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COVID-19/Coronavirus Updates

In an effort to update everyone on our current planning and preparations for the ELC related to the COVID-19/Coronavirus virus, we have created this page to keep the ELC community updated. Any updates will be sent via email to our listservs and also posted here.

ELC Phased Reopening Updates


We are emailing you to update on a timeline for a phased reopening of the Early Learning Center. UTK is functioning under a phased reopening plan and we are aligning as much with those approaches as possible. The current UTK phase 1 and the upcoming phase 2 involve continued practices for remote work as much as possible and social distancing for those who come on campus. Phase 3 for the campus will involve scaling up to bring staff, faculty, and students back to campus but under modified practices for teleworking and social distancing.

Bringing children back on campus for ELC programming will occur in a 3-phased reopening process that will begin on Monday, August 3rd for a small group of children. After at least two weeks, we will add a second tier of children on site, and continue to assess operations and safety before ramping up to welcome a third wave of children. Scaling up to add more children on site will be influenced by several health and safety factors that will be monitored continuously. We will communicate later with you about how we are going to navigate the schedule of tiered start dates for children returning to the program, and we will coordinate communication with all families about their work scenarios. Right now, we cannot provide an official start date for any child, but we will communicate with you this summer as soon as we are able to have that decision-making process rolling.

Reopening Approach:

Unlike other child care programs in the community, our center is nested within a very large campus setting with the challenges of opening a campus to a sizable employee and student population. Our reopening efforts are made in coordination with UTK policy leaders and the Emergency Operations Center and are guided by: The Centers for Disease Control, state and local guidelines, and the American College and Health Association. We would like families to know that even after reopening this fall, all our operations will be influenced by the ongoing monitoring of health and safety on the UTK campus. I encourage all our ELC families to review updates from the Chancellor on the Re-Imagining Fall Task Force Report to gain understanding of how UTK is approaching three scenarios for the 2020 Fall semester. It is reasonable to anticipate changes and developments which may require swift changes to operations during fall semester. We want to support and encourage you to think through how potential changes will impact your family.

Reopening to caring for children will look very different than the models we were practicing prior to Spring Break. Nearly every part of our operation needs to be redesigned under COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations. Currently, we have an ELC task force working daily to outline our phased reopening. In this group are: The ELC Directors, Business Manager, three Demonstration Teachers, Chief Cook, and one Graduate Assistant. This group is working through detailed operational plans related to: health screenings and health monitoring, protections for vulnerable individuals, PPE and materials supplies, redesign of spaces to allow for more spacing and less crossover between groups, new schedules and routines, increased cleaning, disinfecting, and hygiene practices, staffing models that operate with much fewer adults on site, and redesign of most of the ways we serve the academic needs of our UT students.

We are also working through the ways that reopening the program when we will need to deviate from UTK procedures and recommendations for social distancing measures. The first phase of ELC reopening in early August will include a high level of structure in order to facilitate processes that minimize health risk for children, families, and staff of the ELC. This structure will likely include elements such as assigned arrival windows, outside drop-offs, brief daily family responses to health screening questionnaires, child health screenings conducted by trained individuals upon arrival at the ELC, and alternative systems for teacher/parent communications, and many other practices.

For the present moment:

Although this may be a lot of information to take in for some families, we want to reassure you that teachers, staff and students will continue to stay connected to you as much as possible. We will be focusing on how to continue being creative and connected over the coming weeks.

The work ELC staff members are doing to support children and families as well as preparing for our eventual return to the center is demanding and we want to be sure our staff takes some time to take care of themselves during this phase of working from home. So, we are encouraging each ELC staff member to join in on a shared day off on Friday, May 29th for what we’re calling the ELC Breathe Day. All scheduled group meetings will be canceled for the day and communications received on the 29th will be returned on June 1st.

Please continue to stay in touch with us. We’ll be asking you very soon to give us some input and perspective on what outreach is helpful to you during this COVID-19 closure.

Hoping for health and wellness for all our ELC community,


Robyn Brookshire, PhD


To view this communication in languages other than English, please visit the link here.

Extended Closure Email, April 22, 2020

Dear ELC Families,
We are now able to update you further about the next stage of ELC COVID-19 closure. At this time, the ELC will remain closed through the month of May. As we look ahead to the coming weeks and the many questions that are arising for what’s ahead, I wanted to also share some things we are planning as next steps:
We will be in touch very soon with specific details for parents about tuition credits from March and action steps we will be taking for the balances for each of your family accounts.
Kindergarten and summer camp families have and will continue to receive specific communications to families regarding the details and plans for those programs.
Although we don’t have a re-opening date set at this time, here is more detail about where we are with planning ahead:
In looking ahead to the possibility of opening up again, our leadership is already working to develop approaches that would need to be in place to safely provide care for children. There are many factors to consider in this planning process, including staffing levels, health and safety protocols, children’s distinct needs during this time of change and uncertainty, the context of campus infrastructure changes, and of course the well being of all members of our community. Due to the complex nature of planning under changing circumstances, we do not have details yet to share about a specific re-opening date or the structure of the program under new circumstances.
What we do know is that it will need to look quite different from our typical practices. As we work carefully through those plans, we will be sharing with you what we can as we move ahead, and we will be reaching out to ask you for information that we will need for several layers of those plans. As we are not a stand-alone program, many of our operations interface with multiple units on the UTK campus and we will also need to proceed with knowledge about the operations of many other services and systems on campus. The date we can re-open, and under what structure, are both tied to these many factors and interfaces.
Our approach to caring for your children every day, under normal circumstances, is built upon many, many unseen layers of intentional design and risk management to ensure the safety and well being of all the children and adults in our program. Planning for reopening in the context of this global crisis will require that and much more to ensure that we are able to balance the many needs that must be addressed. We know we will need your help, communication, and partnership in order to transition back into a system of care that benefits you, your children, and our shared goals for them. We have faith that our vibrant, caring community of families and staff will be able to proceed with equal measures of caution and creativity so that we can persevere through this unfamiliar challenge.
Thank you for engaging with our staff and each other during this time of isolation. It is very uplifting to get to see your faces and hear your voices. We miss you and your children dearly and long for the days when we can be in close community again. Please continue to let any of us know how we can be supportive to you and your family. As a reminder, you can access all UTK coronavirus-related information at the website: Take care and stay safe.
Robyn Brookshire

Update April 20, 2020

ELC Families,

I am checking in to let you know that we are working on getting more information to you in the next day or two about our next timeline for closure. Given the public schools’ announcement late last week, I was hoping to have an update by today but we are still waiting for some coordination with UTK administrators above our level to get some details to you. At this time I believe it is definitely not possible for us to be open next week, but I will have to send you another update with more details about what we can say about the next range of closure dates. At this time, UTK employees are still being instructed to not be on campus if at all possible. As you know, information on which we base these decisions and plans changes rapidly and the coming weeks are difficult to predict.

In the meantime, as we look ahead to the coming weeks and months and anticipate the implications of extended closures, we want to touch base regarding summer camp. At this point, we know that our ELC Campus Kids program will be affected by COVID-19-related closures, but we don’t have specific details at this point. It seems unlikely that we will be able to begin summer camp early in the summer, as originally planned, but we will be working in the coming weeks to see what we can plan and provide for at least part of the summer, depending on when the ELC is able to re-open for infant, toddler, and preschool programming.

We will stay in touch as timelines develop and as we know more.

Thanks for your patience and we will be in touch very soon,

Robyn Brookshire

Closure Update, March 31, 2020

Dear ELC Families,

We are writing to update that the ELC will remain closed until at least April 24th, correspondent with the dates of closure for Knox County Schools. 

We will update you further about plans beyond that date as soon as we are able to set those. As described in our prior email, we will not be sending out tuition statements for April. 

We hope you are all staying well and safe. Please know that we all dearly miss seeing you every day. Our teachers and students are eager to continue creating ways to support you and your children, so please keep them informed about how you are all doing from home. 

All coronavirus-related questions, concerns, and updates can be found at 


Robyn Brookshire

Email on March 19, 2020: Tuition Reimbursement

Dear ELC Families, 

As our week of staff in-service is coming to a close, we are reaching out to touch base and update about tuition adjustments during this current phase of program closure. We are very proud of the swift changes all the ELC staff have made to transform our in-person trainings and meetings this week to all online experiences so we could practice social distancing. We also appreciate and are proud of what the teachers are doing to invent ways to stay connected with you and your children during this unexpected time of interruptions in routines, care, work, and family life. 

As far as what happens after April 3rd, we are not yet sure. So many things are changing on a daily basis on national, local, and University levels. We will be keeping a very close eye on the same multiple factors we mentioned last week: staffing projections, Health Department information about local conditions, public school closures, UTK administration approaches for employee social distancing, and the shifting realities of safety and health provisions for group care during this pandemic. As you all probably know, all UTK students are finishing the spring and May term mini-session through online classes and will not be returning to campus. 

Regarding the existing period of closure from March 23rd- April 3rd, here is the approach for family tuition:

At this time, families have paid their March tuition in full. Tuition for the seven days of closure in March (3/26 – 3/31) will be credited to your family account. We will be holding off on sending any future statements at this time, which means you will not receive your normal April statement on March 25th. If you need to make a special request for a refund check to be mailed to you for the seven days of March tuition, please contact our Business Manager, Tina Goodacre, at or leave a voicemail at (865) 974-0876. 

As the information and program decisions continue to evolve, we will closely monitor this situation and update you with changes that may need to occur…..

We know disruptions in care arrangements may be challenging for many of our families, and please know our staff are putting their teacher brains towards how to support you the best they can during this time. As teachers reach out to ask what questions you have about daily routines or activities with your children, take a minute to let them know so they can design options that matter most to you. Thank you all for being part of this learning community and we look forward to connecting with you in the next couple of weeksAll coronavirus-related questions, concerns, and updates can be found at


Robyn Brookshire & Tina Goodacre

Email on March 13, 2020: ELC Closure

Dear Families,

We are writing to update that the ELC will be closed from Monday, March 23rd, through at least Friday, April 3rd.

This decision has come after careful consideration with the Dean and Department Head in UT’s College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences as well as others in senior administration and emergency management at the university. This decision is primarily based on staffing projections with the absence of student employees after the break, as well as the absence of a number of ELC personnel who have health conditions that require social distancing practices. Because we are required to meet child care licensing ratios, we cannot legally operate under the ratios set by state regulations. In addition to these constraints, there may also be benefits to allowing our staff, children, and families to practice social distancing during this time.

We will update you further about plans beyond April 3rd as soon as we are able to set those. We will also send a follow up email with information about tuition adjustments related to closure. We know this is a challenging time for most families and work places, and we hope, above all, for the best for everyone’s health and wellbeing moving forward. All coronavirus-related questions, concerns and updates can be found at

Email on March 12, 2020 from Robyn Regarding Travel Restrictions

ELC Families,
For those who are not UT employees, please see below the latest update on travel guidance from UTK which we are asking all families to follow as well.
All UTK coronavirus information is found on this website. 
Thank you,
Robyn Brookshire
Dear faculty and staff,
Last night and today the Centers for Disease Control changed their travel guidance.
We want to make sure our employees, contractors, vendors, and visitors understand the ramifications of this change on any travel you may be on, or planning to take over spring break, before your return to campus.
If you are returning to the US from any other country or a cruise, you may not return to campus for 14 days regardless of how you are feeling. It is up to each unit to communicate this limitation to contractors, vendors, and visitors and to ensure compliance.
If you are on active international travel, have recently returned, or have changed your timeline for returning to the US, please contact the Center for Global Engagement at
If you are feeling well enough to work when you return, please communicate with your supervisor to discuss the possibility of telecommuting. The UT System is working with campuses to understand how leave will be managed, and more specific information will be forthcoming.
We will continue to keep you updated and post information to
Some specific CDC guidance is below. For the latest health information related to COVID-19, visit or the CDC list of travel health notices.
  • Travelers returning from specified countries in Europe, and other CDC Level 3 countries, must stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor their health, and practice social distancing. If you are sick with fever, cough, or trouble breathing, call your health care provider.
  • All other countries are under a CDC Level 2 travel alert. Travelers returning from Level 2 countries must monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning from travel. If you are sick with fever, cough, or trouble breathing, stay home and call your medical provider.
  • Cruise ship passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases. Travelers returning from cruise ships are advised to monitor their health and limit interactions with others for 14 days after returning from travel. If you are sick with fever, cough, or trouble breathing, stay home and call your medical provider.
David Manderscheid
Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor
Chris Cimino
Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration

Email on March 11, 2020 from ELC Directors

Greetings, ELC Families:

In an effort to update everyone on our current planning and preparations for the ELC related to the COVID-19/Coronavirus virus, we are sending you a lengthy email update today. At this time, we are relying heavily on the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and moving forward we will be relying more and more on local health department recommendations and the decisions of public school systems. Families are recommended, in the CDC guidelines, to be prepared for closures of their children’s schools and childcare programs. Though it is difficult today for us to predict the timing and specific action steps needed in our local community, we want you to know how we’re keeping informed and which factors will influence our operations. We will be drawing upon: UTK campus decisions along with information from the CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health, and the Knox County Health Department. As always, our within-ELC human resource constraints will also factor into possible closure decisions. It is hard to predict if, when, and how many ELC staff or student employee absences will arise due to illness or to the need to care for dependents, but a decrease in staff that would put the program below licensing regulations would necessitate closings as well. We recommend reviewing the CDC website’s planning guide for households.

Each time the University issues new information or decisions, we are weighing how that impacts our program and families and passing that information along to you. Please stay updated on travel advice and information, and–much like you’d communicate information to a supervisor–let our program staff know any relevant illness or travel details from your household that could impact the population of children and adults in our program. See the FAQs portion of this page on the UTK Coronavirus website for more detailed guidance.


Next, we are sharing with you the strategies and resources sent to ELC staff earlier this week as we strive to exercise the utmost caution with preventive measures. We are proceeding with diligence in taking extra precautions across the program, with the goal of limiting or reducing the spread and protecting those who are more vulnerable to serious complications.


The following strategies are already standard procedures that call for our heightened attention at this time:

  • Handwashing (Part 1): Please review the guideline from the World Health Organization for proper hand-washing technique. This guideline includes more attention to the fingertips than the previously shared CDC guide. Most spread of any virus occurs as the hands, especially the fingertips, pick up the virus from a hard surface and then make contact with the face. For this reason, the best prevention strategy is to wash hands frequently, combined with diligence to keep hands away from the face. Given that research shows we touch our faces multiple times in an hour–often without realizing it–you should intentionally increase the frequency of hand-washing and encourage/expect it from others as well.

    • Copies of this technique have been distributed to all classrooms and ELC bathroom facilities. Copies are also being printed for distribution to families who may want to post the strategies by a hand-washing sink at home.

    • Here is a video if you want to view the steps. Also, many classrooms have a song they are using as they wash hands with children. Be sure to check in with your classroom teachers if you would like to use this song at home.

    • When possible, we will supplement with hand sanitizer. Though the effectiveness of hand sanitizer is unknown, it is just an additional step we may take when we can’t get to a sink quickly. The use of hand sanitizer would supplement rather than replace our reliance on hand-washing.

  • Handwashing (Part 2): Yes, this bears repeating, but this time let’s focus on every person that enters the classroom. Get in the habit of asking everyone to follow the posted hand-washing routine–children, family members, students, administrators, police officers who come to read, etc.

  1. As they arrive and enter the classroom

  2. Before and after handling food, eating, or feeding a child

  3. After changing a diaper or helping a child use the bathroom

  4. After helping with a nose wipe or caring for a cut

  5. After playing in the sand

  6. Before and after playing in shared water

  7. Before and after giving medications

  8. After handling trash receptacles or composting bins

  • Surface Sanitizing and Disinfecting: Take every opportunity to spray frequently touched surfaces with a bleach-water solution or a disinfectant solution provided by the university’s Building Services. These would include doorknobs and handles, cabinet handles, table surfaces, sink faucets and handles, light switches, all surfaces in the toileting and diapering area, drinking fountains, hard toys, etc. You should plan to spray areas at least three times each day, and more often if possible. Remember to avoid spraying if children are in the immediate area (within 4 feet of the spray).

    • 1/4 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water (1 tablespoon bleach per 1 quart of water) is the recommended ratio for Tennessee child care programs.

    • To sanitize surfaces, the spray should be applied until surfaces are wet. The solution should remain on the surface for at least 2 minutes before being wiped away, or it can be allowed to air dry. This process alone will eliminate enough germs so that it would be unlikely to cause someone to fall ill from contacting that surface.

    • If you have the time to disinfect the surface, repeat the process, leaving the bleach water solution to air dry for a minimum of 2 to 4 minutes. This should kill the remaining germs. This practice is recommended if body fluid spills are present.

    • As Program Support Specialists and Graduate Assistants are available, we are routing them to classrooms and other program spaces to assist with extra cleaning. Cleaning will take priority over some other program tasks as we try to stay vigilant in this process.

  • Monitor the health of the children and yourself:

  1. Fever* is the most common symptom of Covid-19, appearing in almost all cases.

    • The CDC considers a person to have a fever when he or she has a measured temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or greater, or feels warm to the touch. Other signs that may indicate a fever include a flushed face, glassy eyes, or chills.

    • Normal body temperature can be variable from one person to the next. Knowing your own and collecting information from families about their child’s typical body temperature may be helpful.

    • Be advised that during an outbreak in the area, we ask that children and/or staff presenting with a fever (or other associated symptom) will be dismissed and sent home as soon as possible to minimize the potential for spread.

  2. Fatigue is present for about 75% of those contracting the virus.

  3. Additional symptoms occurring less frequently include a dry cough, gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and nausea, and sometimes shortness of breath.

  4. As we have very limited ability to separate ill children from the group, our expectation is that families will immediately respond to a call if one or more symptoms are present.

  • Miscellaneous:

    • The use of water bottles presents challenges as those are stored in close proximity and touched by many. For now, classrooms will use disposable cups for water breaks.

We will provide regular updates as we continue to monitor the COVID-19 virus and consider potential impacts to our program and community. Linked below are some resources for information you may find helpful. If you have questions or need to check in with directors about these items, please feel free to email us:,, or catch us on site.