learning, ready for life

We know success in school starts long before a child sets foot in a kindergarten classroom. Supportive teachers make sure each child grows at their own pace and is ready to flourish in the next phase of their educational journey, whether that’s achieving the next milestone, moving up to the next classroom, or going to kindergarten.

What is readiness?

Readiness encompasses skills in every domain: physical, cognitive, social, and emotional. Being ready isn’t just mastering skills or meeting milestones; it’s being prepared to take the next step on an educational journey with capability, interest, and enthusiasm.

Ready for life

While school readiness encompasses early literacy and math skills, it also includes essential skills such as how to:

  • wait in line
  • be a good friend
  • ask for help
  • make mistakes and learn from them
  • be self-confident
  • love learning

 

We believe that preparing children for school is not just about the curriculum. It’s about creating a safe environment with heart, with teachers that nurture, cherish, and motivate. It’s not just about reaching benchmarks but achieving the potential within and approaching the future with confidence and a love of learning.

MyCharacterTM

First Circle is very proud of our unique character education program, MyCharacter. Character determines how we respond to situations and circumstances of life. How a person thinks, acts, and feels reveals their character. Character shows in the habits and values a person demonstrates in their interactions with others, and how they treat themselves. Early childhood experts say children begin to develop character traits in infancy based on their personal experiences, relationships, and temperament.

Studies show character skills are as important as academic skills in determining success in life. When children learn habits of planning and goal setting, self-regulation, decision-making, organizing their personal time, and managing responsibilities effectively, they gain habits that will help them succeed in school and in life.

MyCharacter™ introduces an area of character every 3 months, with a specific trait each month. Parents receive our flier providing information about each character trait so they can support children in their character education at home.

Books, games, poems, and songs that are introduced each month highlight the trait and teach prosocial behaviors and engage children in making choices to reinforce learning objectives. The at-home fliers give parents specific activities they can do with their child to model and practice the character skills being taught in the classroom.

With each character trait, provide children multiple activities to practice solving problems, to reinforce learning, and to see how their behavior, actions, and words affect others. The ability to make good choices, self-manage, and be helpful, honest, and compassionate are skills that are built over time, with examples, reinforcement, modeling, and practice.

curriculum planning

GUIDELINES

  • Plan curriculum on a weekly basis using the First Circle Annual Thematic Units, Areas of Learning, and MyCharacter™.
  • Plan a minimum of 5 activities for each day (a combination of activities related to the theme and skill-based activities).
  • Represent EVERY Area of Learning EVERY day.
  • Include the monthly MyCharacter™ trait at least once per week.
  • Enter the weekly curriculum into Engage by the end of the day on Monday of the previous week. (For example, curriculum for the week of 10/24/22 will be entered by the end of the day on Monday, 10/17/22.)

CURRICULUM IMPLEMENTATION CHECKLIST

  • Preview weekly curriculum for upcoming week.
  • Let the office know if there are books or materials that you will need.
  • Use all, some, or none of the provided activities. If you do not use them all, add your own to the daily sheet.
  • Add activities to daily sheets each day. You can add activities from ANY day to the daily sheet. For example, if there is an activity that you were unable to get to or that you would like to repeat, go to the activity, and add it as you would if it was planned for that day. It will be added to the current day.
  • Include 5 activities representing each of the Areas of Learning on the daily sheet.
  • Tailor activities to each child’s individual development.
  • Add the books that you read through the app each day.

Daily program

daily schedules

Overview

Schedules organize the day. To meet children’s needs, the daily schedule must be consistent and balance physical, emotional, educational, and social needs. Schedules ensure that:

  • teachers manage their time with children efficiently
  • there is a balance of activities
  • children accomplish the activities planned
  • children don’t get hungry or tired
  • the day is relaxed yet productive

 

For children, a consistent daily schedule provides predictability. Without a schedule, children are likely to feel frustrated and tired by the end of the day. Schedules also help teachers know which materials and equipment they will need for the day.

While each day is different, knowing what will happen next offers children a sense of security, which helps develop self-confidence. A consistent schedule helps children understand the terms now and later, before and after, this morning and this afternoon, today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Schedules help teachers prevent chaos, boredom, and burnout. It is also the way children’s needs are met consistently.

Children’s schedules should:

  • be predictable yet flexible and responsive to individual needs
  • provide time and support for transitions
  • include both indoor and outdoor experiences
  • be responsive to children’s need to rest or be active

 

Each classroom’s daily schedule includes the same elements for every child. These elements happen differently for each group, with make accommodations for individual needs. In the infant classrooms, each child’s schedule is individualized. Beginning with toddler classrooms, children are ready for a group schedule.

Children are best suited for learning when their physical needs are met, and they know what to expect. The daily schedule incorporates eating, bathroom, and rest times when they are most needed.

Planning

Plan a daily schedule that prevents boredom, waiting, and hurrying. Give children plenty of notice of transitions. Provide ample opportunity for children to relax and enjoy activities, including ones they can select themselves and move between at their own pace.

  • Younger children may benefit from picture schedules that provide visual cues of the activities and routines. Children who are just beginning to learn language may need to have real objects included in their schedules.
  • When organizing a daily schedule, consider rotating large and small group activities, varying active and quiet activities, structuring a transition time in the activity, and doing the most difficult activity when the children are most alert and attentive.
  • Embed choices in the schedule, giving children the opportunity to choose between 2 activities (e.g., blocks center or dress up center). This helps engage children and minimize challenging behaviors.

Activities

Activities should be designed to engage children. One key to prevent challenging behavior is to engage children with activities, peers, or adults. To promote engagement:

  • Use both small and large group activities.
  • Ensure activities are designed and adapted so all children can participate in a meaningful way.

Transitions

To keep children engaged and to prevent challenging behavior, plan for transitions as you plan for other parts of the scheduled day.

Implementing

  • Make sure all children have opportunities to be involved (for example, everyone holds a character from the story, children do things with partners).
  • Assign jobs for children who have a difficult time during circle (such as book holder or page turner).
  • Vary the way you talk and the tone of your voice.
  • Have children help lead activities.
  • Pay attention to children’s behavior. Remember that if they are wiggling and wandering away, the activity is probably not interesting them.

routines, rituals, + rules

Overview

Rules, rituals, and routines provide structure for everyone in the classroom, including the adults. Predictable routines teach children how that world is organized and how they can successfully interact within it. They give a sense of control and allow children to predict what is coming next, reducing anxiety and encouraging positive behavior.

A ritual may be a song, a rhyme, a game, a movement, or other activity used in a predictable and repeated pattern over time to communicate values, foster community, or remind children of behavioral expectations. Rules are most appropriate for preschoolers, whereas rituals and routines are more applicable to younger children

How routines help development

For infants, routines are individualized, providing a sense of security and comfort knowing their needs will be met. Feeling safe and secure enables babies to learn and develop. As babies get older, they move towards a more structured schedule. Predictable routines provide a foundation for daily events in their lives.

In toddlerhood, predictability is a key factor for growth. Toddlers need to anticipate what will happen next to feel a sense of control over themselves. Routines help develop the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls planning, sequencing, and decision-making.

Preschoolers’ sense of mastery of the world is beginning to strengthen, allowing them to take on bigger changes, transitions, and developmental tasks. Routines should support these developing skills and be simple enough for children to learn and remember. When children feel success in what they are doing, they gain self-esteem and self-control. Mastering routines gives children the opportunity for that success.

Routines should not be rigid, however. Some flexibility is necessary for children to explore, experiment, and learn to adapt to unexpected changes.

Common classroom routines
  • How the teacher gets children’s attention
  • How children get the teacher’s attention
  • Arrival
  • Lining up
  • Walking in the hallway
  • Circle time
  • Free time
  • Field trip behavior
  • Substitute teacher behavior
  • Playground
  • Meal/snacks
  • Rest time
  • Bathroom
  • Evacuating the classroom
  • How to behave with classroom visitors

Rules

Create limits and expectations for behavior and share them ahead of time. State rules positively.

  • Involve children in setting classroom rules.
  • Aim for 4 to 8 rules, based on developmental ability.
  • Create developmentally appropriate rules.
  • Post rules visually.
  • Make rules clear, concise, and consistent.
  • Share the rules with parents.
Teaching rules

Children need to learn rules to follow them. Some strategies for teaching children the expectations of the classroom:

  • Involve children in setting classroom rules to help them understand and feel ownership. Review expectations with each new group of children in your classroom. Encourage children to come up with any other expectations they feel are appropriate for the classroom.
  • Introduce limits and expectations one at a time and remind children of them often. For older children, display a visual daily schedule at their eye level, and help them learn to read and follow the schedule throughout the day.
  • Teach rules during circle time using visual cues that all children understand.
  • Explore creative ways to reinforce and help children learn the limits and expectations for behavior using games or songs.
  • Follow the rules yourself to model good behavior.
  • Reinforce limits and expectations in a consistent and fair manner. Talk about what will happen if those limits and expectations are not followed, and make sure children understand. Observe the same limits and expectations and acknowledge appropriate behavior.
  • Provide individual instruction to children who need more assistance and use individualized picture cues.
  • Prepare children for changes.
  • Provide verbal and non-verbal cues and prompts to help younger children learn appropriate behaviors. For example, a bell rung at the end of play time provides children with a cue about a schedule change and allows them to initiate the change without verbal prompting from the teacher.
Directions

Any early childhood educator can tell you that young children have high rates of not following teacher directions. Sometimes this is because of the way teachers give directions. Directions that are stated negatively (“Why haven’t you put up the toys?”) or directions that are stated as questions (“Can you help me put up the toys?”) may confuse children or make them less likely to follow. Strategies you can use to help children follow directions:

  • Get the child’s attention before you give directions. Many times, the child may not hear the direction or realize the direction is being given to them. Begin a direction to the whole class by saying, “I need everyone to listen.” Begin a direction to an individual child by tapping them on the shoulder or saying their name.
  • Minimize the number of directions given to children. Give directions only when you want the child to comply.
  • Consider the child’s learning style and individualize the directions for them. Some children respond well to verbal direction, while others need physical prompts or pictorial prompts to follow the direction.
  • Give clear directions. Tell the child exactly what you want her to do and why. Avoid vague directions, such as “be careful” or “settle down.” Be specific, for example “hold on to the railing” or “sit quietly.”
  • Give positive directions. Maintain a positive tone when you give them.
  • Allow children time to respond to a direction. Avoid giving multiple directions at once.
  • Acknowledge positively children’s responsive behavior. It’s important that children understand when they are following directions.

Visual cues

Although we receive sensory input from 5 different senses, 30% of our brains is devoted to what we see. It is important to provide visual cues and reminders for young children, especially those with special needs and for whom English is their second language. Visual cues and reminders help children learn the routines, expectations, and rules of the classroom and anticipate and make transitions. A visual schedule and a timer are good examples of visual cues.

daily program activities

Each day includes the following activities for each child. These activities happen differently for each group. Take care to respond to and make accommodations for individual needs.

Morning arrival

Morning arrival incorporates the morning routine, signing in, putting belongings in a cubby, choosing a table activity, and saying ‘goodbye’ to parent/caregiver. During morning arrival, we facilitate organized free play.

Helping a child with dropoff

A child’s temperament is unique and influences their day. How they transition into the classroom depends on how they deal with transition. Many children have an easy time transitioning into the classroom each morning. Some children find transitioning difficult at dropoff, which can stress the parent who goes to work with an image of their crying child.

Reassure parents that just because a child has difficulty being dropped off does not mean they are unhappy at school during the day. Nor is the difficulty necessarily indicative of a larger issue. It will usually get easier over time as the child becomes more comfortable with their new surroundings, friends, and teachers. Let parents know you are here to help!

Children arrive at different times in the morning. Greet each child upon arrival and assist them with settling in. Take cues from the how the child feels while entering and leaving the classroom. Use these to individualize the routine for each child. During morning arrival, organized free play activities and materials are set out for the children, which helps them engage immediately.

To ease the transition to the classroom in the morning, you can suggest these ideas to parents:

  • Arrive by 9:00 a.m. to allow maximal one-on-one interaction with the child’s classroom teachers and help the child to get the most out of their morning at school.
  • Ask parents if there are any specific signals or routines that they have with their child so you can support them and help the transition flow as smoothly as possible.
  • Come up with a daily plan for dropoff. It’s best for the goodbye routine to be on the shorter side (about 5-10 minutes) or enough time to get started in an activity.
  • Have a parent develop a dropoff routine with their child to help the child take ownership of it and ease the dropoff process (ex. “Let’s read one story together and then you can wave goodbye to me at the doorway,” or “Two kisses, one hug and a high five and then I’m going to work.”)
  • Encourage the child to get involved in an activity. Once they choose one, have the parent give a quick goodbye. If more than a quick goodbye is needed, a time warning can be very helpful (“Two more minutes and then it will be time to say goodbye,”) and then stick to it.
  • Encourage parents to stick to the routine. It will be easier for the child. They may cry or call for the parent as they are leaving, which is very common and okay. You should always be ready to comfort the child for as long as it takes until they feel comfortable. While this can be hard on the parent, it’s important they leave when they say they will to allow the child to begin their day.
  • Advise parents that how they communicate about the transition will set the tone for the child. Treat departures in an upbeat, matter-of-fact way. Don’t apologize for leaving. Tell the child it’s time for Mom or Dad to go (give them a warning) rather than having the parent ask permission to depart. Make sure the parent says goodbye rather than slipping away (it’s important that the child trust that the parent will not suddenly disappear). Talk about what the child will be doing during the separation and help the child think about exciting things to look forward to. Though it can be difficult, encourage the parent to keep their emotions in check in front of the child. Tell them to feel free to stop in at the Director’s office, where they’ll find a sympathetic ear (and plenty of tissues).
  • Many parents on staff have gone through difficult dropoffs with their children and are available for brainstorming, classroom support, or a quick hug!

Clean up

Clean up occurs after each activity is completed. To teach self-help skills, have children assist in the clean-up process in a developmentally appropriate manner. Clean up is a great activity to implement classroom routines, including songs, chants, and special jobs.

Organized free play

Organized free play is child-driven play time. It lets children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their interests, and engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue. You should allocate a good portion of each child’s day at First Circle to this important activity.

Organized free play is time for children to have a free choice among a variety of activities, to play independently or cooperatively with friends. Educators should introduce activities for older infants and toddlers, but children are free to make choices about materials and how to use them. Preschool children work in small groups at tables or on the rug.

Some choices should be child-led, independent activities, in addition to 1 or 2 teacher-directed, structured choices. Activities can be offered at tables, on the rug, or in designated station areas. Table choices typically focus on small motor tasks, while rug choices incorporate building, dramatic play, and gross motor activities. This time allows children to practice and explore social interaction, with the benefit of educator facilitation.

Small group activities

Small group activities allow more individualized time for children and an opportunity for skill building. During small group activities:

  • Have a child’s peer model a skill or behavior you are trying to teach them.
  • Ensure all children participate in a way that is meaningful and relevant to their goals and needs.
  • Provide positive feedback related to appropriate behavior to children throughout the activity.

Circle time

Circle time invites children to gather on the rug for teacher-led curriculum activities. For infants and toddlers, it is centered primarily around stories and songs and should be no more than 10 minutes. Teachers use this time to read a story to introduce children to the learning topic for the day.

Circle time for preschoolers typically includes music and movement, games, show and tell, discussions about weather and calendar, songs, etc. Circle time is another place where children can learn and practice social rules, be introduced to new concepts and learn to attend and engage for an increasing amount of time, the basis for developing a positive approach to learning.

Large group activities

Teachers often face challenging behavior during large group activities. It’s difficult to keep children interested throughout circle time. Here are some suggestions about how you can keep children engaged:

  • Consider the length of time relative to the children’s ages and abilities and to the types of activities that will occur during the large group time.
  • Have a purpose. Be clear about what you want children to learn during this time.
  • Vary activities from day to day. For example, teach concepts during large group in a variety of ways (examples include puppets, role play, stories, songs, visual aids, discussion). You might read the same story for several days but use puppets on the first day, a flannel board on the second day, and have children role play the story on the third day.
  • Use circle time to teach new concepts. This is a good time to teach social skills and to support children’s emotional development.

Gross motor activities

Gross motor activities happen daily, indoors and outdoors (weather permitting).  They include small and large muscle activities, aiming for at least 60 minutes of physical activity. Outdoor allows large muscle use, loud voices, and an opportunity to experience natural materials and textures. Children move and play on a variety of equipment, like push, ride-on and pedal toys, and swings. Infants walk in strollers or roll on mats outdoors.

Some outdoor choices are child-led, independent activities, and some are teacher-directed games and activities. Indoors, children exercise large muscles on our climbers, or during dance, fitness or obstacle course activities.

Fine motor activities

Fine motor activities develop skills for daily living such as buttoning and holding a spoon and get children ready for writing. Build fine motor activities in throughout the day, like play with small objects such as pegs and Legos, scissors use to practice cutting, Lincoln logs construction, pipe cleaner twisting, or clothespin use.

Meal + snack times

Meal and snack times are when children and educators should interact in a more informal way, to model manners and encourage children to socialize with each other. Meals and snacks are scheduled according to the children’s developmental stage. Whether eating on an individualized (infants) or group schedule (toddlers and preschoolers), it’s a time to practice and explore social interaction, with the benefit of teacher facilitation.

  • Allow children to eat at a relaxed pace.
  • Encourage them to serve themselves when appropriate.
  • Ensure children get an adequate amount and variety of food.
  • Encourage them to eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Involve them in food choices and/or planning whenever possible.
  • Offer them alternative activities if they have finished their snack or meal.

 

Meal and snack time is another opportunity to build classroom routines and teach children self-help skills. Starting with toddlers, children should get and put away their own lunch bags, make choices, and clean up after themselves. [See DAILY PROGRAM MANAGEMENT]

Transitions

Transitions happen as children change activities. Multiple transitions occur during the day: when children arrive at school, move through learning centers, get ready for outdoor play, go out or come in from outside, get ready for meals/snacks, clean up, rest/nap or depart.

Most transitions have a well-known routine letting children know what to expect, as giving children a series of directions can help keep them on task. Smooth transitions keep the classroom peaceful.

Transitions also provide time for children to practice skills like walking in line, putting coats on, and listening.

Transitions should happen in a safe, timely, predictable, and unhurried manner using the following principles:

  • Minimize the number of transitions children have during the day.
  • Plan and organize activities in advance to avoid children waiting.
  • Give children a warning before a transition occurs.
  • Plan to engage children during the transition (finger plays, songs, guessing games). Challenging behaviors often occur during transitions, especially when all children are expected to do the same thing at the same time and then end up waiting with nothing to do. Provide some children with chores and give children helping roles during transitions (handing out the paper towels, holding the door, helping a friend).
  • Make transitions between activities smooth and flexible.
  • Don’t expect children will always move as a group from one activity to another.
  • Use visual, verbal, and auditory cues to support children’s transitions.
  • Teach children the expectations for transitions. This instruction can occur during a group time and should be reinforced throughout the day.
  • Individualize the instruction and cues provided to children. Some children will make the transition with a minimal amount of support, while others may need a picture schedule, verbal prompt, adult assistance, or some other type of cue.

Departure

Departure begins as children prepare to leave school. All their items are packed and ready to go. Children engage in quiet activities until their parent/caregiver arrives. The school day ends with children saying goodbye to their friends and teachers and following school rules until they are safely in their car.

Learning environment

classroom design

The classroom learning environment is the physical space that supports and shapes the curriculum. It can have a profound effect on individual children and the group. Our classrooms are designed to be safe, warm, and inviting to help children engage in learning activities and to support their development.

Physical

The classroom should be divided into different areas to give children opportunities to explore, make things, experiment, and pursue their interests. There should be spaces for large and small-group activities. Science and art activities should take place in specific areas set up for wet and messy play. Other areas should include dramatic play, block building, large-muscle activities, and a quiet area that is inviting to the children, visible to staff, and easily accessible to a child who seeks or needs time alone.

Designing effective classroom environments includes arranging the physical structure of the classroom to increase appropriate behaviors, such as engagement, and decrease the probability of challenging behaviors. Strategies for structuring the classroom include:

  • Arrange the classroom to ensure visual monitoring of children, support children’s appropriate behaviors (e.g., limit the number of children in a center), and facilitate smooth transitions between activities (e.g., organize the location of materials on shelves). Arrange materials to promote engagement, mastery, and independence.
  • Make sure toys and materials are accessible, appropriate, and available to facilitate children’s independence (which decreases the likelihood of challenging behaviors).
  • Attend to details such as the lighting, temperature, and noise levels to reduce problem behaviors from children who are sensitive to these environmental factors.
  • Manage traffic patterns. Minimize large open spaces and obstacles. Fences help organize the physical environment.

Universal design

Universal Design is an approach to creating environments that are usable and accessible to the widest possible range of people, including those with disabilities. In an early childhood classroom, Universal Design can be used to ensure all children have equal access to learning opportunities and resources. Here are some ways you can use Universal Design:

  • Provide a variety of learning materials that appeal to different learning styles, including visual, auditory, and tactile. This can include books, posters, videos, music, and manipulatives.
  • Use multiple strategies to present information, including visual aids, pictures, and real-life examples. This can help children who have difficulty with traditional methods of learning.
  • Offer different seating options, such as cushions, beanbags, and chairs, to accommodate different needs and preferences.
  • Encourage children to work together in groups and pairs. Provide opportunities for peer teaching and support.
  • Consider the diverse needs and abilities of all children in the classroom and adapt activities and materials as needed.

Learning centers

Learning centers are interest-based areas within the classroom where children learn by playing and engaging in activities. Subdividing the classroom into spaces that accommodate a few children at a time addresses some children’s preference for small-group settings.

Children need time to think and to manipulate materials for deep learning to occur. Every classroom schedule should include time at learning centers, with open-ended activities and hands-on materials that promote the development of emerging skills for each child.

Type

Learning centers should include:

  • music and movement center, with instruments
  • engineering center with blocks and building materials
  • manipulative/math center where children can sort, classify, and count
  • science center to carry out scientific inquiry
  • dramatic arts center with pretend household items and dress-up
  • literacy center with books and listening library
  • art center with paints and easels
  • sensory center with plenty to touch
  • an outdoor classroom
Guidelines

When designing learning centers:

  • Have clear boundaries so that children know where the center begins/ends, and they are not crowded together.
  • Make sure all children are visible to adults and adults are visible to children.
  • Indicate a closed center by using visual prompts such as sheets or blankets, circles with a slash through them, etc.
  • Have enough centers for the number of children in your care and enough materials for each center so children are engaged and not arguing over materials.
  • Consider the size and location of centers. Avoid locating a high-action center (block center, dramatic play) close to one with quieter activities (listening centers, etc.).
  • Use developmentally appropriate and creative ways to limit the number of children in centers if necessary (for example, laminated cards containing children’s names that can be moved into pockets at the center as opposed to a sign saying “2 children only”).
  • Organize materials and keep them in appropriate places. Consider children’s independence skill level when choosing locations.
  • Have centers organized and ready to go when children arrive.

equipment + materials

Toys help children learn by challenging them to figure out how things work, testing new thoughts and ideas, using their imaginations, and developing problem-solving skills. To ensure an environment conducive to learning, all the equipment and materials at First Circle must:

  • Be plentiful in quantity and variety to engage all children and encourage both active physical and quiet play activities
  • Be visible, readily accessible to children, and arranged for independent access
  • Promote imagination and creativity (for example blocks, sand, water, play dough, manipulatives, and art materials)
Content

Pay attention to the materials and activities in each center. Learning centers need to be meaningful, engaging, and interesting to children. Materials in the classroom should be:

  • Plentiful enough for several children to use at one time. Materials should be age-appropriate, print-rich, colorful, and durable.
  • Open-ended — usable in multiple ways, such as blocks, art materials, and fabric pieces.
  • Kept at eye-level in an orderly way to use space productively and teach children to care for their space and possessions.
  • Relevant to children’s needs, interests, and lives (for example, within the dramatic play area, culturally appropriate materials should be available; the pictures on puzzles and in the classroom library should reflect the diversity within your classroom, etc.) There should also be culturally meaningful activities and materials with labels in different languages around the classroom.
  • Based on activities that children enjoy or express an interest in. If children tend to stay in one or two centers, it may mean that the other centers are not engaging or interesting them.
  • Varied in each center. Related books can be put in every center (for example, books on animals can be placed in the reading center; magazines can be placed in the dramatic play area designed as a veterinarian’s office; a book about the post office can be placed in the writing center). Writing utensils and paper also can be in multiple centers (for example, in the dramatic play area, the writing center, or near the computers). Be creative.
  • Changed on a regular basis. The post office set up in the dramatic play area might be interesting and engaging at the beginning of the year but will be old and boring if it is still there in the spring. Listen to what children are talking about. Create centers that build on their interests. Rotate materials within a center. Let children help you choose the materials.

outdoor learning

Outdoors children play, practice, and master emerging physical skills. First Circle has expansive playgrounds divided by age range. Children can run, leap, jump, swing, climb, ride, push or pull moving toys, throw, kick, and catch balls.

By committing to learning inside and outside the classroom, we are teaching children that learning occurs everywhere. As much as possible, we should bring learning outdoors, and help children experience elements of nature hands-on. Natural environments allow children to explore and learn in ways not possible indoors. The outdoors offers diverse learning opportunities, increases health and well-being, and allows children to experience active physical play they need to grow and develop. Outdoor play and learning also help children:

  • appreciate nature and the environment
  • practice social skills as they play together, take turns, and cooperate
  • use language and communication skills as they invent, modify, and play games
  • develop math skills and number relationships, as we count or keep score
  • build resilience and adaptability
  • identify hazards and risks
  • develop self-awareness, confidence, and self-esteem

 

Outdoor activities you can do with children:

  • Go on nature walks to explore the environment. Encourage children to use their senses to observe and discover plants, animals, and other natural features.
  • Plant flowers, fruits, or vegetables in a garden area. This activity can help children learn about the environment, develop fine motor skills, and promote healthy habits.
  • Organize scavenger hunts where they can search for objects such as leaves, flowers, or rocks. This activity can help develop problem-solving skills and promote exploration.
  • Play games that promote physical activity and gross motor skills such as tag, hide and seek, or Simon Says.
  • Create sensory play stations using materials such as sand, water, or mud. This activity can help develop fine motor skills and promote sensory exploration.
  • Provide materials such as chalk, paint, or markers for children to create outdoor art. This activity can help develop creativity and fine motor skills.
  • Use music and movement activities such as dancing, marching, or playing instruments. This activity can help develop gross motor skills and promote creativity.
  • Read books in an outdoor area such as under a tree. This activity can help develop language skills and promote a love of learning.
  • Set up water play stations using materials such as water tables, sprinklers, or pools. This activity can help develop gross motor skills and promote sensory exploration.

Remember to prioritize safety when planning and conducting outdoor activities, and to supervise and support the children in your care.

Child guidance policy

Introduction

Overview

As young children work to build language and self management skills such as problem solving, flexibility, resilience and practice self-calming techniques they may display challenging behaviors including defiance and aggression. During the past 30 years, child guidance practice has moved away from reactive, negative approaches to proactive, positive ones.

When educators practice positive child guidance, they act as a coach to help children solve a problem. The goal of positive behavior support is not to “fix” the child with behavioral challenges, it’s to “fix” the parts of the learning environment that contribute to the problem behavior. Fixing the environment usually means focusing on prevention and adult intervention skills rather than reacting after behavioral problems have occurred. A reactive approach that implements negative consequences does not work.

Goals

First Circle’s child guidance policy concentrates on prevention and skill-building rather than punishment and is designed to help children develop socially acceptable ways of expressing their needs and feelings. We help them:

  • be safe with themselves and others
  • become more independent
  • balance their needs and wants with those of others
  • learn self-control and develop coping skills to manage their feelings, thoughts, and actions
  • develop respect for themselves
  • make caring and thoughtful decisions
  • learn how to approach and solve problems, including non-violent conflict resolution

plan

The best way to address challenging behavior in young children is to decrease the likelihood it will occur.

DISCOVERY

Learn about the individual child and their family to better understand how the child reacts and responds to situations, people, stimuli, and cues.

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Developmentally appropriate practice is especially important in behavior management. Have realistic expectations for a child based on their developmental level. If children knew better, they would do better. Requests should be connected to what children can do (not just what you want them to do).

ENVIRONMENT

If the children in a classroom are engaged with interesting activities, they will be less likely to present challenging behaviors.

SCHEDULE + RULES

Setting and reviewing predictable schedules, rules, and routines give children a sense of control. They predict what is coming next, which reduces anxiety and encourages positive behavior.

CONSISTENCY

Children will not learn to follow the rules if you are not consistent in implementing them. When children exhibit unacceptable behavior, consistent consequences should follow so children know what to expect and are less likely to be upset by occasional surprises.

prevent

The following steps will help avoid challenging behavior before it begins:

ENVIRONMENT

Design play and learning areas with boundaries that teachers can see and children understand. Have organized and plentiful materials in good working condition. Set the classroom up for success by following principles of universal design.

MODEL

Even when we think they aren’t paying attention, children are watching us carefully. If you interact with respect and courtesy, children will too. If children see their teachers sitting on furniture or eating outside mealtime, they won’t understand why they aren’t allowed to.

SUPPORT

Encourage children’s participation in play by being nearby and available.

POSITIVE ATTENTION

Reinforce positive behavior by recognizing children’s positive actions, or “catch children being good.” There are 5 major principles for using positive feedback:

  1. Positive-to-negative ratio. Spend more time using positive language than giving directions or correcting inappropriate behavior. The ratio should be 4 to 5 positive statements to 1 correction. This will teach children social skills and ensure the learning environment feels encouraging and positive.
  2. Contingent on appropriate behavior: “Thank you for hanging up your coat all by yourself.”
  3. Descriptive: Rather than just saying “good job” or “thanks,” describe the behavior you just observed. This helps children know exactly what behavior you would like to see repeated. (“Thank you for putting the blocks away on the shelf exactly on their spot.”)
  4. Conveyed with enthusiasm. Most children like feedback from adults and will do things to gain adults’ attention (yes, the positive and the not-so-positive behaviors!). Tone of voice, facial expressions, getting down on a child’s level, and when feedback is delivered all matter. Give plenty of “warm fuzzies” such as hugs, high fives, winks, and thumbs up.
  5. Based on effort. Children need to be encouraged for both their efforts and their successes. For example, even if a child is not successful in putting away the blocks, make sure to acknowledge the effort.

respond

When rules or limits are broken, address the behavior using these guidelines:

COMMUNICATE

Stay calm

Working with children is rewarding, but it can be stressful, especially when dealing with their behavior. Remain in control of your feelings, especially frustration or anger. Losing your self-control, yelling at children, using threats, etc., will negatively impact your relationship with the children and could also jeopardize your job.

Step away if you need to maintain your composure. It’s important to model for children to remain calm and in control of yourself, to give them a positive example of how to deal with anger or frustration. Remain calm, evaluate the situation, and proceed with caution.

Listen

All behavior has a reason. Children aren’t mature enough to tell us their needs in words. Without the words and self-control to communicate with them, they act out to get their needs met. By dismissing the child or giving in to their demands without analyzing the behavior, we’re not acknowledging their feelings, and not helping them to get their needs met.

Respect

Children deserve respect. Use words that demonstrate your respect, such as please, thank you, and I’m sorry. Tell children what to do, not what not to do. Using the word ‘instead’ to rephrase helps. The focus should be on what we want to happen.

A word about words

Children need frequent reminders of what is expected (remember the ratio of 5 positives to 1 negative). Choose your words and tone carefully and use empathy! As much as possible, educators must offer these reminders in a helpful tone, and avoid:

  • Sarcasm – Children know by your tone when you are not being sincere. They do not understand sarcasm.
  • Anger – Do not get emotionally hijacked by children’s behavior or the need to remind and repeat expectations.
  • Lectures – Use words children can understand and be concise. The fewer words, the better.
  • Threats – “If you don’t-then you won’t” statements are considered threats. Use “First do this, then do that” instead.
  • Your feelings – Children should comply with rules because they are what’s expected, not because of the teacher’s feelings. Ideally, you should communicate without emotion, but if you have to choose one, be sad, not mad. Be sure that you are noting the circumstances, not personalizing—start with “It’s sad that… “rather than “I’m sad that. . . ”

Redirect

Observe

Describe what you see or the problem (“When you ran through the block area, you knocked down Anna’s tower.”).

Remind the child of the rule

For example, “Remember our rule that we only run when we’re outside,” “Are you remembering to use your inside feet?”

Allow time for compliance

Children’s brains are still forming. They need to hear, process, and respond to requests and guidance.

Give voice to children’s feelings

Recognize and respect children’s feelings when discussing their behavior (“I see you’re very frustrated.”). Encourage children to express their feelings in words and resolve problems peacefully.

Use positive solutions

See if the child can come up with their own positive solution. If not, direct the child toward positive activity and away from potential problems:

  • Offer a different method of using the materials/actions more purposefully (“Sand is for building, not for throwing. Let’s go find you a bucket to dump it in.”).
  • Teach children coping mechanisms such as taking a break or picking another activity.
  • Teach children new skills that encourage them to discuss and resolve their conflicts on their own or with an educator’s assistance when necessary.
Provide choices

Simply giving children choices can reduce problem behavior. Although children will naturally choose things that are reinforcing to them, research shows behavior improves even when both choices are not preferred or when the assignment is not preferred but the child gets to choose aspects of it, such as the sequence of tasks (“Do you want to clean up the toys first or hang up your coat?”).

Consequences

Helping children learn about natural consequences fosters learning because they appeal to their sense of logic and desire for control: “When I do this, this is what happens.”

Natural consequences

Imposing negative consequences for undesirable behavior works to control behavior for about 80 to 90 percent of children. But using punitive measures doesn’t help children develop personal responsibility or life skills. Furthermore, they do not work for children at risk for or those who already have chronic behavioral challenges. Therefore, use consequences carefully.

When possible, instill natural consequences for behaviors. When you use consequences, think ahead. Don’t warn a child of the consequences ahead of time as this becomes a threat. Instead, have a plan in mind for what you will do in a certain situation. Some negative behaviors and their natural consequences may include:

  • Throwing sand: “Looks like it’s time to make another choice.” (no sandbox)
  • Teasing: “Let’s find some other children to play with.”
  • Tantrum: “We’re going to start circle time now. Here’s a spot for you to settle down. Come back when you are ready.”
  • Banging cup on the table: “Cups are for drinking. I’m going to hold onto your cup; let me know when you’re ready to drink some more.”
Remove the child

Because a “time-out” doesn’t address behavior or teach a child to redirect their behavior to more positive channels, we don’t use time outs at First Circle. However, children may need to be removed from a situation if they are having difficulty. You can help children develop their own coping skills by guiding them to “take a break,” and “pick another activity.”

Examples are:

  • removing a child from the snack table if they continue to throw food
  • removing a child from the sand table if they continue to throw sand
  • removing a child from the book area if they are ripping books

 

Include a brief explanation and a dose of empathy as you remove the child or implement a consequence. Be as consistent as possible and use similar wording each time to redirect. Keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • As much as possible, allow the child to decide when they are ready to try again.
  • Help the child get involved in another activity—children should not be removed to a choice of “nothing.”
Remove the choice

Offer two options matter-of-factly which result in the desired outcome. For example, “You can pick an empty sink, or I will pick it for you.” Make sure you don’t use a threatening tone.

Encourage peer feedback

When children are at odds with each other, encourage appropriate peer feedback. For example, one child takes a toy from a second child – help the second child express themselves by asking, “How does that make you feel?” Then help the child give feedback to the first one, such as “I don’t like that!” or “I want you to give that back to me.”

Engage the child in reparation

Children can and should be involved in solutions to problems or conflicts, especially when behavior is aggressive or destructive, involving them in repairing any damage. Some examples are:

  • Coloring on tables: “Oops! We need to get that cleaned up.  Here’s a cloth, and after that we’ll put the markers away.”
  • Tearing books: “We can’t read our books when they’re ripped. You’ll have to help me tape this book before we can read it again.”
  • Hurting friends: “Oh, no. Jacob is crying. Let’s see how we can help him. Do you need some ice, Jacob?”

Ignore

Ignore some kinds of inappropriate behavior

Sometimes it is better to ignore behavior clearly intended to attract attention. This strategy should only be used when a child displays minor inappropriate behavior and when you’re confident the child will stop on their own. This strategy is more appropriate for children at least 4 years old. Things to know about planned ignoring:

  • Safety always comes first. Planned ignoring should never be used when a child is engaging in unsafe or harmful behaviors (e.g., biting, hitting, climbing).
  • Expect the behavior to get worse before it gets better. Have lots of patience and good self-control.
  • Providing the slightest amount of attention to the inappropriate behavior (e.g., a disapproving look) results in the child continuing it.
  • Planned ignoring works best when all staff who interact with the child—as well as family members, when possible—ignore the problematic behavior.
  • Immediately provide positive attention when the child stops the inappropriate behavior and engages in as little as 3–5 seconds of appropriate behavior.
  • Before using this strategy, make sure the child’s physical and social-emotional needs have been met, and the child has the skills they are expected to use (e.g., waiting, controlling tantrums) when the teacher is ignoring the behavior.

reflect

Reflecting on children’s challenging behavior is an essential part of an early childhood educator’s role. Here are ways you can reflect on and address challenging behavior in young children [see CHALLENGING BEHAVIOR]:

  • Check the child: are they sick, hungry, or tired?
  • Check the environment: is the child over- or understimulated? What can you do to improve the classroom environment?
  • Consider the child’s individual needs: Each child is unique, and their behavior may be influenced by factors like temperament, developmental stage, and cultural background. Reflect on how these factors may be impacting the child’s behavior and how you can support their individual needs.
  • Check your relationship with the child: do you have a positive connection? If not, how can you improve your relationship?

challenging behavior

The number of children with challenging behaviors is on the rise. Challenging behavior can have complex causes. As educators, we need to increase the number of tools in our intervention toolbox.

It is important to remember that children with behavior challenges often have disabilities that affect their ability to learn coping and problem-solving skills. Saying, “They are just going to have to learn,” without providing increased support would be the same thing as expecting a physically injured person to just teach himself how to walk again without any physical therapy.

Challenging behavior hinders the child, as it can impede their learning and ability to get along well with their peers. It endangers the peers and educators they hurt. The focus in early childhood education is to shift child guidance away from negative consequences, and toward prevention and early intervention.

DEFINITION

Challenging behavior is behavior that interferes with children’s learning, development, and success at play. It harms the child, other children, or adults, and puts the child at risk for later social and communication problems. Challenging behavior includes behavior that causes injury (hitting, biting), aggressive behavior (hitting others, screaming, spitting, kicking), defiance (non-compliance), behavior directed at property (throwing objects or purposefully destroying things), or tantrums. Problematic behaviors are dangerous, destructive, seriously disruptive, or cause the child to be seen negatively.

CAUSE

Any child can exhibit challenging behavior. Like teething, walking, talking, and toilet learning, self-management is a skill that develops at a different rate for each child. As they learn to communicate and interact with others, challenging behavior is a young child’s way of letting us know what they feel. For many children, challenging behavior is a way of exerting some control over a world in which they have little.

Even if the child knew what to do instead—and chances are they don’t—their ability to regulate their feelings and actions is just developing. When a young child exhibits challenging behavior, educators must remember that in most cases, it’s not that the child “won’t,” it’s that they “can’t.”

PREVENT

The most effective strategy for dealing with challenging behavior is prevention. Ensure you are following the prevention steps above to avoid challenging behavior before it begins.

RESPOND

When challenging behavior occurs, follow the instructions under Redirect. If the suggested actions aren’t successful, the educator may:

Remove the child

Separate the child from the activity but have the child remain within your immediate and direct supervision until they can regain self-control and rejoin the group. If the activity or behavior could be dangerous to the child or others, you may remove the child from the environment and get help from Administration.

Restraint is not allowed

However, educators can use supportive holding of children only in the following situations:

  • the safety of the child or other children or adults is at risk
  • the child must be moved in order to be safely supervised
  • the child demonstrates a behavior that is highly disruptive and/or upsetting to other children

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

Tantrums

Tantrums are a normal part of development. Children need support and guidance to learn how to regulate their emotions and behavior. When a child has a tantrum, respond in a calm and supportive way to help the child:

  • Remain calm and composed during the tantrum to help the child feel safe and supported.
  • Make sure that the environment is safe for everyone if the child is throwing objects or engaging in other unsafe behavior.
  • Acknowledge the child’s feelings. Let them know it’s okay to feel upset or frustrated.
  • Use simple language to help the child understand what is happening and what behavior is expected.
  • Provide choices to help them feel more in control of the situation and their behavior (“You can take a break in the quiet corner or take a walk with me. Which would you like to do?”)
  • Praise the child when they engage in positive behavior, such as using words to express themselves or calming down.
  • Work with parents to ensure consistency across all environments.

If the child engages in unsafe or disruptive behavior during a tantrum, you may need to implement consequences [see CONSEQUENCES above].

If the child’s tantrums persist or are severe, you may need to seek help from a behavior specialist.

Hitting

When a young child hits, the teacher needs to respond quickly and consistently to address the behavior, using these guidelines:

  • Stay calm and composed. Becoming upset or angry can escalate the situation.
  • Separate the children. If the child who was hit is upset or hurt, move them a safe distance from the child who hit them to prevent further harm.
  • Use simple language: Explain to the child who hit that hitting is not allowed and explain why in simple language they can understand.
  • Help the child identify their feelings and develop appropriate ways to express themselves, such as using words or asking for help.
  • Praise the child when they engage in positive behavior, such as sharing or using kind words, to encourage them to continue that behavior.
  • Follow through with consequences: If the child continues to hit despite intervention and support, follow through with consequences [see CONSEQUENCES above].
Biting

Biting is a common behavior in young children, especially in young children still learning to regulate their emotions and communicate effectively. Strategies to handle biting in the classroom:

  • Respond immediately, but calmly. Stay composed and avoid yelling or scolding the child, as this may escalate the situation. Gently remove the child from the situation and provide comfort and focus attention on the child who was bitten.
  • Use a firm tone of voice to tell the child who did the biting, “Biting hurts. Teeth are not for friends.” Provide alternative ways to express their feelings. Encourage the child to use words to communicate their needs or feelings.
  • Try to determine what may have triggered the biting incident (was the child frustrated, tired, or hungry?). Understanding the trigger can help you develop strategies to prevent future incidents.
  • Set clear rules about biting and communicate them to the children in the classroom. Consistently enforce consequences for biting, such as taking a short break from the activity or having the biter help care for the biting victim.
  • Work to eliminate sources of frustration for toddlers by having more than one favorite toy so toddlers aren’t expected to share, having plentiful materials, and offering a lot of time for free-choice activities.
  • Praise and reinforce positive behavior, such as sharing or using kind words, to encourage children to engage in appropriate behavior.
  • Communicate with parents about the biting incidents and work together to address the behavior. Provide resources and strategies to help parents address the behavior at home. Make sure parents know it is developmentally appropriate behavior.
  • If biting behavior persists or becomes more severe, seek support from Admin like additional strategies or resources to address the behavior.
  • Keep a child who has been biting other children near you at all times. It lets you guide the child’s behavior, diffuse frustration, set clear limits, and observe any triggers for the behavior.

REFLECT + REVISE

Spend time after a child has exhibited challenging behavior reflecting on causes and changes you can make.

Observe and record the behavior

Record details, including the time of day, location, what happened before and after the behavior, and any other relevant details. This can help identify patterns, triggers, and causes.

Identify the function

Consider the child’s perspective and try to understand why they are behaving in a certain way. Behavior is rarely simply behavior. The cause is some basic biological or emotional need the child doesn’t know how to express appropriately, such as:

  • to get attention or a reaction from peers and adults
  • to get something tangible
  • to get power or control
  • to meet a sensory need
  • to communicate feelings, wants, and needs
  • a lack of understanding
  • to escape or avoid something

 

Once the functions of problem behavior are identified, educators need to design an intervention that encourages children to meet that function in a more socially acceptable way.

Make modifications

Consider the following modifications to help a child with challenging behaviors:

  • change the environmental arrangement (is the child over- or understimulated?)
  • simplify the activity
  • use child preferences
  • add adult support
  • add peer support
  • consider special equipment
  • modify the activity
Transition helpers

Many children with behavioral challenges have difficulty with transitions. Transition helpers support children by providing structure and predictability, in addition to giving them information about what is going to happen, and time to process it and become ready to handle the change. Some ideas:

  • use a countdown of appropriate time depending on age group
  • use timers
  • use transition objects – These are especially helpful when children are required to make the transition from more preferred to less preferred activities. Children can carry their preferred objects during transitions to reinforce the transition and distract them from the non-preferred task coming next.
Collaborate with the family

Work in partnership with parents to address children’s difficulties at home and at the program to create consistency between home and classroom. Make sure you communicate with parents about a child’s behavior at school and the way you responded. Be specific and honest but tactful with parents about their child’s behavior. Open communication about a child’s strengths and challenges will encourage everyone to work together to overcome obstacles.

Labels

Labels are detrimental, so we don’t use them. Be careful to talk about the behavior, not the child. Negative labels can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies. They prevent us from seeing the child’s positive qualities and may even cause us to lower our expectations of them. A child you’ve thought of as stubborn could just as easily be tenacious or persistent, important characteristics for success in school. When you can see a child in a positive light, it helps them to see themselves that way, and to act more positively, too.

Seek additional support

If challenging behavior persists, we may need to seek additional support from mental health professionals, behavior specialists, or other experts.

behavior support plan

Occasionally, children may not make enough progress in learning to control their behavior despite the educator’s best efforts. The child’s behavior may make it difficult for the child and other children to learn and grow in the program. If the behavior is so severe that 1) it is likely that the child will be isolated and ostracized by the other children if it continues, 2) there is a serious possibility of harm to the child, the other children, or staff, and/or 3) it consumes an excessive amount of the educators’ time and energy, a Behavior Support Plan will be created. When creating a Behavior Support Plan:

  1. Define the challenging behavior. Describe the behavior so that it is identifiable and measurable.
  2. Collect information. Record the behavior when it happens. Observe the child in several different contexts (e.g., classroom, playground). Note what happens before and after the behavior to better understand the behavior’s triggers and reinforcers.
  3. Determine the function of the behavior. Determine why the child engages in the challenging behavior (e.g., to get attention, get a desired object, avoid a disliked task).
  4. Discuss in teams. Use team meetings as a sounding board and resource for discussing and “problem-solving” children’s behavior. Brainstorm modifications that could be made such as changing classroom environment, classroom materials, or other accommodations that will help the child succeed.
  5. Hold a conference. If a child’s behavior does not respond to the behavior management techniques listed here, the next step should be a parent conference with the teaching team and the director. It’s important to ensure consistency across all environments and provide parents with strategies they can use at home.
  6. Create the Behavior Support Plan. The plan must include 3 key components:
    • Preventative strategies – actions to pre-empt challenging behavior such as setting clear expectations, modeling positive behavior, praising appropriate behavior, and providing rewards.
    • Replacement behavior (or a new skill) – explicit descriptions of the behavior you want the child to engage in (e.g., asking for the toy instead of hitting a peer to get it), which the teacher will need to intentionally teach.
    • Response strategies – responses to challenging behavior when it occurs and reinforcement of the desired behavior.
  7. Refer. The need for specialized support services will be assessed. If the strategies are not successful, with written parental permission, we will refer the family for specialized services that can address the child’s behavior problems, following our policy for referrals.
  8. Schedule. If necessary, we will discuss other possible actions like reducing the child’s schedule, up to and including helping a family transition to a program better suited to the child’s needs.
  9. Monitor progress. Use visual aids such as pictures, charts, and schedules to help the child understand expectations. Track progress and adjust the plan as needed. Celebrate successes and work with the child to continue to improve their behavior.

Remember that each child is unique, and what works for one doesn’t work for all. The behavior support plan must be tailored to the child’s individual needs, and may require adjustments as the child develops. No matter what the behavior exhibited, we will treat the child and their family with the same respect, support, and care that we do any other child or family.

prohibited child guidance practices

Like EEC, we at First Circle believe that behavioral control is neither logical nor appropriate for children. No form of punishment or physical restraint will be used to discipline a child. We strictly prohibit all the following practices:

  • spanking or other corporal punishment of children
  • subjecting children to cruel or severe punishment such as humiliation, verbal or physical abuse, neglect, or abusive treatment including any type of physical hitting inflicted in any manner upon the body, shaking, threats, or derogatory remarks
  • depriving children of outdoor time, meals, or snacks; force feeding children or otherwise making them eat against their will, or using food as a consequence
  • disciplining a child for soiling, wetting, or not using the toilet; forcing a child to remain in soiled clothing or to remain on the toilet, or using any other unusual or excessive practices for toileting
  • confining a child to a swing, high chair, crib, playpen, or any other piece of equipment for an extended time in lieu of supervision
  • excessive time-out; Although we do not use time-out as a behavior management practice, EEC regulations stipulate that time-out may not exceed one minute for each year of the child’s age and must take place within an educator’s view.
  • physical restraint by use of physical force to control the child’s movements and/or actions to motivate the child to become more compliant

in conclusion

Guidance should not be thought of as a weak alternative to traditional discipline—it’s being a good coach who doesn’t give up on any member of the team. Your efforts at guidance don’t have to be perfect, but if you persist and reflect, you will get good results. We learn even as we teach. Do these things and you will feel positively about yourself as a teacher—and that will help with the inner calm you need to guide children toward healthy emotional and social skills.

______________

 
APPENDIX

Toileting + diapering

DIAPERING PROCEDURE

We strictly follow requirements and guidelines for safety and sanitation from EEC and the DPH. This step-by-step procedure is posted over every changing table and must be followed without exception:

  1. Gather necessary supplies. Place disposable paper on changing table.
  2. Put on disposable gloves.
  3. Place child on covered diapering surface. Clean child’s bottom from front to back with disposable wipes sent in from home.
  4. Use ointments and/or creams as requested and authorized by the family.
  5. Diaper and dress the child.
  6. Place soiled diaper, wipes and gloves in plastic bag (not necessary for wet diapers). Discard in trash. Seal soiled clothing in a plastic bag and store it apart from other items to be sent home.
  7. Prepare a paper towel for use.
  8. Wash the child’s hands and your own, using paper towel to turn off the faucet.
  9. Disinfect and wipe down the diapering area after each use with sanitizer solution.
  10. Return supplies to proper storage.
  11. Record information on the daily sheet (if applicable).

TOILETING PROCEDURES

All staff must follow these procedures when assisting children with toileting:

  • Create frequent group toileting times throughout the day to facilitate the process. However, allow children to use the toilet when needed.
  • Supervise the children at all times, while allowing them as much privacy as is appropriate.
  • Toddler teachers must remain in the bathroom with the children, moving to the sink area as children finish. Preschool and Pre-K teachers must remain in the bathroom area (within sight of sinks and both bathrooms).
  • Assist children with clothing when necessary.
  • Seal soiled clothing in a plastic bag and store it apart from other items to be sent home [see detailed instructions below]. Extra clothing is available if needed.
  • Encourage children to wipe themselves carefully from front to back. Check that the child is clean, wearing gloves and wiping the child with toilet paper when necessary. Wash your hands and apply new gloves after wiping a child.
  • Clean and disinfect the toilet with sanitizer solution if soiled by feces. (Put on disposable gloves whenever cleaning feces, urine, vomit or blood.)
  • Children should proceed to the sinks to wash hands [see Handwashing Procedure].
  • Primary teachers, not assistants, should bring children in to use the bathroom when outside.
  • Diapers with a BM should always be changed on the table

Wet Diaper Procedure

  1. With a diaper and wipe, children wearing a dry or only wet diaper enter the bathroom, placing their diaper and wipe on the back of a toilet. Put on gloves.
  2. Child pulls down pants. Before children have complete independence in this step, they may need both verbal and physical assistance in order to pull them down.
  3. Child tears off diaper and disposes in trash bag (may need verbal or physical assistance with this step).
  4. Child steps onto stepstool, if needed (feet should be touching either the floor or the stepstool).
  5. Child sits on or stands at the toilet. Boys may need to hold the back of the toilet while standing for balance. For the most success, children should be encouraged to try the toilet for a short amount of time, such as the length of singing the “ABCs.”
  6. Child climbs off of stepstool and rips off toilet paper. Before children have complete independence in this step, they may need both verbal and physical assistance in ripping off the appropriate amount of toilet paper.
  7. Encourage the child to wipe themselves carefully from front to back and throw the paper in the toilet. Check that the child is clean, wearing gloves and wiping him/her with toilet paper when necessary.
  8. Wash your hands and change gloves after helping to wipe any child.
  9. Child flushes toilet.
  10. Children bring their own diapers to you. After throwing away soiled gloves, strap the dry diaper onto the standing child.
  11. Children pull up pants. Before children have complete independence in this step, they may need verbal and/or physical assistance in knowing where to put their hands on their pants in order to pull them up.
  12. Children should proceed to the sinks to wash hands [see Handwashing Procedure].

Children Wearing Underwear Procedure

  1. Child pulls down pants.
  2. Child sits on or stands at the toilet. Feet should be touching a surface, either the floor or a stepstool. Boys may need to hold the back of the toilet while standing for balance.
  3. Encourage the child to wipe him/herself carefully from front to back and throw the paper in the toilet. Check to make sure the child is clean, wearing gloves and wiping him/her with toilet paper when necessary. Wash your hands after helping to wipe any child.
  4. Child flushes toilet.
  5. Child pulls up pants.
  6. Children should proceed to the sinks to wash hands [see Handwashing Procedure].

Wet Clothing Procedure

  1. Gather dry clothing with the child from the child’s extra supply (school-provided extra clothing is available if necessary).
  2. Provide the child with disposable paper to place on floor of the bathroom.
  3. Child places wet clothing into a plastic bag you hold open. Seal the bag to be sent home.
  4. Child uses wet wipes to clean all wet areas of the body, placing used wipes in a diaper bag.
  5. Child redresses and throws disposable paper into trash bag.
  6. With educator supervision, children proceed to sinks to wash hands [see Handwashing procedure].
  7. Clean and disinfect the wet area with sanitizer solution.

Changing Soiled Clothing (In Bathroom) Procedure

  1. Gather clean clothing with the child from the child’s extra supply (school-provided extra clothing is available if necessary).
  2. Wearing gloves, bring several sheets of disposable paper, three plastic diaper bags and a box of wipes into bathroom with the child.
  3. With child standing on disposable paper, remove child’s shoes, socks and pants, sealing any soiled clothes in one plastic bag.
  4. Carefully remove soiled underpants from child, dumping the contents into the toilet.
  5. To prevent it from soiling other clothing, seal soiled underwear in its own plastic bag to be sent home.
  6. Use wipes to clean child’s body thoroughly, sealing used wipes and soiled diaper paper in separate plastic bag. Dispose of this bag in covered step can.
  7. Clean and disinfect the soiled area with sanitizer solution.
  8. Child redresses.
  9. Proceed to sinks with child to wash hands [see Handwashing Procedure].

Clothes Soiled by Bowel Movement (Changing on Diaper Table)

  1. Follow all steps of the diapering procedure, remembering to place soiled clothes in separate plastic diaper bag to be sent home.

Emergency procedures

EVACUATION ON SITE

ADMIN
  • Signal emergency by alert whistle.
  • Remain in building to ensure that no one is left in the building and confirm the safety of the children.
  • Determine with emergency officials when the area is “all clear.” Do not let anyone back in the building until cleared. Confirm head count of children AND staff before anyone returns to building.
  • If there is the possibility that we will be evacuating for any length of time, or it’s not possible to return to the building, Administration will designate someone to bring the program backpacks and “evacuation basket” – containing diapers, wipes, snacks, water and activities – to the evacuation area to await further instruction.
EDUCATORS
  • Bring attendance sheets, emergency contact list, and any emergency medications (e.g. epi-pens) outside.
  • Gather children and help them toward the nearest exit by using calm voices and walking feet. Do NOT tell children to hurry up or encourage them to run.
  • Children do not take time to put on coats or boots. Depending on weather conditions, gather as many coats and/or blankets as possible as you exit.
  • Place three to four infants in each evacuation crib and wheel to the nearest exit. Toddlers walk or are carried to the safety area, and preschoolers walk independently.
  • FOLLOW THE EVACUATION ROUTES posted in each classroom and go to the designated spot to wait for the “all clear” signal. 

EVACUATION OFF-SITE 

ADMIN
  • Administration will designate someone to bring the program backpacks and “evacuation basket” – containing diapers, wipes, snacks, water and activities – to the evacuation area to await further instructions. 
  • Contact parents or emergency contacts and make arrangements to pick the children up as soon as it’s safe.
  • Call the facility and Inform the administrator in charge of the emergency and of our arrival, including how many children and approximate duration of stay (typically 3-5 hours).
  • An administrator, (or a staff member) should follow by vehicle if possible, with the back-up water supply, some snack, and the Evacuation Basket that includes: flashlights and batteries, a one-day supply of diapers and wipes, activity kits for each age group, back-up first aid supplies, hand sanitizer, and trash bags. 

EVACUATION CHECKLIST

  • When we must evacuate the center, proper attendance is vital to keeping everyone safe. Classroom teachers are responsible for:
  • Daily attendance
  • Emergency Information Sheets for each child
  • Any medications and supplies that will be vital for care for the next 1-2 hours (including all emergency medications, like epi-pens)
  • Blankets in cold weather
  • One diaper per child who needs one and a box of wipes.

REVERSE EVACUATION

  • Movement of children and staff back into the center due to a danger/emergency outside. An example of this is a suspicious or criminal act occurring nearby or a wild animal.

SHELTER-IN-PLACE

When a threat creates hazardous conditions outside the center, children and staff may need to shelter-in-place. This may also need to occur if it is not safe or there is insufficient time to move to a designated assembly area or secondary relocation site. Shelter-in-place involves keeping children and staff in place inside the building and securing the center for the immediate emergency. Examples of situations include tornados, community violence, or a hazardous material spill.

ADMIN
  • Limit outdoor activities
  • Monitor weather conditions
  • Be in contact with local officials
  • Signal and communicate when shelter-in-place is necessary
  • Shut off building’s air handling systems, gas, electric, water and other utilities (if necessary)
EDUCATORS
  • Bring children and staff to the predetermined areas within the center. Stay away from windows and doors.
  • Close and lock all windows and doors.
  • Gather disaster supplies and bring to the predetermined area, as applicable.
  • Conduct a head count to ensure everyone is present and accounted for in the area.
  • Wait for the “all clear” signal.
  • Keep your group together, be calm, follow all instructions, wait for “all clear” from Administration, and be as safe as possible.

LOCK-DOWN 

ADMIN
  • Be in contact with local officials and/or 911
  • If appropriate, announce “Attention, hostile intruder in ___ classroom”
  • Secure building entrances, ensuring that no unauthorized individuals leave or enter the building.
  • Once cleared with local officials, announce “all clear”
EDUCATORS
  • Bring children and staff to the predetermined areas within the center. Stay away from windows and doors.
  • Close and lock windows and doors and shut blinds
  • Turn off lights, put cell phone on silent mode.
  • Ensure that all children are present and accounted for and that no one leaves the classroom or designated safe area locations.
  • Encourage children to remain out of sight (e.g. get under desks, behind cabinets). If possible, engage in quiet storytime activities with the children until “all clear” is announced.
  •  If an active shooter, fight back as last resort
  • Keep your group together, be calm, follow all instructions, wait for “all clear” from Administration, and be as safe as possible.

UTILITY DISRUPTION (HEAT, TELEPHONE, POWER, WATER)

ADMIN
  • Report loss of electrical power immediately to the power company.
  • For phone service loss, an administrator will contact our telephone service provider to arrange for urgent repair and notify families alerting them to our status.
  • For loss of power, check the circuit breakers and provide flashlights to each classroom.
  • In the case of an extended power outage, call families to retrieve breast milk. Dispose of any food (and breast milk) that requires refrigeration.
  • If there is no definitive timetable for restoring utility after an hour, notify families to come pick up their child as soon as possible.
  • EDUCATORS

For loss of water, each location maintains a minimum of six gallons of water just for loss of water. Flush toilets with the supply of bottled water. Use wipes for washing hands after diapering and toileting to conserve the bottled water for drinking, flushing, and dishwashing.

In case of loss of heat during program hours, we’ll make every effort to stay open and maintain our regular routine. We’ll monitor the temperature and use portable heaters. If the temperature drops below 65° dress children warmly in coats/blankets as appropriate.

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS 

  • Notify an Administrator immediately of any suspected gas leaks or suspicious smells.
  • The Administrator will notify the gas company and fire department and follow their safety directions.
  • Be prepared to isolate the immediate area, evacuate, or take other precautions like sealing windows, doorways, shutting off air intake systems to provide protection from airborne hazardous materials.
  • If there is a temporary threat specific only to the premises, we will follow evacuation procedures, then follow the off-site evacuation procedures.
  • In the event of a major environmental hazard that necessitates a large evacuation – such as several neighborhoods – the local government agency will determine the mass shelter location. All educators must accompany their assigned children to the shelter and remain with them while the family/guardian/emergency contacts are notified, and arrangements are made for their pick-up.

Safety hazards

SERIOUS INJURY

EDUCATORS
  • Remain calm and with the child at all times.
  • One educator should begin emergency first aid while another educator takes the other children to another area or room and shields them as much as possible from viewing the emergency.
  • Alert Administration to send assistance.
  • Decide with Admin who will accompany child to hospital if EMS decides to transport.
  • The educator with the most knowledge of the incident must complete both sides and sign the Injury Report Form, and then give to the parent to sign. Copies of the form must be a) given to the parent; b) given to the Director during debriefing.
ADMIN
  • Contact 911 with details of emergency. If the EMS decides it’s necessary, they’ll transport the child via ambulance to the hospital.
  • Contact a parent, guardian, or emergency contact in the order designated by parents on the enrollment forms. Should time permit, the parent will be given the option of meeting the child at First Circle or at the hospital.
  • Decide with educator who will accompany the child to the hospital,
  • Bring to hospital the child’s records, including signed parental permission for emergency medical treatment. This will allow the doctors to begin treatment immediately. The staff member must remain with the child until the family arrives.
  • Until the arrival of a parent, the medical personnel at the hospital will be in charge and make all decisions necessary for emergency treatment.
  • Ensure educator completes Injury Report and send it to EEC.

MISSING, LOST, OR ABDUCTED CHILD 

On-Site

EDUCATORS
  • Conduct frequent head counts throughout the day and at all transitions (outside to playground, to bathrooms etc.)
  • If a child is missing, notify Admin immediately.
  • Remove other children to adjoining classroom.
  • Conduct an immediate search of the entire center and surrounding area.
ADMIN
  • Assist educators in conducting search.
  • Lock down the building and do not let anyone in or out.
  • Notify family.
  • Notify police once the initial search is made. Coordinate with police and the child’s teacher to provide identifying information (clothes, appearance, etc.).

Field trip

To prevent lost or missing children on a FIELD TRIP:

EDUCATORS
  • Conduct frequent headcounts while on a field trip.
  • Perform a “sweep” of the area or vehicle before leaving to be sure no child is overlooked.
  • All children attending field trips wear tie-dyed T-shirts and wrist bands with contact information for the school.
  • If a child is missing, notify Admin immediately.
  • Remove other children to another area.
  • Conduct an immediate search of the entire center and surrounding area.
  • Notify police once the initial search is made.
ADMIN
  • Assist educators in conducting search.
  • Notify family.
  • Coordinate with police and the child’s teacher to provide identifying information (clothes, appearance, etc.).

Violence hazards

PHYSICAL AND VERBAL THREATS

ADMIN
  • All verbal threats will be treated the same way as physical threats, and all physical threats made inside or outside the center will be taken seriously.
  • If the physical threat comes from within the center, notify law enforcement of the incident and communicate with the staff members involved in the incident.
  • Separate staff members involved in the altercation. Appropriate administrative actions will be taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the children.
EDUCATORS
  • Report and document any physical threats directed towards the children or other staff members to Administration.
  • Regardless of whether the physical threat comes from outside or inside the center, remove the children safely from the area in which the altercation is taking place (partial evacuation), and return them only after the situation has been resolved.

INTRUDER

ADMIN
  • Be in contact with local officials and/or 911.
  • If appropriate, announce “Attention, hostile intruder in ___ classroom.”
  • Initiate lock-down. Secure building entrances, ensuring that no one leaves or enters the building.
  • Administration will be responsible for all notifications (including emergency personnel, staff, and families), including “all clear.”
EDUCATORS
  • If you notice an unfamiliar unaccompanied person, ask that person how they can be helped.
  • Should someone exhibit strange or aggressive behavior, report this to an administrator immediately.
  • Remain calm and be polite. Do not physically restrain or block their movement.
  • Certain situations may also require educators to gather the children in their care and quickly leave the building, following evacuation procedures.
  • The bottom line is that each situation is different, and we will all do our best. There is no way to plan for every possibility, or how each of us will react.

ACTIVE SHOOTER

There are three basic steps to survival during an active shooter incident: “Run, Hide, Fight.”

  • RUN: If you are able to escape, evacuate yourself and children to safety and then contact law enforcement (e.g. 911).
  • HIDE: If you and the children are not able to evacuate, use a modified lockdown procedure by hiding, keeping the children as calm and quiet as possible to try to avoid detection.
  • FIGHT: As a last resort, in order to protect yourself and the children, fight the shooter with aggression and improvised weapons (e.g. anything you can throw at the shooter such as books, fire extinguisher, canned goods, etc.)
  • If an intruder leaves with a child or staff member, it is often better to let them leave rather than prompt a confrontation that would increase the risk of injury.

Abuse + neglect policy

This is First Circle’s complete Abuse and Neglect Policy. Under the law, mandated reporters are protected from liability in any civil or criminal action and from any discriminatory or retaliatory actions by an employer. If a staff member has a concern about a child or fellow educator, the first step we require is to report the concerns immediately to the Director or, in her absence, any member of First Circle Administration, with as much detail as possible. Staff are required to follow the requirements and process outlined in this policy with no exception. We provide regular in-service training to all staff on recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect. For new staff, this is covered in the orientation.

It is the responsibility of each staff member to report any suspected abuse or neglect, including abuse by another staff member [see Mandated Reporter section below].

OVERVIEW

BASIC NEEDS

We are committed to each child’s physical, emotional, and psychological health and well-being. To help our staff respond to a child’s needs, we ask that parents keep us apprised of any change to their child’s health that might adversely affect them. If a parent has any difficulty caring for their child’s needs, we encourage them to ask for help. The Director can provide a confidential referral to a community resource for any parent experiencing a need for additional support. 

CONCERNS

Children are observed on a regular basis by educators and by administrative staff. If a staff member has a concern regarding a child’s basic needs, they should inform the Director and maintain a written log recording their observations. The Director will hold a conference with the parent to inform them of these concerns and to assist them in finding ways to meet those needs. The Director will document the meeting in writing for the parent and give them a list of current referral resources to assist in this process. If the parent chooses not to seek appropriate services for the child and/or neglect or abuse is suspected by the teachers, our staff must follow state law to file a report with DCF [see below].

DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

Under Massachusetts law, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the state agency that receives all reports of suspected abuse or neglect of children under the age of 18. DCF’S primary mission is to protect children who have been abused or neglected in a family setting. DCF seeks to ensure that each child has a safe, nurturing, permanent home. The Department also provides a range of preventive services to support and strengthen families with children at risk of abuse or neglect. DCF depends on reports from professionals and other concerned individuals to learn about children who may need protection. The Department receives reports on more than 100,000 children each year. State law requires professionals whose work brings them in contact with children to notify DCF if they suspect that a child has been – or is at risk of being – abused or neglected.

MANDATED REPORTERS

Anyone may report concerns of child abuse and neglect to DCF as non-mandated reporters. However, as defined by Chapter 119, Section 51A, As defined by Chapter 119, Section 51A, any person working in an early education, preschool, or childcare is a mandated reporter, and therefore must file a report when they believe a child is being abused or neglected.

Massachusetts law requires mandated reporters to immediately make an oral or written report to DCF when, in their professional capacity, they have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 is suffering from abuse and/or neglect. In addition to filing with the Department a mandated reporter may notify local law enforcement or the Office of the Child Advocate of any suspected abuse and/or neglect. You should report any physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse; any indication of neglect, including malnutrition; any instance in which a child is determined to be physically dependent upon an addictive drug at birth; or death as a result of abuse and/or neglect. Any mandated reporter who fails to make required oral and written reports can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000.

Under the law, mandated reporters are protected from liability in any civil or criminal action and from any discriminatory or retaliatory actions by an employer.

DEFINITIONS

Under the Department of Children and Families regulations (110 CMR, section 2.00), abuse and neglect are defined as the following:

Abuse

The non-accidental commission of any act by a caretaker upon a child under age 18 which causes, or creates a substantial risk of, physical or emotional injury; or constitutes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth; or any sexual contact between a caretaker and a child under the care of that individual. This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., abuse can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting).

Neglect

Failure by a caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care; provided, however, that such inability is not due solely to inadequate economic resources or solely to the existence of a handicapping condition. This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., neglect can occur while the child is in the home or out of the home).

Physical Injury

Fracture of a bone, a subdural hematoma, bums, impairment of any organ, and any other such nontrivial injury; or soft tissue swelling or skin bruising, depending upon such factors as the child’s age, circumstances under which the injury occurred and the number and location of bruises; or addiction to a drug or drugs at birth; or failure to thrive, up to death.

Emotional Injury

An impairment to or disorder of the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by observable and substantial reduction in the child’s ability to function within a normal range of performance and behavior.

“Caretaker” 

Can be a child’s parent, stepparent, guardian, or any household member entrusted with the responsibility for a child’s health or welfare. In addition, any other person entrusted with the responsibility for a child’s health or welfare, both in and out of the child’s home, regardless of age, is considered a caretaker. Examples may include relatives from outside the home, teachers or school staff in a school setting, workers at day care and childcare centers (including babysitters), foster parents, staff at a group care facility, or persons charged with caring for children in any other comparable setting.

PROCEDURE

First Circle’s procedures for staff to report concerns of abuse and/or neglect:

Concerns

 If you have a concern about a child, but have not witnessed abuse or neglect, you should report your concerns immediately to the Director or, in her absence, a member of First Circle’s Administration, with as much detail as possible.

The Administrator notified will assess the observations and facts that cause a staff member to believe a child has been abused or neglected. The Director will confer with other staff members involved in the care of the child in question and will review the child’s records. The Director may consult with the child’s parents. The Director will assist you in deciding whether to file a report. It is our goal to arrive at a consensus as to whether to file a report. However, this may not always be possible, and First Circle will always respect a staff member’s decision if they choose to report, and no punitive or retaliatory measures will ever be taken against the staff member.

REASONABLE CAUSE

If you witness or are told by a child of abuse or neglect by a caretaker, or you otherwise suspect abuse or neglect, you should immediately report the information to Administration, with as much detail as possible.

Any discussion with the child about the incident should be conducted by a professional with expertise in this area.

You are mandated to report such suspicions, regardless of your own relationship to the family. Either the Director or the person with the most direct contact/information must make a verbal report by phone to DCF no later than the end of the business day during which the abuse or neglect was witnessed or revealed or suspected. In a case where a child would be at imminent risk of serious injury, the report will be made within an hour after the concerns are identified. To make a report, call the DCF Area Office (see numbers below) and ask for the Protective Screening Unit.

LEXINGTON
  • Arlington Area Office
  • 781-641-8500
  • Southern
FRAMINGHAM
  • Framingham Area Office
  • 508-424-0100
  • Northern
STOUGHTON
  • Brockton Area Office
  • 508-894-3700
  • Southern

After DCF has been notified, the Director may notify the parent or guardian, unless the notification will, as decided by First Circle administration, endanger the child’s safety or well-being.

The person who notified DCF is required by law to mail or fax a written report to the Department within 48 hours after making the oral report. The report should include any other information you believe might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury and/or person responsible.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

When DCF receives a report of abuse and/or neglect, called a “51A report,” from either a mandated reporter or another concerned citizen, DCF is required to evaluate the allegations and determine the safety of the child. During DCF’s response process, all mandated reporters are required to answer the Department’s questions and provide information to assist in determining whether a child is being abused and/or neglected and in assessing the child’s safety in the household. The information provided includes:

  • all identifying information you have about the child and parent or other caretaker, if known;
  • the nature and extent of the suspected abuse or neglect, including any evidence or knowledge of prior injury, abuse, maltreatment, or neglect;
  • the circumstances under which you first became aware of the child’s injuries, abuse, maltreatment or neglect;
  • what action, if any, has been taken thus far to treat, shelter, or otherwise assist the child

 Once DCF has received a report, the process is as follows:

The report is screened in or out

The purpose of the screening process is to gather sufficient information to determine whether the allegation meets the Department’s criteria for suspected abuse and/or neglect, whether there is immediate danger to the safety of a child, whether DCF involvement is warranted and how best to target the Department’s initial response. The Department begins the screening process immediately on receipt of a report. During the screening process, DCF obtains information from the person filing the report and contacts professionals involved with the family, such as doctors or teachers who may be able to provide information about the child’s condition. DCF may also contact the family if appropriate.

If the report is Screened In, it is assigned either for a Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation or Assessment Response.

  • CPS Investigation: Generally, cases of suspected sexual or serious physical abuse or severe neglect will be assigned to the CPS Investigation Response. The severity of the situation will dictate whether it requires an emergency or non-emergency investigation. The primary purpose of the Investigation Response is to determine the current safety and the potential risk to the reported child, the validity of an allegation, identification of person(s) responsible and whether DCF intervention is necessary.
  • CPS Assessment Response: Generally, moderate or lower risk allegations are assigned to the CPS Assessment Response. The primary purpose of the Assessment Response is to determine if DCF involvement is necessary and to engage and support families. This response involves a review of the reported allegations, assessing safety and risk of the child, identifying family strengths and determining what, if any, supports and services are needed.
  • A determination is made as to the validity of the allegation, whether the child can safely remain at home, and whether the family would benefit from continued DCF involvement. If DCF involvement continues, a Comprehensive Assessment and Service Plan are developed with the family.
  • If the Department determines that a child has been sexually abused or sexually exploited, has suffered serious physical abuse and/or injury, or has died as a result of abuse and/or neglect, DCF must notify local law enforcement as well as the District Attorney, who have the authority to file criminal charges.
  • The mandated reporter who filed the report will receive a copy of the decision letter that is sent to the parents or caretaker. In that letter you will be informed of the Department’s response, the determination and whether DCF is opening a case for continued DCF involvement.

If the report is Screened Out, DCF ceases their investigation, and no further action is taken.

TIMEFRAMES

SCREENING:
  • Begins immediately for all reports. For an emergency response, it is completed within two hours. For a non-emergency response, screening may take up to three business days as appropriate.
EMERGENCY INVESTIGATION:
  • Must begin within two hours and be completed within five business days of the report.
NON-EMERGENCY INVESTIGATION:
  • Must begin within two business days and be completed within 15 business days of the report.
INITIAL ASSESSMENT:
  • Must begin within two business days and be completed within 15 business days of the report.
COMPREHENSIVE ASSESSMENT:
  • May take up to 45 business days.

ALLEGATIONS AGAINST A STAFF MEMBER

In addition to the procedures listed above, the following shall apply to any allegation of abuse or neglect against a staff member:

  • Once DCF has been notified, the Director will immediately confer with the staff member against whom the allegation has been made, and then immediately notify the Department of Early Education and Care. Whether DCF screens the allegation in or out, EEC will conduct its own investigation.
  • The staff member will immediately be suspended with or without pay for a period not to exceed five (5) working days, pending investigations. While suspended with pay, the employee shall retain all benefits. No accused staff member may continue to provide direct care to children until an investigation has been completed by First Circle, EEC, DCF, and the allegation is proven to be unfounded.
  • If no resolution is made within five (5) business days and a more extensive investigation is undertaken, the employee will be placed on suspension without pay indefinitely. At no time during an investigation for alleged abuse shall the accused staff member be permitted to provide direct care to children. During this time, the employee shall retain all benefits except for base pay. If the allegations are determined to be “not supported” by DCF and EEC, the employee will be reinstated with full benefits and pay.
  • First Circle staff will cooperate in all investigations of abuse and neglect, including identifying parents of children currently or previously enrolled in the program, as well as allowing open communication of information with any person or agency the Department of Early Education and Care deems necessary to the investigation of the allegations and protection of children.
  • No statement, oral or written, should be made by any staff member other than the Administration to any person not directly involved with the investigation. Questions from parents or other children enrolled at First Circle, other staff members, or the news media must be referred to the Administration.
  • Educators are responsible for abuse and neglect if: 1) (s)he admits to causing the abuse or neglect, or 2) the educator is convicted of the abuse and neglect in a criminal proceeding, or 3) EEC determines, based on its own investigation conducted by the DCF that there is reasonable cause to believe that the educator caused the abuse and neglect while children were in their care. If the allegations against the staff member are supported by DCF and EEC, employment will be immediately terminated.