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Opening of School 2020-21 Preschool Through 3rd Grade


Questions and answers are related to the Colorado Preschool Program, Preschool Special Education, and Child Find for children from birth through age 5 during Safer At Home and Beyond. 

Jump to a Preschool topic:

State-Funded Preschool Guidance Related to Instructional Hours and Attendance

In collaboration with stakeholders in the field and partners across the Department, this preschool-specific guidance is intended to build on broader CDE guidance while providing preschool specific considerations. Please note, the italicized font in this guidance are direct quotes from the CDE Policy on Instructional Hours and Attendance for the 2020-21 school year


What does state law say about school calendars?

State law requires each local school board to annually adopt a district calendar that includes a minimum of 160 student contact days and allows local boards flexibility in changing that calendar as a result of emergency closings or unforeseen circumstances. C.R.S. 22-32-109(1)(n)(II)(B).

If we implement remote learning days, how will this affect our student contact days?


For the 2020-21 academic year, student contact days may include remote learning days as implemented as a result of public health and safety measures. In order to count a remote learning day as a student contact day, the following criteria must be met: 

We encourage the local preschool district advisory council to advise the school board on this topic for preschool.

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Instructional Hours

How many hours are required for teacher-pupil contact?


State law requires each school schedule to include a minimum number of hours of planned teacher-pupil instruction and teacher-pupil contact during the school year. For the Colorado Preschool Program the minimum requirements are 720 hours for full-day and 360 hours for half-day. Caregivers and teachers of young children in preschool play an important role in creating a coordinated approach to learning and development. Research and widely accepted strategies show that meaningful learning experiences occur during engagement through play, exploration, and inquiry in ways that support the whole child. As a result, we recommend that hours for this age group be conducted in person, when at all possible.

Programs are expected to make a good faith effort to ensure that whatever combination of in-person and/or remote learning they implement during the year allows teachers to cover the same academic content as they would have covered under the in-person schedule. Districts will need to determine the equivalent amount of teacher-pupil instruction and contact time associated with the remote learning being delivered. See the Addendum to the Audit Resource Guide for more information on instructional hours and equivalencies. 

How is remote learning defined? 


For the 2020-21 school year only, local boards may define “the educational process” as including instruction delivered electronically and independent, remote work time for students that is directed and monitored by a qualified teacher. 

If districts will be including remote learning in the determination for funding, they will need to adopt local policy specifically to address the implementation of remote learning during the 2020-21 academic year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is recommended that the definition of educational process be differentiated by grade-level, therefore this will look different for a preschooler than an older child, particularly since learning and instruction rarely occur independently for this grade level. See the Stay-At-Home FAQs for Remote Learning examples for the preschool grade level. 

Qualified teachers for preschool are defined by the local board and/or minimally by the child care licensing rules.

October 1 Count and Funding 

How are students counted in pupil membership?

In order to be counted in pupil membership, a student must be enrolled and in attendance. 1 CCR 301-39, section 5.04(1). A district can demonstrate student attendance if the student attends school for all or any portion of the pupil enrollment count date or the alternative count date, or if the student is absent on the pupil enrollment date or the alternative count date (for any reason), the student must establish attendance during the current school year prior to the pupil enrollment count date, and resume attendance within 30 days following the pupil enrollment count date (while also not having withdrawn from the district during that time period). 1 CCR 301-39, section 2254-R-5.03(1). For the 2020-21 school year, districts may alter their district attendance policies and the way in which attendance is documented for remote learning, as described in the district’s “educational process” definition.

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How might local attendance policies for 2020-21 be defined for preschool, considering the possibility of non-classroom based instruction?

For the 2020-21 school year, districts may choose to amend their attendance policies to expand the way in which attendance may be documented, so long as students in attendance are still “engaged in the educational process” as defined by the district.

Districts will have flexibility in how they calculate and collect student attendance information in 2020-21, but will still be expected to submit attendance information for the spring 2021 Attendance Snapshot data collection. Districts should consider processes for documenting attendance in a way that incorporates remote-learning attendance within its student information system.

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What are some viable ideas for documenting attendance for remote instruction in preschool?


Districts may choose to track and count attendance based on presence during in-person instruction, as well as assignments completed at home, logging into an online learning platform, or other methods of tracking attendance during remote learning. 

Programs are expected to record attendance (at a minimum) once daily during remote learning days. Some of these other methods may include the following ideas:  Consider using a parent or caregiver report each day or week based on information that teachers communicate about the learning experiences and activities aligned to the curriculum.  These activities are “checked off” by parents as they engage in this learning with their children. The district may want to consider altering family agreements/expectations to include descriptions of ways in which families will be expected to engage/participate in the event of remote learning. 

For preschool, it is important to consider that many working families may not be able to consistently participate due to work requirements or other situations. Consider ways preschoolers can be counted for attendance that lessens the burden for parents as they will be in charge of ensuring their preschooler is in attendance. Some options to consider in this situation is tracking when parents or caregivers pick up the weekly packet, when they log in to an online story time or circle time, when they respond to a text, email or phone call, etc. 

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Restarting Preschool Programming

Licensing and Health Requirements for Preschool Classrooms

Every classroom in which children receive CPP funding must have a valid child care center license from the Office of Early Childhood at the Department of Human Services (C.R.S. 22-28-108 (1)(a)). Please reach out to your licensing specialist, or local public health partners, with questions, if needed.

Is the guidance in the Safer at Home EO recommended or required? 

The public health order implements the requirements from Executive Order D 2020 044 Safer at Home, and the guidance materials then provide additional explanation. Reading the public health order carefully will provide a better understanding of what is required, and unless the terms used are optional, such as may, urged or encouraged, the actions listed in the public health order are required.

What are the current group size requirements?  

CPP class size limit continues to be 16 unless there is a smaller group size requirement put in place by the local health authority which has jurisdiction over your program. 

Governor Polis announced that certain child care providers in Colorado may return to their regular licensed group size and licensed capacity, as stated in Colorado child care licensing rules beginning Thursday, June 4, 2020. Please see the Office of Early Childhood General and Operational Questions for more information. 

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Should the maximum number of children in a classroom be reduced by public health orders, how should CPP proceed?

A rule was passed by the State Board of Education in July which allows for a CPP classroom to increase the adult-child ratio from one to eight (1:8)  to one to ten (1:10) (2228-R 6.04.1.a), when needed to operate in accordance with public health guidelines and safety measures.

Should children and providers wear masks and gloves in child care facilities? 

Updated information regarding masks in child care facilities can be found on the CDPHE page related to schools and child care facilities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed the COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry. The purpose of this guidance is to support education, public health, local leadership, and pediatricians collaborating with schools in creating policies for school re-entry that foster the overall health of children, adolescents, staff, and communities and are based on available evidence.

More information may be found on the CDPHE's COVID-19 website or Division of Early Care and Learning COVID-19 FAQs

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How do we ensure that our in-person (classroom-based) preschool instruction meets the additional COVID health and safety requirements?

The Office of Early Childhood, in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, created A Resource Guide for Child Care Providers During COVID-19.

The current safer at home rules recommend that groups of children are kept together with the same staff when possible. In other words, groups should remain consistent and should not be combined throughout the day. For more information see Thinking Through Class Composition and Teacher Assignment When Reopening and the Framework and Toolkit for Planning for the 2020-21 School Year for School and District Leaders.

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Hearing and Vision Screening

What should be considered prior to resuming in-person hearing and vision screening?

In a typical school year, hearing and vision screenings are routinely conducted by district and Special Education Administrative Unit personnel, including preschool and child find teams. This school year, as schools resume in-person learning, district and BOCES personnel should develop plans for conducting in-person student screenings in accordance with public health orders. 

CDE expects that children attending state- funded preschool receive both hearing and vision screening before the start of the school year so that children requiring further intervention can be identified and supported as quickly as possible. Normally, when hearing and vision screening cannot be conducted prior to enrollment it should be completed within a short time (e.g. 30 days) of enrollment. Screening requirements and recommendations under Parts C and B of IDEA are in effect for any student referred for evaluation. 

 The feasibility of conducting both universal and targeted screenings will be affected by remote and in-person learning scenarios, as well as AU implemented health and safety procedures. Due to potential constraints, districts should expect to alter their practices. For more information on potential considerations and solutions to address challenges please refer to the  8/8/2020 Guidance for Administrative Units on Hearing & Vision Screening During COVID-19

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General Classroom Resources

What should be considered when a family has chosen to defer preschool enrollment because they are uncertain if instruction and programming will occur live or remote? 

Good communication with families is even more important in these uncertain times. Update and revise district and school websites so they can be easily navigated by families, and provide relevant, timely information. The National P-3 Center makes these suggestions to help with enrollment: 

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What are some critical tasks that I can do to help with reopening preschool? 

These ideas are from the webinar: Preparing for Re-Opening: The Administrator’s Role in Taking Control When Things Seem Out of Control, by Jennifer Fiechtner, M.A. and Kay M. Albrecht, Ph.D.

  • Update health and sanitation policies
  • Strengthen communication systems
    • Use familiar two-way communications with families
    • Update and confirm accuracy of emergency contact information
  • Focus on a positive work environment for staff
    • Check in with staff more often
    • Attend to staff health well-being
  • Develop back-up plans for staffing challenges
  • Create an emotionally supportive environment for children
  • Anticipate an uptick in children’s challenging behavior
  • Develop plans for your own self-care

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What the guidelines are regarding home visits for this school year?

Conducting home visits for preschool is encouraged. However, if you conduct visits in person this fall, follow the guidelines set by your district and local health department. If staff or families are uneasy about in-person visits at this time, consider conducting home visits virtually, or perhaps meet in a public, open space (such as a park) to meet, following social distancing recommendations. The most important element of a home visit is to provide an opportunity to make connections with the child and family outside of school.


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Can CARES funding be used for preschool expenses?

Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) can be used for allowable preschool expenditures. CDE’s guidance document will be updated to reflect this.

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How can we practice social distancing in the classroom?

The Office of Early Childhood has some tips on ways to social distance within the classroom:

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How can I promote children’s social and emotional well-being during this time? 

  • The National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations has ideas on how to help teachers in implementing practices to promote children’s social and emotional competence and understanding expectations in their Re-Opening Guide.
  • The following guidance, recommendations, and resources are provided by child trauma experts at Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts.
  • SUPPORTING YOUNG CHILDREN DURING COVID-19 - Use this guide from the Office of Early Childhood to learn how you can encourage learning at home, practice positive guidance, and find resources and people that can help in your community.

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Community Providers

Expectations for remote learning provided by contracted preschools, including Head Start, should be consistent with what district-based classrooms are providing to students to promote equitable access between children enrolled in district classrooms and children enrolled at contracted sites. Remember, children enrolled at community/contracted sites are enrolled in a district’s preschool program.

In case of a pandemic related closure, please refer to health department recommendations. You will want to address situations in which the district program may close and community child care providers remain open, or vice versa.  Families will need to decide whether or not to send their child to an open program. If closures occur, to the extent possible, districts will be encouraged to continue payment of contracted preschool providers, whether or not state-funded preschoolers are attending programs in person, as long as the families have access to the district’s remote learning program. Districts should follow contracts that are in place with partner providers, and should review and amend those contracts, as necessary.

Preschool Special Education

Does Preschool Special Education have any specific requirements for children who have an IEP for in-person or remote learning?

Yes, there are many considerations for children with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for both in-person learning and remote learning. You can learn more at the Special Education and COVID-19 FAQs from the Office of Special Education at CDE or by checking with your Special Education Director.

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How do special education teachers and related service providers work with children and maintain social distancing?

The American Academy of Pediatrics states in COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry that students receiving special education services may be more negatively affected by distance-learning and may be disproportionately impacted by interruptions in regular education. Individual needs of children vary due to the nature of their disability. Attempts to meet physical distancing guidelines should meet the needs of the individual child and may require creative solutions, often on a case-by-case basis. 

In preschool, the relative impact of physical distancing among children is likely small based on current evidence, however adult physical distancing from one another, adults wearing face coverings, and cohorting are high priority strategies.1 Here are some considerations for itinerant providers:

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Results Matter

Will Results Matter assessments change for 20-21?

No, Colorado requires preschool programs receiving state or federal education funds to participate in Results Matter assessment. Programs will finalize online data in the checkpoint period as expected. Please see the Results Matter Calendar for dates.

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If our program offers some or all remote instruction, how can observation data be collected?

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Remote Learning Activities

If in-person preschool programming cannot occur due to COVID, what should remote learning look like in preschool?

Unless a local health department determines otherwise, preschool programming should be offered in person for families who choose to enroll. To fully support every child’s development and learning across all domains and content areas, to the extent possible, on-site opportunities should be prioritized.

If remote learning is needed again due to health concerns, see the Stay-At-Home FAQs for remote learning examples for the preschool grade level. 

Transition from Preschool to Kindergarten

What can we do to make the fall transition successful?

Connections between teachers in preschool and kindergarten and between teachers and families were disrupted during the spring of 2020 due to COVID closures. Here are some ideas from the National P-3 Center to assist with transitions: 

  • Consider replicating traditional transition events as virtual experiences (e.g., virtual classroom/elementary school tours; on-line meet-and-greets with Kindergarten teachers). 
  • Explore options for staggered or delayed starting schedules in the fall, creating time and opportunity for Kindergarteners to ease into the school year. 
  • Discuss the pros and cons of looping models for teachers. 
  • Conduct the Kindergarten Entry Assessment in 1:1 appointments that meet health/safety guidelines.
  • Offering a virtual orientation video from the elementary school principal to address common questions kindergarten students and parents might have.3
  • Gathering data, such as assessment data, progress reports from the pre-K year, or anecdotal information about a student's strengths and areas to work on and sharing that information electronically between pre-K and kindergarten teachers3
  • Seeking out families in the community who may need extra support to enroll their child and finding out what they need for their child to thrive in kindergarten3.

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020, June 25). COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance for School Re-entry.. 
  2. Connecticut State Department of Education. (2020, July 28). Adapt, Advance, Achieve: Connecticut’s Plan to Learn and Grow Together.
  3. Loewenberg, A., & Bornfreund, L. (2020, July 24). Supporting Smooth Transitions into Kindergarten During the COVID-19 Pandemic. New America. 

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