The tenth round of DRS is coming to a close next week. If your program is competing in this round, you might be putting the final touches on your application. The application process is a lot of work. Congratulations to all who submit applications!

In recent years, DRS grant competitions have taken place late fall/early winter. Given this, our best guess is that DRS Round 11 will be forecasted early fall 2020, with competitions opening later this year. This is not a guarantee, though. In fact, there have been some years where there were two DRS competitions in a single calendar year! As we look ahead to upcoming rounds of DRS, it is important to highlight a recent change to DRS policy that was announced by the Office of Head Start (OHS).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been disruptions to program monitoring. FY2022 monitoring brings back some normalcy, though there are still precautions in place and no CLASS reviews will be conducted. OHS typically uses CLASS to conduct on-site reviews to assess the quality of teacher-child interactions. This is a requirement of the Head Start Act.

In a recent communication from OHS, it was noted that on-site CLASS reviews have not taken place since March 2020. OHS highlights some of the ways that factors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may impact the ability to conduct CLASS reviews or obtain reliable observations, such as staffing issues, teacher or reviewer illnesses, mask wearing by children and teachers, and other health and safety issues.

A new standard was made effective on December 7, 2020 through an Interim Final Rule to give OHS flexibility for DRS determinations during emergencies. A Final Rule is now in place. Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) have been updated to include the new language, provided below.

1304.17 Flexibility for Head Start Designation Renewal determinations in certain emergencies

(a) In reviewing the relevant data as described in § 1304.15(b), if ACF determines that one or more data elements described in the conditions in section § 1304.11 is not available due to an emergency described in paragraph (b) of this section, ACF may make a designation renewal determination based on the data elements that are available.

(b) The emergencies are:

(1) A major disaster declared by the President under section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5170).
(2) An emergency declared by the President under section 501 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5191).
(3) A public health emergency declared by the Secretary pursuant to section 319 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 247d).

In the short term, this change could mean fewer programs are required to compete for funding in DRS. A focus on teacher-child interactions will continue to be important in Head Start/Early Head Start programs, and this change is likely welcome by programs that are working hard to stay open and provide high-quality care to children and families despite staffing challenges and factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our team at Foundations for Families has helped many programs navigate DRS. We offer a variety of services to support programs in DRS, beginning with preparation and planning and all the way through the submission of a grant application. Contact us to learn more.

Thank you.

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