In the past, California state preschool programs operated by school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools under contract with the California Department of Education were subject to Department of Social Services licensing and inspection requirements. On June 27, 2018, the California Legislature changed these requirements to be effective on the date emergency regulations were adopted, or July 1, 2019, whichever occurred first.
The 2018 State Budget Act exempts a state preschool program and considers it licensed for purposes of establishing a rating on an early learning quality rating and improvement system (“QRIS”) matrix if (1) it complies with the Field Act; (2) is in a facility that complies with the California Building Standards Code; (3) meets the requirements for kindergarten classrooms in accordance with Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations (“CCR); and (4) complies with all other California state preschool program requirements. The legislature also required the Legislative Analyst’s Office (“LAO”) to identify and make health and safety recommendations currently required under Title 22 of the CCR regarding at least the following:
- Adequate outdoor shade structures
- Access to age and developmentally appropriate bathroom and drinking water facilities
- Appropriate processes for parent notification and resolution of code and regulation violations
Subsequently, the Legislative Analyst’s Office made its recommendations regarding the need to adopt specific necessary health and safety requirements. Specifically, the LAO determined emergency regulations were needed to avoid serious harm to the welfare of students and as a consequence required state preschool programs to have at least the following:
- Outdoor shade that is safe and in good repair;
- Accessible and readily available drinking water that is accessible throughout the day;
- Safe and sanitary restroom facilities that include one toilet and handwashing fixture for every 15 children;
- Preschooler and kindergartener-only restroom facilities;
- Visual supervision of children at all times;
- Properly contained or fenced indoor and outdoor spaces that provide sufficient room for the number of children using said spaces at any given time; and
- Safe and age-appropriate playground requirement that is kept in good repair.
Additionally, the Legislature amended California Education Code section 48000, effective June 27, 2018, to permit school districts and charter schools to place four-year-old students enrolled in state preschool programs into transitional kindergarten classrooms. If children from both programs are comingled into the same classroom, the schools must provide all of the requirements of each of the respective programs in which the students are enrolled. The schools must also comply with the following if they comingle the programs:
- Complete an early childhood environment rating scale for the comingled classroom;
- Evaluate each student enrolled for more than ten hours per week with the Desired Results Developmental Profile;
- Ensure the comingled classroom is taught by a teacher who is properly credentialed to teach transitional kindergarten;
- Maintain the correct adult-child ratio (1:8 adult-child ratio, 1:24 teacher-child ratio); and
- Ensure contractors report the services, revenues, and expenditures for the state preschool program.
In the event a school district or charter school places state preschool program children into a transitional kindergarten program classroom, the school may not also include students enrolled in transitional kindergarten for a second year or in kindergarten in that same classroom.