Maine Department of Education Rule Chapter 101 includes federally mandated Child Find requirements, including timely screening procedures for incoming Pre-Kindergarten (PreK) and Kindergarten (K) students. As Maine schools begin preparations for spring, summer or early fall screenings, appropriate precautions should be taken. In addition to the supports that you would typically provide to families based on their needs (e.g. language, culture, transportation), the following screening guidance is provided for school administrative units (SAUs) and their Collaborative Planning Teams to inform local procedures.
Prior to In-person Screening
Maine schools are encouraged to use the time prior to scheduling in-person screening to build relationships with guardians of incoming students through an over-abundance of communication.
The use of online registration for PreK and K students enables schools to identify the students who will be enrolling in programs in the fall of 2021. As children are registering, schools could send welcome letters that include guardian surveys to begin the screening process. Guardian surveys can be obtained or developed by:
- Accessing one that is already part of the school’s PreK/K screening tool (e.g. DIAL, ASQ, Brigance, etc.).
- Purchasing from available guardian screening tools (see Screening Compendium for examples).
- Use available standardized developmental screening tools, including the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) or Survey of Well Being of Young Children (SWYC)
Guardian surveys could be mailed or could utilize technology-based applications. Phone calls to guardians are recommended in order to answer questions guardians may have, provide reminders about returning the surveys, and obtain information about students that would be helpful in planning for any additional supports necessary to assist the child during screening or in-person instruction. Schools may also consider hosting virtual open houses/meetings to help guardians learn about the school, the staff, the guardian survey, and the screening process. As needed, provide translation and interpreter services throughout the entire screening process.
Once surveys are collected, schools could use available information to prioritize screenings so that students with greater risk can be scheduled for in-person screening first. Once complete, schools should encourage families to share screening results with their child’s primary care provider. The following guidelines should be considered:
- If students were served in a public PreK and guardians /teachers had no concerns, screening does not need to be repeated for Kindergarten entry, this applies for those who had vision and hearing screening completed in PreK as well.
- If students were served by Head Start, schools should connect with the sending Head Start program to gather information from their screenings. It is likely those students will not need to be re-screened.
- If students have current IEPs, screening is not needed. Transition planning should be occurring, and students will most likely be re-evaluated in the fall and/or can complete other screening requirements (e.g. health screens) later.
- Schools may consider seeking guardian releases for screening information, including lead testing, developmental, hearing, and vision screenings that have been conducted by health care providers and/or other private services.
- Of the remaining students who need to be screened, use the information from the guardian survey to prioritize students, scheduling students at greater risk first.
To assist in providing a smooth, safe, and effective in-person screening process, provide guardians with an explanation of how the screening process will work prior to arriving, utilizing short videos which introduce the process, people, and materials. This will help them know what to expect and will assist them in explaining the experience to their children. Also, provide guardians with any additional forms that could be completed ahead of time to reduce the time onsite during screening.
When developing a plan for in-person screening, please consider the following guidance for developing a safe screening environment.
- Implement the six safety requirements for schools, and in addition, components of the SAU’s Emergency Operations Plan.
- Upon arrival, families must complete a symptoms checklist to ensure that the child and guardian have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
- Have hand sanitizer available at entry points. The screener, child and guardian must use prior to beginning each session.
- Have supplies available to disinfect screening stations between appointments. Have custodial staff available to disinfect common areas when guardians and children may be traveling to reach screening stations. Follow appropriate guidelines for disinfecting facilities as found in the PK-12 and Adult Education Public Health Guidance.
- Work with and include your school nurse and school health advisor in the design of your screening process. Consider, if feasible, seeking support from community medical providers.
- Organize screenings to minimize exposures by having one screener completing all aspects of the screening with one student, rather than rotating children through stations with a different screener at each station. If you want to accommodate more than one student at a time, have multiple screeners spread out, each in their own station, but do not have children rotating between stations. Screening stations should be big enough to allow for the spacing needed to complete the screening while maintaining appropriate distance between stations. Consider, in good weather, setting up screening stations outdoors.
- Ensure adherence to the gathering limits, established in Executive Order 35 FY 20/21.
- Limit screening to one guardian (when possible) per child with no other family members (such as siblings).
- Stagger the arrival times so that there is time between guardians and students entering the school and moving to their assigned screening locations. Make sure the entrance point for screening is clearly identified.
- Clearly mark the traffic flow for entering and exiting screening stations and for leaving the school. Consider having a minimal number of additional staff on hand to help with traffic flow, as necessary.
- Guardians should remain outside of the screening area. If children are uncomfortable about or unwilling to be separated from their guardian for the screening, it may be necessary to wait to complete the screening until after the school year begins and children have grown more comfortable.
- Screening of medically fragile students may need to be postponed until conditions improve, scheduled to avoid unnecessary exposure to others and should be done in consultation with their health care provider.
- If your school collaborates with a Head Start or CDS program, consider enlisting assistance from their trained screening staff.
- Some schools incorporate additional components in screening beyond what is required for Child Find. Consider reducing screening to only what is essential, and/or receiving this information from the primary care provider.
- If screening during the summer proves to be too challenging, consider using the first couple days of the school year as a time to complete this process.
- Use of federal funds through the variety of COVID-19 relief packages to pay for additional expenses incurred by schools to complete screening (e.g. technology-based surveys, staff time in the summer to complete screening, etc.) might be allowable. Please utilize the existing application approval procedures to inquire about this use.
If you have additional questions, please reach out to Nicole Madore, Early Childhood Specialist, Nicole.email@example.com or Emily Poland, School Nurse Consultant and Coordinated School Health Team Leader, Emily.Poland@maine.gov.