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We ask that teachers, long-term substitute teachers, and student teachers not provide childcare outside of the program for families enrolled in the program.  Although developing appropriate personal relationships among teachers, children and families is an important part of creating a responsive school community, we also respect the professional nature of these relationships.  As we strive to maintain a balance between the personal and professional, we have found that direct involvement with families outside the program has the potential for disrupting this balance.  We believe it is in the best interest of staff, children, and families to uphold this policy.

In the fall, we publish a list of students at Fort Hill who are interested in babysitting for families.  The list is available by request from the office coordinator. Please maintain the confidentiality of this list.  Smith College does not screen or in any way evaluate the students whose names are on the list.  The list is provided as a convenience to families, but not as a recommendation or “approval” of the students.

In accordance with the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care’s (EEC) Criminal Offender and Other Background Record Checks regulations, 606 CMR 14.00, the Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE/licensee) conducts Background Record Checks (BRC) on each individual working or volunteering in the CECE who has the opportunity for unsupervised contact with the children. BRCs include:

  • a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI);
  • a Department of Children and Families checks (DCF);
  • a Sex Offender Registry Information checks (SORI); and,
  • a Fingerprint-based national and state criminal history background check

Licensee and Reviewers
The following people have been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to conduct and review Background Record Checks (BRCs):

Licensee Martha Christenson Lees
Reviewers Jen Godlesky
Lori McKenna

The Licensee allows only approved and current Reviewers access to the program's BRC information, including the electronic database. If there is a change in Licensee or Reviewers, the Licensee will submit the appropriate forms to the EEC.

Current Employees
The CECE conducts BRCs on all current employees every three years, or whenever the program receives information that may indicate that a new CORI, DCF, SORI or fingerprint background records check is appropriate. Current employees include: licensee and reviewers, teachers and administrators, student workers, researchers, volunteers, substitutes, and interns. The required EEC background record check is in addition to the background record check required by the Smith College Human Resources department.

Prospective Employees
The CECE completes a BRC for each new employee over fifteen-years-old prior to offering conditional employment. The candidate must submit a signed Consent Form for BRC along with a photo ID. The Licensee/Reviewer submits the Consent form to the BRC unit via mail or web BRC Manager. If the BRC is submitted by the BRC Manager, the CECE receives findings of no record/no finding through the BRC Manager. If there are findings, the Licensee/Reviewer is notified by mail of the results. If the BRC is submitted via mail, the Licensee/Reviewer receives the CORI and DCF results by mail.

Prospective employees may begin employment before the fingerprint screening provided the BRC results are in line with the BRC Results section below.

BRC Results
If both the CORI and DCF review result in a no record/no finding, the Licensee must wait to be notified by mail of the SORI results before making a conditional offer of employment. Any result other than no record/no finding is considered an adverse finding and requires further review as described below under CORI Adverse Finding and DCF Adverse Finding. If the result is "pending," which would include an outstanding warrant or an open DCF investigation, the candidate is not eligible for any position until the pending issue is resolved.

CORI Adverse Finding

Presumptive Review (Table A):

  • The CECE notifies the candidate in writing that there is an adverse finding in the CORI review.
  • The notification includes the following:
    • a copy of the notification received from the EEC BRC Unit;
    • notification as to which part of the CORI record makes him/her ineligible; and,
    • a copy of the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services's (DCJIS) informaiton regarding the process for correcting the criminal record.
  • A candidate with a Presumptive Disqualification who does not withdraw the application for employment must submit a "no risk" statement that concludes that the candidate does not pose an unacceptable risk of harm to the children. This statment must be submitted by the candidate's probation officer, parole officers, correctional facility superintendent or mental health professional.
  • Once the "no risk" statement is received the CECE proceeds with conducting the Discretionary Review as described for Table B.

Discretionary Review (Table B and nonconvictions from Table A):

  • The CECE notifies the candidate in writing that there is an adverse finding in the CORI review. 
  • The notification includes:
    • a copy of the notification received from the EEC BRC Unit;
    • notification as to which part of the CORI record makes him/her ineligible; and,
    • a copy of the DCJIS information regarding the process for correcting a criminal record.
  • The CECE may ask the candidate to submit relevant information that will help in the hiring decision. They could include a written explanation of the offences from the candidate, letters of recommendation, information from a probation officer or parole officer, and/or information from a mental health professional.
  • The CECE will document in writing the hiring rationale (decision) and notify the EEC BRC Unit by mail of the decision to approve or not approve the discretionary review.
  • The CECE will make a conditional offer of employment only after the CORI and DCF results have been approved and the SORI results have been received by mail.

DCF Adverse Finding
The CECE will notify the candidate in writing if there is an adverse finding in the DCF review. The notification will include:

  • a copy of the notification received from the EEC BRC Unit;
  • a notification as to which part of the BRC record makes him/her ineligible; and,
  • a copy of the process for disputing the DCF record.

The CECE will ask the candidate if s/he wishes to continue in the hiring process. If the candidate does not wish to continue in the hiring process, the candidate is ineligible for hire and the EEC BRC Unit will be notified.

If the candidate wishes to continue in the hiring process, the CECE will check the appropriate box on the EEC notification and mail it back to the EEC BRC Unit. The EEC will supply the CECE with a redacted copy of the 51-B; once received, the CECE will proceed and conduct a discretionary review. The CECE will document in writing the decision and notify the EEC BRC Unit by mail of the decision to approve or not approve the discretionary review. Once the CORI and DCF results have been approved and the SORI results have been received by mail, the CECE may make a conditional offer of employment.

SORI Results
The CECE receives written notification of the results of the SORI check. If the SORI check reveals no record/no finding, the CECE will direct the candidate to submit to a fingerprint scan. If the SORI check reveals a candidate has been classified as a level 2 or 3 sex offender, the finding will be treated as a "presumptive disqualification." This means the candidate will receive a discretionary review by EEC to determine if the candidate poses an unacceptable risk of harm to children within the position sought. EEC conducts all discretionary reviews pertaining to SORI checks.

No candidate will be conditionally hired or start work until the CECE has received EEC approval for a SORI check. The candidate may begin conditional employment and have unsupervised contact with children if the SORI has been approved by EEC and the CORI and DCF checks have been approved by the program. The results of the SORI are stored in a locked, secure file separate from the candidate's personnel file.

Fingerprint Results
The CECE may confirm employment of a candidate when the fingerprint-based check reveals the candidate is suitable for hire. If the candidate is hired, the CECE will document in the candidate's personnel record the date the EEC approval letter was received and will notify the EEC of the date on which the candidate began employment.

If the fingerprint check reveals a presumptive or discretionary disqualification, EEC will notify the candidate and handle the discretionary approval process. If EEC disapproves of the candidate based on the discretionary review of the fingerprinting results, the CECE will terminate the person's employment within 14 days or sooner if directed by EEC.

Each candidate's file includes:

  • the original, signed Consent for BRC Form;
  • a copy of a photo ID;
  • documentation the includes the date on which EEC approval for the SORI and Fingerprints was received; and,
  • a statement that both the CORI and DCF reviews were completed prior to hire. If the BRC's are entered electronically the completed web receipt will be used as evidence of compliance with DCF and CORI results.

A separate, locked, secure file includes:

  • all EEC approval letters of the SORI check;
  • all EEC approval letters of the fingerprint checks; and,
  • discretionary Review (CORI or DCF) information including any application in which a candidate discloses DCF or Criminal background information. If there is a finding and a discretionary review was conducted, the written documentation of the review will be kept on file.

Access to such material is limited to the CECE/licensee and reviewers.

Mandated Reporters

All staff members are mandated reporters according to Massachusetts law. If a staff member has a reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect of a child, he/she must file a report with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).

The following are the steps for this procedure:

  • A staff member who suspects abuse or neglect must document his/her observations including the child’s name, date, time, child’s injuries, child’s behavior and any other pertinent information. The staff member discusses this information with the director.
  • The director or the staff member, with assistance from the director, makes a verbal report to DCF, followed by a written report 51A within 48 hours.  
  • If a staff member believes that an incident should be reported to DCF, and the director disagrees, the staff member may report to DCF directly.
  • All concerns of suspected abuse and neglect that are reported to DSS are communicated to the parents by the director unless a report is contra-indicated.

All staff members are mandated reporters according to Massachusetts law.  If a staff member has a reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect of a child, he/she must file a report with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). The program provides annual training in recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect.

The following are the steps for this procedure:

  • A staff member who suspects abuse or neglect must document his/her observations including the child’s name, date, time, child’s injuries, child’s behavior and any other pertinent information.  The staff member discusses this information with the director.
  • The director or the staff member, with assistance from the director, makes a verbal report to DCF, followed by a written report 51A within 48 hours.  
  • If a staff member believes that an incident should be reported to DCF, and the director disagrees, the staff member may report to DCF directly.
  • All concerns of suspected abuse and neglect that are reported to DCF are communicated to the parents by the director unless a report is contra-indicated.

Procedure for Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse/Neglect While in Care of the Center
It is the CECE’s commitment to protect all children in this facility from abuse or neglect.  We conduct a background check on all staff members prior to employment (described above).  The following are procedures for reporting suspected child abuse/neglect while the child is in the Center’s care.

Any report of suspected abuse or neglect of a child will be immediately reported to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).  A meeting will be held with the staff member in question to inform him/her of the filed report.  DCF telephone number is 1-413-775-5000.

The staff person in question will be immediately suspended from the program with pay pending the outcome of the DCF and EEC investigations.  If the report is screened out by the DCF, the Director has the option of having the staff member remain on suspension pending the EEC investigation or allowing the staff member to return to the classroom.  This decision will be made by the Director and will be based on the seriousness of the allegations and the facts available.

If the allegations of abuse/neglect are substantiated, it will be the decision of the Director whether or not the staff member will be reinstated.

The Director and staff will cooperate fully with all investigations.

If staff members are alone with a child, they will remain in full view of others and do not meet behind closed doors.

The information contained in a child’s record is privileged and confidential.  The program will distribute or release information in a child’s record only to those directly related to implementing the program plan for the child, or unless we receive the written consent of the child’s parent(s).  If a child’s record is subpoenaed, we will notify the parent(s).

A parent may request access to his or her child’s record.  The record will be available within two business days after the initial request.  The office coordinator will document the following information when records are released:  the name, signature and position of the person releasing or distributing the information; the date; the portions of the record which were distributed or released; the purpose of the distribution or release; and the signature of the person to whom the information was distributed or released.  This log will be available only to the child’s parent(s) and the program personnel responsible for record maintenance.

A child’s parent(s) has the right to add information, comments, data or any other relevant information to the child’s record, as well as to request deletion or amendment of any information contained in a child’s record.  If the parent(s) is of the opinion that adding information is not sufficient to explain, clarify or correct objectionable material in the child’s record, the parent shall have the right to have a conference with the director to make his objections known.  Within one week of the conference, the director will, in writing, provide a written decision and reasons for the decision.  If the decision is in favor of the parent(s), steps will be taken immediately to put the decision into effect.

When the child is no longer enrolled at Fort Hill, parent(s) may request in writing that the records be transferred to the parent(s) or to any other person the parent(s) identifies.

We maintain confidentiality in our interactions with children, their families and with colleagues both in the workplace and in the community, except as specifically identified (see Photograph Policy) or otherwise mandated by state law.  All CECE staff are expected to maintain confidentiality and respect children’s families’ and colleagues’ rights to privacy.  Staff refrain from disclosing confidential information and discussing families and children outside of the professional venue.  If a staff member believes a child’s welfare is at risk, she will share that information with the supervising teacher or the administration. 

Teachers do not, and we ask parents not to, speak about children in front of them. 

Photographs of children are shared within and outside of the CECE on electronic media, in presentations, in publications, and in local print publications, unless parents restrict permission by indicating such and signing the Observation Agreement & Photograph/Video/Electronic Posting Consent Form. Many of the images are posted on password-protected sites managed by the CECE as part of our communications with enrolled families. The security of these sites is not guaranteed. We ask families to limit sharing the links with immediate family and not to share the password with anyone other than currently enrolled families. Images from the CECE, whether taken by the parent or posted on a CECE site, should not be posted or re-posted on social media sites. 

General Information, Admission and Reenrollment

Notice of Nondiscrimination
Smith College is committed to maintaining a diverse community in an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation of differences. Smith College does not discriminate in its educational and employment policies on the basis of religion, race, color, creed, national/ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, or with regard to the bases outlined in the Veterans Readjustment Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. The Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education does not discriminate in providing services to children and their families on the basis of race, religion, cultural heritage, political beliefs, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation or disability. The following office has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies: Office of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity, College Hall 302, (413) 585-2141.

Toilet training status is not an eligibility requirement for enrollment.

Admission Policies and Priorities
Admission to the Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education is open to all families. Applications are accepted throughout the year; applications received by March 1st receive priority for the upcoming year. Toilet training status is not an eligibility requirement for enrollment. A non-refundable application fee is due with the application. Families must also contact the program coordinator at 585-3290 to schedule a meeting and arrange a visit to the school. 

Parents are notified in writing of the admission decision. Full-time schedule requests receive priority over part-time requests.
Requests for specific days within a part-time schedule are accommodated only as space allows. Admission letters are sent by April 1. Enrollment materials included with the admission letter must be completed and returned with a non-refundable deposit within a week of receiving the admission acceptance; the deposit is credited to tuition. Enrollment is for an entire academic-year or summer. 

Priority for admission are:

  • Children of benefited Smith employees with siblings enrolled at the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE).
  • Children of benefited Smith employees.
  • Siblings of community children enrolled at the CECE
  • New community children

Placement of community families who are not benefited employees of Smith College in the Infant/Toddler program does not guarantee placement for a subsequent year in the Infant/Toddler Program. The placement of a community family will be reviewed only if the demand from benefited Smith employees exceeds available capacity. All families will be notified of reenrollment by mid-March.

Reenrollment forms are sent to families in February and are due with a non-refundable deposit of $500 within two weeks. Forms and deposits received after the deadline will be considered with new applications. Benefited employees of Smith College requesting full-time schedules receive priority for placement and schedules. It is possible that during the reenrollment process a family that is not a benefited employee of Smith College may be unable to reenroll or will be offered an alternate schedule. Priorities for reenrollment are:

  • Presently enrolled children of benefited Smith employees
  • Children of benefited Smith employees
  • Siblings of community children enrolled at CECE 

Tuition, Employee Grants, and Schedule Changes

Tuition and Billing
Enrollment is for the full-year. Tuition bills are available and tuition payments are made through Smith College’s electronic billing system, TouchNet. As a new family, you will receive an e-mail from with your login information and a link to the TouchNet website. From the TouchNet site, there will be links to help, frequently asked questions and an instructional video on how to use the system. Academic-year bills are posted in July and December. First semester tuition is due in August. Second semester tuition is due in January. Summer bills are posted in May and due in June. A payment plan through the TouchNet website offers families the opportunity to pay each semester tuition interest free in 4 or 5 payments. Bi-weekly payroll deduction is available to Smith College employees.  

Smith College Late Payment Fee Policy
Beginning on the next business day after any payment is due, monthly late payment fees, which are based on the outstanding balance remaining after any payment due date, will be assessed at the rate of $1.25 on every $100.00 (1.25%) that remains unpaid until the payment is received in full, on or before the next billing month in which the family is invoiced. Please direct questions regarding charges or credits to the Office of the Controller (585-2200).

Tuition Grants
Benefited Smith College employees are entitled to tuition grants. Please contact the Office of Human Resources for more information (x2260). Information on the tuition grant is available in the Smith College Staff Handbook.

Schedule Changes
Increasing time: If you would like to increase your child’s schedule, please see the assistant director. 

Decreasing time: The enrollment agreement is for the full academic-year or entire summer. If you wish to decrease time, please notify the assistant director. She will place your name on a waiting list and if the space is filled, you will be refunded the appropriate tuition.

Additional Programs

Extra Hours - Extended Day
Children who depart at 12:45 p.m. (preschool only) or 2:45 p.m. may opt to extend their day until 4:45 p.m. on an “as-needed” basis, if space is available.  While families are welcome to pick up their child any time before 4:45 p.m., there is one fee for extended day. The additional time must be approved by the assistant director. Please request additional time at least two days in advance by contacting the office coordinator. 

The office coordinator bills families for the extra time. Fees are posted on the Resources page. Please pay the bill in the office at Fort Hill and make the check payable to Smith College. Extra time is confirmed upon receipt of payment.

Purchasing Extra Days (Infant/Toddlers with Partial Week Schedules)
Families enrolled with partial week schedules may purchase an extra day, if space is available. Fees are posted on the Resources page. We are unable to offer extra days to compensate for absences. Requests may be made to the office coordinator in advance and will be accommodated if space and staffing allow; both the class size and the child:teacher ratio affect the decision. The fee will be billed; checks should be made payable to Smith College.

Summer Program
The summer program is a separate program open to families who are enrolled in the academic-year program. The details of the program are mailed to families in February. Because enrollment is optional and because some of the teachers have academic-year positions, it is likely that a child will have different teachers and children in his summer group than he has in his academic-year classroom. His classroom may also be in a different space. We help children make the transition by supporting children and teachers in developing relationships in the spring, by holding transition meetings between current teachers and new teachers, and by scheduling meetings between parents and new teachers.

The summer program operates for approximately ten weeks. The scheduling options for the 10-week summer program are the same as during the academic-year. There is two-week break between the end of the summer program and the orientation program for the academic-year. We plan a day between the academic-year and the summer for teachers to set up the classroom environments, plan the summer curriculum, and make home visits, if necessary. 

Summer enrollment applications are sent in February, due within two weeks. There is a non-refundable deposit due with enrollment.

Summer tuition fees are based on the next year’s academic-year tuition rate. The 10-week summer program is calculated at 25% of the new academic-year rate. The new tuition rates are set in February and communicated with reenrollment packages and summer enrollment forms.

March Program
We offer a separate, limited three-day program during the Spring Recess vacation closing. Enrollment forms are distributed in January.

Faculty Leave, Withdrawal, and Termination

Faculty Leave Policy
Placements will be reserved for the following year for children of faculty members at Smith College who will be on leave for a full academic year or who will be on leave for the spring semester only. In each case the faculty member must notify the director in writing by February 15th of the year preceding the leave and, in the latter case, must enroll his/her child for at least the fall semester.

The program is unable to reserve spring semester placements for children who will be away for the fall semester only. However placements may be reserved for the following year under the terms above and these children will be given priority should openings occur for the spring semester. 

Enrollment is for the entire academic-year or summer program. Withdrawals should be made in writing to the Director of the Center for Early Childhood Education. Children who withdraw on or after the first day of the program will be entitled to a tuition refund as follows:

  • Prior to the 2nd week of the program: 75%
  • Prior to the 3rd week of the program: 50%
  • Prior to the 4th week of the program: 25%
  • Prior to the 5th week of the program: 10%
  • Thereafter: 0

The deposit is non-refundable. Information about tuition reimbursement for the summer program is as follows:

  • Prior to the 2nd week of the program: 75%
  • Thereafter: 0

A child may be terminated from the CECE if:

  • The health and safety of the child or other children cannot be assured;
  • The child’s developmental needs are not being met at the school; or,         
  • Tuition has not been paid according to contract. 

Prior to suspension or termination, the director will offer parents an opportunity to meet to discuss options other than suspension or termination. The director will guide parents in pursuing referrals for evaluation, diagnostic, or therapeutic services. The director will faciliate a meeting to develop a plan for behavioral intervention and home and school.

If a child is terminated, parents will be notified both in writing and at a face-to-face meeting, when possible, about the circumstances including the reasons for termination and the conditions for return, if any. A copy of this letter will be kept in the child’s file. The director will inform the parents of the availability of information and referral for other services.

When any child leaves the school (whether initiated by the parents or the CECE), we believe it is important for the child and his/her friends and teachers to say good-bye and prepare for the departure however it is possible.

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care regulations require programs to follow USDA guidelines for nutrition and food service. All educators at Fort Hill are trained in the USDA nutrition requirements and food choking hazards. The assistant director manages the food program and prepares the snack menu, which emphasizes whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. Snack menus are posted on the Parent Bulletin Board in the front entrance and in the kitchen. If the menu changes, or if a parent is providing food for the classrooms, classrooms post a note one week in advance listing the ingredients. Teachers wear food service gloves whenever handling or serving food to children. Children frequently participate in preparing food for snack and teachers ensure safe food handling procedures. Filtered water for drinking is obtained in the kitchen and is always available to children. Cloth napkins and resusable silverware and dishes are provided for snacks. 

Oral Health Care
All children at Fort Hill are required by state law to brush their teeth during the school day unless parents sign a form requesting that they not brush at school (please click here to see the EEC Oral Health Policy). Toothbrushes are labeled and stored without touching one another. Toothbrushes are discarded if they fall on the floor, if a child is sick, or after three months. 

Healthy, Varied Food
We support the development of healthful eating habits and ask families to provide nutritious lunches and food for the children.  Families often bring a special snack on their child’s birthday to share with the class.  Because each family makes choices about the foods they serve, we ask that when you bring food to share, you provide a nutritious snack and avoid foods that have high sugar or fat content.  Please also note any allergies in your child’s classroom, as well as the “peanut-free” policy of the school.

Suggestions of healthy lunch foods for preschoolers and toddlers are listed below, Suggestions for Healthy Lunch Foods.  Some children prefer only a few foods, but all children learn to eat a varied diet when new foods are offered more than once. Please see below, Foods Served at Fort Hill, for a list of the foods typically served for snack at Fort Hill. 

Preparing Food for Children
In accordance with EEC policy, parents prepare children’s food in small, manageable, “ready-to-eat” portions according to USDA choking guidelines.  The EEC brochure, Tips to Prevent Choking, may be helpful. The EEC also provides a list of foods that are considered choke hazards. The list is available below, Foods to Avoid to Prevent Choking, and we ask parents to please review the list and be sure that foods are properly prepared if they are sent to school, and to avoid sending foods that present choking hazards. While some of these foods may be eaten at home with close supervision, the situation is very different in a group setting. For example, grapes must be cut in half (quarters for infants and toddlers), the skin must be removed from apples, string cheese is prohibited for children under four-years-old, popcorn is prohibited, etc. More information is available on the USDA website. We do not allow string cheese for children, regardless of their age. If you would like your child to eat mozzarella, please slice it lengthwise and then cut it into small portions. Please note that food for preschoolers must be less than 1/2" in length, and smaller for toddlers.

Children determine the order in which they will eat their food.  Please pack only food that you are comfortable in having your child eat at any time.  For example, if you pack a sweet treat, your child may choose to eat the treat before eating more nutritious food. 

All items from home such as lunchboxes, thermoses, food containers, or utensils must be clearly labeled with children’s names. 

Food Allergies
Please be aware that some children have allergies.  For this reason, we ask children not to share food with others and may restrict certain foods from the building.  Individual teachers may inform parents of any particular food allergies as necessary.  We encourage parents whose children have food allergies to provide a supply of non-allergenic snack foods to be kept in their child’s classroom.  We have had children with severe allergies to peanuts and we have determined that we will be a peanut-free school.  Alternatives to peanut butter include soy nut butter or almond butter.

Please note: Fort Hill is a peanut-free school. Individual classrooms may have additional food restrictions based on the needs of the children in the group. Please let us know if your child has particular dietary needs. 


Parents provide all the food necessary for infants, including baby foods and prepared formula or breast milk.  All provisions are stored in the refrigerator.  Infants’ bottles need to be taken home and washed each day, as there are not adequate facilities for sterilizing bottles or preparing formula.  Bottles of breast milk or formula are refrigerated until right before eating.  Prepared bottles of powder formula should be discarded after 24 hours.  We will cover, refrigerate, and discard after 48 hours any open containers of concentrated formula.  Unused breast milk can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Infants are always held when they are drinking from a bottle.  We do not prop bottles up nor do we allow children to carry bottles around.  Teachers transfer food for babies from original containers to dishes at feeding time.  Teachers will not offer new food until after it has been given at home.  All items from home such as bottles, food jars, and other containers must be clearly labeled with children’s names.

Teachers maintain a current feeding schedule and document the use of either breast milk or formula, if applicable, new foods introduced, food intolerances and preferences, voiding patterns, and observations related to developmental changes in feeding and nutrition.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

Parents of toddlers and preschoolers provide all the food (parents also provide utensils for preschoolers) necessary for lunch for their children.  The school provides both a morning and an afternoon snack for toddlers and preschoolers.  The snack menus are posted one week in advance online, on the Parent Bulletin Board in the front hall, and on the refrigerator in the kitchen. The snack includes food from two food groups and rice cakes are available as an alternative if children do not like the planned snack. We offer Cheerios to infants and young toddlers who are unable to eat rice cakes. Parents can opt to purchase milk or send beverages of their own.  Filtered water is always available. 

Toddler lunches are stored in a refrigerator.  Refrigerator space, however, is inadequate for three classrooms of preschoolers, so we ask that parents include a frozen ice pack to keep food and drink cold.  We will return substantial leftovers to children’s lunch boxes so parents will know what children have or have not eaten. Smaller quantities of leftovers will be added to the school compost bin and used in the gardens. Preschool children store lunchboxes in their cubbies when they arrive in the morning.  

Snack and Lunch Practices

Each preschool and toddler group has a morning snack, lunch (the preschool lunch begins around 12:30 pm and the toddler lunch begins at about 11:30 am), and an afternoon snack (after 3:00). A large part of social learning and family living involves food.  Teachers sit with the children during lunch to make these meal times relaxed and warm, with conversation.  In this way, the children begin to participate in the social aspects of eating.

The preschool classrooms, and some of the toddler classrooms, have “open snack.” This practice allows children to have snack any time during a set period of time. For example, snack may be “open” from 9:00 – 11:00 in the morning. When a child is hungry, he gathers the supplies he needs, such as a napkin and cup, sets a place at the snack table, self-serves food and drink, cleans up and documents that he has had snack. Teachers monitor children and teach them to begin with small portions, to use social conventions and limit the quantities of food they eat. Teachers always monitor, and frequently eat snack with the children. Teachers model positive eating habits, always sit at a table when eating, and eat the same snack food as the children. 

An important part of a comfortable eating environment is the preparation of the food itself.  There is a continuum of food preparation as children grow.  For instance, infants need adults to provide completely prepared foods (usually warm) for them to eat.  For children wanting to feed themselves, we ask parents to begin to provide food that is easy to pick up such as sandwiches or pasta.  When children become fully able to feed themselves, we ask that parents send their food in individual lunch boxes. As children become more independent, less adult preparation is needed.  For instance, by the time children are in preschool, they bring their own lunchboxes to the table and set up their own food as much as possible.  

We ask parents to prepare lunches that are nutritious and appealing to the child.  Please follow the EEC and USDA guidelines in preparing food for your child's lunch.

  • Provide small portions, cut in pieces that the child can manage without assistance and that meet the EEC guidelines for chokeable foods (Please see  Foods to Avoid to Prevent Choking).
  • Choose items you know your child likes.
  • Send beverages in a thermos or juice box (no glass bottles, please).
  • Do not send food with peanut butter as an ingredient, candy or gum.


Suggestions for Healthy Lunch Foods

(Please boil or steam these so they are soft, and then cut into pieces - pea-size pieces for infants):

  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Sweet peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet Potato
  • Beans (need to be cut in half - garbanzo, kidney, white, black, pinto, lima)
  • Lentils  

(Please remove all peels and seeds and cut into pieces - pea-size for infants)

  • Apples
  • Bananas (may be served with peels)
  • Avocado (please remove peel for infants and toddlers; may be served with peels to preschoolers)
  • Cantaloupe/Honeydew
  • Seedless Grapes (okay to leave skin on if cut up small)
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Peaches
  • Seedless Watermelon
  • Seedless Clementines/Oranges
  • Dehydrated fruits (the kind that melt and turn to mush in your mouth)
  • Apple Sauce
  • Pear Sauce
  • NO raisins, craisins, dried cranberries, or other tough dried fruits for infants and toddlers (according to our health care trainer)  

(Please send broken or cut into bite-size pieces for infants and toddlers)

  • Crackers
  • Whole grain Bread/Toast
  • No-salt Rice Cakes
  • Cheerios or other cereal
  • Chex
  • Whole grain Waffles or Pancakes
  • Whole grain bagels
  • Graham Crackers
  • Rice
  • Pasta (cut into pieces; pea-size for infants)
  • Couscous / Orzo
  • Bulgur, Quinoa, Other small grains 


  • Yogurt (without chunks of fruit)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cream Cheese
  • Cheese (no large chunks; shredded or cut into pea-size pieces for infant – mozzarella, cheddar, etc.)
  • Cold cuts (cut into small pieces, with any tough skin removed)
  • NO string cheese 


  • Hummus or Bean dip
  • Low-sugar fruit spreads or jam
  • Soy nut butter or other nut butters (only spread very thinly on something; not in a large chunk)

Sample Ideas for Prepared Foods

  • Pureed soups or stews (butternut squash, potato, tomato)
  • Stir fries with rice and steamed veggies
  • Pasta with marinara, cheese, beans, or cooked veggies mixed in
  • Mashed sweet potato or butternut squash
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Guacamole
  • Smoothies
  • Cracker sandwiches with thin layer of nut butter or cream cheese
  • Toast or sandwich with butter, nut butter, cream cheese and jam
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Hummus with cooked veggies or chips for dipping
  • Oatmeal or hot rice cereal
  • Tortilla rolled up with filling (cut crosswise into very thin pieces) 

*When in doubt, please check in with a teacher.
**A thermos can help keep foods warm until lunch time.
***We understand that our guidelines may conflict with your practices at home. Children often eat in a group at school, and teachers are unable to provide one-on-one supervision at all times.
****Because we prepare lunch for many children, we will not be able to serve foods that are sent in an inappropriate form.  We will be sure to send these home with you at the end of the day and try to let you know why.

Food Served at Fort Hill 

Kashi crackers
Whole wheat bagels
Whole wheat English muffins
Organic whole wheat waffles                                    
Organic Graham crackers
No salt Rice cakes
Rice Chex 
Apple sauce
Seedless grapes

Green beans
Sweet peppers
Garbanzo beans 

Stoneyfield plain yogurt 
Cottage Cheese                                                 
Fruit spread - low sugar
Cheddar cheese                                               
Mozzarella cheese                                    
No fat organic milk

Soy nut butter 

Foods to Avoid to Prevent Choking

Taken from: Department of Early Education and Care
51 Sleeper Street
Boston, MA 02210

Do NOT serve these foods to children at Fort Hill:

  • Peanuts or other nuts
  • Seeds
  • Spoonfuls of peanut butter or other nut/seed butters 
  • Whole kernel corn 
  • Popcorn
  • Chewing gum 
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hard or chewy candy 
  • Whole grapes, berries, cherries
  • Fruit with pits
  • Whole pieces of canned fruit 
  • Apple slices with peel
  • Large chunks of cheese
  • Sausage
  • Hard pieces of partially cooked vegetables 
  • Plain wheat germ
  • Fish with bones
  • Tough or large chunks of meat
  • Cookies 
  • Hotdogs (whole or sliced into rounds) 
  • Raw carrots (in rounds)
  • Potato/corn chips, pretzels 
  • Whole beans 
  • Marshmallows, including mini-marshmallows
  • Whole olives 
  • Peas and other raw vegetables
  • Ice cubes
  • Cooked vegetables that are stringy or hard to chew 
  • Lollipops
  • String Cheese

It is important that we follow evidence­-based, up-­to­-date information when dealing with head lice. The National Association of School Nurses (NASN), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have all issued similar statements on the management, prevention and treatment of head lice. Fort Hill’s policy reflects these recommendations.

Please contact the school administration, supervising teacher, and pediatrician as soon as you detect head lice. The teachers and staff will respond by cleaning appropriate materials in the classroom and notifying families.

What are head lice?
Head lice are tiny insects (less than one-eighth inch long). They

  • live on blood they draw from a person’s head.
  • do not carry disease.
  • live for days to weeks depending on temperature and humidity.
  • crawl. They do not hop or fly.
  • deposit tiny gray/white eggs, known as nits, on a hair shaft 3-4 mm (1/4 inch) from the scalp because the eggs need the warmth from the scalp for hatching.
  • cannot live for more than 48 hours away from the scalp as adult insects, and as eggs, cannot hatch at temperatures lower than those found close to the scalp.
  • may cause irritation and scratching that can persist for weeks after an infestation is resolved. The child’s scratching can lead to a secondary skin infection.

What are the signs and symptoms of head lice?

  • Itching of skin where lice feed on the scalp or neck or complaints about itchiness by older children.
  • Nits may be glued to hair, which are most easily seen behind ears and at or near the nape of the neck.
  • Scratching, especially behind and around ears and at the nape of the neck.
  • Open sores and crusting from secondary bacterial infection may be associated with swollen lymph nodes (commonly called swollen glands).
  • A child with an active infestation has likely had the infestation for a month or more. With a first case of head lice, itching may not develop for 4-6 weeks, because it takes time to develop a sensitivity to louse saliva.

How do I look for lice?
Head lice are tiny insects and because they move quickly it is often difficult to see them. Usually, you will not see the lice, only the nits (eggs). The eggs are tiny, pearl gray, oval-shaped specks attached to the hair near the scalp. Unlike dandruff, a nit is not easily moved up or down the hair shaft. Look carefully, using a magnifying glass and natural light. Search for nits at the back of the neck, behind the ears and at the top of the head. If you are not sure, ask your health care provider to check your child's head.

For images of lice and nits so you know what to look for please visit:

For a demonstration on how to check a head:

What do I do if I suspect my child has lice?

  • Check your child's hair for lice and nits if:
    • a child in the school has been reported as having head lice within the last three weeks.
    • s/he reports that her/his head is itchy.
    • if you observe her/him frequently scratching her/his head behind and around ears and at the nape of the neck.
  • If you think you have found lice and/or nits, contact your health care provider immediately. Your health care consultant may recommend treatment for just your child or for your entire family. Discuss which treatment product to use with your health care provider, particularly prior to treating infants or pregnant or nursing women.
  • Contact the classroom to let the teachers know if your child has been diagnosed with head lice. It is crucial that we keep in mind that we are members of a community and our responsiveness and vigilance will help protect the spread of these insects to others in our community.
  • Children who have had a confirmed case of head lice, and their enrolled sibling(s), have their heads checked daily by the parent for three weeks following treatment. All families should check their children’s heads for lice regularly for three weeks when an outbreak is reported.

What are the incubation and contagious periods?

  • Incubation period: 10–14 days from laying to hatching of eggs. (Lice can reproduce 2–3 weeks after hatching.)
  • Contagious period: Until lice are killed with a chemical treatment.

How are head lice spread?
Head lice are spread through direct contact with infested hair. Only lice, not nits, spread the infestation. Almost all transmission is from direct head-to-head (hair-to-hair) contact as lice cannot jump or fly to another person’s hair. Children often spread head lice to each other during close contact while playing. Indirect transmission of lice from hats, caps, hair brushes, combs, headphones, and other objects is less common. Most transmission of lice occurs in homes, not other public places. Sleepovers and bed-sharing are a major source. Head lice infestations occur in all socio-economic groups and do not represent poor hygiene. Head lice do not cause disease; however, they can spread quickly and can be a nuisance for those experiencing an infestation.

Is exclusion from group care required?
Yes, at the end of the program day.*

  • When a child is found with lice and/or nits during the program day the parent is notified and referred for treatment. The child may remain in the program through her/his scheduled pick-up time that day.
  • The teachers do their best to assist the child in avoiding activities that may involve head-to-head contact with other children and/or the sharing of head garments until the end of the program day.

* No-nit policies that required children to be nit free are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health because they have not been shown to be effective in controlling outbreaks, may keep the child out of the program needlessly, and unduly burden the child’s parents/guardians who must implement this measure.

When may a child return to the classroom?
After the child has received the treatment recommended by the child’s health professional and has been checked by a CECE staff person.

What do we tell the children?
We explain to the children that head lice are interesting little bugs that like to live in our hair and the problem is that they make our head itchy. One family told their child who had contracted head lice, “These little bugs look for the nicest, warmest, coziest place to live, and your head is that place.”

We certainly do not want to frighten or stigmatize the children, so simple age-appropriate explanations are best. As with other topics children ask us about, rather than immediately supplying an answer, we ask the child what s/he thinks about the topic. This helps us to better recognize the child’s level of understanding of the topic and the level of information needed to satisfy their curiosity.

How do the classrooms respond when a child has lice?

  • When the classroom is informed of a confirmed case of head lice, items that may have been in contact with the head of the infested person are cleaned. These items are washed in hot water and dried at high heat (greater than 130°F). Washing and drying items at temperatures greater than130°F kills stray lice and nits. These items include cot sheets and blankets, rest time pillows, stuffed animals, and any items that might be shared by children such as quiet area pillows, dramatic play clothing, and extra clothes. Items that cannot be washed are bagged in plastic for 2 weeks, a time when any surviving nits would have hatched and lice would have died without a source for feeding.
  • Because head lice can only live for 1-2 days way from a scalp, chemical treatment of the environment is not necessary. Floors, carpets, and furniture are vacuumed daily.
  • Children who have had a confirmed case of head lice, and their enrolled sibling(s), have their heads checked daily by the parent for three weeks following treatment. All families should check for head lice regularly for three weeks when an outbreak is reported.
  • If staff are unsure as to whether a child has a new infestation, the parent will be asked to take the child to their health care provider for a head lice check. Though CECE staff have developed expertise in knowing what to look for, they are not medical experts, and will not always be able to diagnose with absolute certainty. If the health care provider sees no infestation, the child may return to the Center that day.


The health care policy, for use by the staff and parents of Fort Hill, provides the safest possible environment for the optimal well-being of the children and staff at Fort Hill. 

View the full Health Care Policy >

The teachers and administrators at Fort Hill value collaborative play as central to learning and recognize the relationship between positive peer interactions and children’s development, leading to children’s future academic and personal success.  Fort Hill teachers provide an environment that meets the needs of children with a wide range of social skills as they recognize the social nature of learning and intentionally teach social problem-solving skills.

The Fort Hill program is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach to early education and is similarly based on a theory of social constructivism. This perspective emphasizes the social nature of learning and posits that cognitive development, including attention, memory, and conceptual development, originates in social relationships, i.e., knowledge is a collaborative process—it is co-constructed. Children learn and reach higher levels of understanding and problem-solving when they work collaboratively with adults and peers (Vygotsky, 1978).

Teachers plan the environment, interactions, and curriculum to intentionally promote relationships and co-construction of knowledge. This intentionality reflects one of the important principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach, which is evident in the following quote:

In Reggio, the idea of overriding importance in design is relationships: How will this arrangement, that experience, those materials encourage children to form relationships - with the space, the materials, with another child or a small group of children, with a teacher, with parents, with ideas between what they already know and something that is new? (Lewin-Benham, p.70) 

Research and Practice
Based on this theoretical framework, teachers strive to build an inclusive classroom and community. They support children in developing the social skills and social problem-solving skills necessary for entering and sustaining play and convey the expectation that children support one another in engaging in cooperative play. Teachers also respect children’s desire to play alone at times and recognize the importance of providing children with opportunities to learn social skills and build resiliency by navigating through difficult experiences and rejections.

This approach to inclusive play and active teaching of social problem-solving skills stems from compelling research, which suggests that the perceptions others hold of a child’s social standing remains stable through many years of schooling (Ladd & Price, 1987) and that when children lag in social skills in early childhood, it is difficult to catch up with peers in first grade (Rubin, Bukowski, & Parker, 2006). Recent research also suggests that social problem solving skills help children make the academic transition into kindergarten and first grade (Walker & Henderson, 2012). Fortunately, teachers can positively influence children’s social interactions and through careful policies, can promote inclusion and social problem-solving skills (Audley-Piotrowski, Singer, & Patterson, 2015).

Our philosophy of social play may be described with the phrase, “If two can play, all can play.” The adults at Fort Hill actively create a culture in which all children recognize the accepted practice of social problem-solving and collaboration to include anyone who wants to play with a group of two or more.

The teachers support social problem-solving for both the child trying to enter the play and the children excluding the child so that all children who want to play can be included. The teacher’s actions reflect her knowledge of the children involved and of the ongoing play. If a child is rejected or excluded as he attempts to enter ongoing play, a teacher may respond to those who are excluding him, saying, “You are already playing with ____, so that means all friends can play.” She may ask the children who are excluding the child to explain the play scheme to the excluded child and offer ways to participate. She may coach the excluded child in specific behaviors to enter rather than asking the question, “Can I play?” Similarly, when a child expresses an interest in playing alone, the teacher guides him in communicating his preference and also supports the child requesting to play in managing the perceived rejection when the other child wants to play alone. The teacher continues to monitor and support the play for an extended period of time to ensure that all the children successfully manage the process of entering and sustaining play.

An infant is defined as a child younger than fifteen months of age. This infant sleep policy is reviewed with parents during the home visit prior to attending the program. All children are seen and heard at all times while sleeping. For information on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, please click here.

Staff who work with infants, including staff who provide coverage on an occasional basis, are trained in the program's safe sleep policy and renew their infant safe sleep training with each two-year EEC licensing cycle. A copy of this policy is above.

Sleep Positions

Back to Sleep Exceptions
Infants will be placed flat on their backs to sleep unless written orders from a physician indicate an alternate sleep position. In the event of written physician’s orders, the orders will identify a timeframe for how long the orders are in effect and the order will be placed in the child’s file. Instructions specifying the alternate sleep position, without specific medical information, will be posted on the child’s crib. 

Transitioning from an Alternate Position
If an infant has been sleeping in an alternate position prior to enrollment, the program will either: a) obtain written parental permission to seek advice from the child’s pediatrician about the best and safest way to transition to the back to sleep position, or b) request that the parent supply written documentation from the pediatrician with the information.

Placing Infants on their Sides and Positioners
Infants will not be placed on their side to sleep and devices such as wedges and infant positioners will not be used.

Infants who use pacifiers will be offered the pacifier when they are placed to sleep. The pacifier will not be put back in the infant’s mouth if it falls out while the infant is asleep. Teachers will check the pacifiers periodically for tears and clean and maintain them as required. 

Infants Turning Over During Sleep
After being placed on his/her back to sleep, an infant who can easily turn over from back to front and front to back may remain in whatever position he prefers to sleep.

Sleep Environment

The program will use only U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision guidelines for safety-approved cribs and firm mattresses.

  • Each infant, including siblings, twins, and triplets, under 12 months of age will have his/her own individual crib
  • Crib slats will be less than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • Corner posts on cribs will not be higher than 1/16 of an inch
  • Infants will not be left in a crib with drop sides down.
  • Playpen/port-a-crib weave will be less than ¼ inch.
  • Manufacturers’ requirements for height and weight will be followed in assigning infants to cribs/port-a-cribs.
  • Infants will not be placed to sleep on any soft surfaces such as water beds, couches or air mattresses.
  • Mattresses will be firm and fit the crib without allowing space between the crib sides and the mattress. The mattress will be deemed too small if two fingers can be squeezed between the mattress and the crib.
  • Mattresses will be covered with snug, fitted sheets.
  • Cribs will be free from loose bedding, toys, and other soft objects. This includes, but is not limited to, pillows, quilts, comforters, sheep skins, bumper pads, and/or stuffed toys.
  • If an infant falls asleep in a highchair, bouncer, swing, car seat or other equipment, s/he will be removed from the equipment and placed in a safe sleep environment.
  • To prevent infants from overheating the temperature in the room will be monitored and any outdoor or excessive clothing will be removed. Sleep clothing such as sleepers, sleep sacks, and wearable blankets may be used as an alternative.
  • Bibs and pacifiers will not be tied around the infant’s neck or clipped to their clothing during sleep.
  • Smoking is not allowed in or near the program.


  • All children including infants enrolled in group child care program receive adequate supervision that ensures their health and safety.  Staff are able to visually supervise infants without obstructions such as blankets draped over the sides of cribs, shelving units or other classroom furnishings.
  • All rooms have sufficient lighting to allow staff to monitor infants at all times, including during sleep.

Please refer to the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care Oral Health Care Policy.

Children brush their teeth with water, no toothpaste, served in an individual paper cup. The time of day varies with each classroom. Toothbrushes are labeled and stored without touching one another. Toothbrushes are discarded if they fall on the floor, if a child is sick, or after three months.

The Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) reserves the right to record the voice, image, and products of enrolled children and identify by name the children in connection with the recording for educational, publicity, archival, or any other purposes deemed suitable by the CECE administration, including presentations at conferences and lectures; promotional brochures; classroom documentations, blogs, portfolios, Smith College or CECE websites and other media. "Publicity" includes articles or publications by Smith College or the CECE, posting of recordings to Smith College or CECE web sites, and articles, recordings or publications by outside entities. An example of publicity by an outside entity is a community interest story about the CECE published by the Hampshire Gazette. Usually their stories are accompanied by photos of the Center, the children and staff. The Gazette's policy is to print the names of all persons in any published photograph. 

Parents may sign an Observation Agreement & Photograph/Video/Electronic Posting form restricting permission for the CECE or any other party to record their child's voice, image, and products. The CECE will not record your child’s voice, images, or products in any way, or permit any third party, including parents of enrolled children to record your child’s voice, images, or products in any way if you choose to restrict the use of the recordings. Restrictions will also apply to classroom publications, class photos and other official school photos or publications. 

Parents frequently ask if they may take photographs or videos in their child’s classroom.  We allow families to photograph or record videos only for personal use and with the permission of the Director.  Families may sign an Observation Agreement & Photograph/Video/Electronic Posting form restricting permission to photograph or video their child. Families recording images on personal devices must check with the classroom teacher or an administrator to identify which children may not be photographed and must refrain from capturing images of those children. The CECE reserves the right to review any recordings or photographs and require that they be erased, if, in the sole opinion of the teacher, administrator or Director the recordings or photographs are inappropriate or capture a restricted image.

This policy does not apply to any research that may be conducted at the CECE. All research at Smith is governed by policies on research. See the Institutional Review Board for more information.

Smith College personnel policies are available online at the Human Resources website. All benefits and Smith College policies are detailed in the Smith College Staff Handbook.

Procedure for Identifying and Reporting Child Abuse/Neglect While in Care of the Center
It is the CECE’s commitment to protect all children in this facility from abuse or neglect.  We conduct a background check on all staff members prior to employment (described in the Background Record Check Policy).  The following describes procedures for reporting suspected child abuse/neglect while the child is in the Center’s care.

  • Any report of suspected abuse or neglect of a child is immediately reported to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).  A meeting is held with the staff member in question to inform him/her of the filed report.  DCF telephone number is 1-413-775-5000.
  • EEC is notified, 1-413-788-8401.
  • The staff person in question will be immediately suspended from the program with pay pending the outcome of the DCF and EEC investigations.  If the report is screened out by the DCF, the Director has the option of having the staff member remain on suspension pending the EEC investigation or allowing the staff member to return to the classroom.  This decision will be made by the Director and will be based on the seriousness of the allegations and the facts available.
  • If the allegations of abuse/neglect are substantiated, it will be the decision of the Director whether or not the staff member will be reinstated.
  • The Director and staff will cooperate fully with all investigations.

Fort Hill teachers and administrators value the opportunity to participate in research that furthers knowledge of child development and early education.  We support the research and academic mission of the college and facilitate children’s participation in approved research studies at Fort Hill. 

The Smith College Psychology department maintains a dedicated space in the building for research purposes. Researchers from other departments, as well as other institutions, also conduct studies at Fort Hill; Smith College researchers have priority in conducting research at Fort Hill.

All research studies are approved by the director, the Smith College Institutional Review Board and meet the EEC policy on Research, Experimentation, and Unusual Treatment.

Child Safety
Researchers obtain informed consent from parents prior to inviting a child to participate in a research activity. Children's participation in research studies is voluntary; researchers respect children's right to decline to participate. All researchers in contact with children submit to Background Record Checks; register with Smith College and complete the Smith College Child Safety Training; and, ensure that children can be seen and heard by a CECE teacher who is certified by the EEC a teacher at all times.

Background Record Check
All researchers who will have contact with children must complete a Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care Background Record Check (BRC), which includes a CORI, DCF, SORI, and Fingerprint record check. Please see General Policies & Plans: Background Record Check Policy for more information.

Children will participate in research only with individuals who have been approved by the EEC BRC. Researchers may begin working with children when the results of the CORI, DCF, and SORI checks have been approved.

Child Safety Registration and Training
The principal investigator reviews the Smith College Child Safety website and registers with Smith College using the Child Safety Certification website. The registration process includes identifying all staff and volunteers who will work with minor children and ensuring completion of online training.

All staff and volunteers must complete online training as detailed on the website before having contact with children. 

Monitoring Children's Participation
The research activity must be audible and visible at all times to at least one CECE EEC certified teacher. If the researcher plans for children to participate outside of an active classroom, the researcher must provide audio and visual surveillance of the activity. This may take the form of an iPad using Face Time, Skype, a web cam, or other technology that allows children to be seen and heard at all times by an EEC certified teacher.


All staff are oriented to the program and to Smith College. No staff member is solely responsible for children until the orientations required by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) have been completed. Staff sign a document acknowledging that they have completed all orientation activities. 

Smith College Orientation
Human Resources schedules regular group orientation meetings for new Smith College employees within the first month of employment. New CECE employees are invited to attend one of these meetings. 

New employees should review the New Hire Resources page, provided by human resources, to help answer common questions.

Fort Hill Orientation
All new employees complete an extensive orientation program at Fort Hill.


The program follows the Smith College policies and procedures regarding supervision and performance reviews.

The general reporting structure of the program follows the included organizational chart.

Organizational chart for CECE.

Parents provide diapers and ointments for children not yet toilet trained.  If parents request that an ointment be applied, they must sign a permission form and update it weekly. Children in diapers are changed frequently during the day, and are always changed whenever necessary.  Teachers always keep one hand on children when on the diaper table or elevated surface. We ask parents to check their children’s supplies of diapers and extra clothing regularly.  We will give reminders as necessary.  

When children do express interest in using the toilet at school, teachers offer them the chance to sit on the toilet at each diaper change.  When children are out of diapers and staying dry most of the time at home, teachers are happy to begin the transition at school as well.  Teachers will talk with parents about how best to support children’s needs through this transition.  We ask that parents use diapers until children are ready for underwear.  If you send your child in “Pull-ups,” please be sure they have the side velro closures so that teachers and children do not have to remove shoes and pants to change the diaper.

We find that the transition to using the toilet takes place most easily when children initiate the training process.  This may involve extra patience and giving up of adult expectations.  When children are ready, this process most often happens quickly and easily.

Children who have learned to use the toilet on their own will be encouraged to continue to do so.  Children who are toilet trained are reminded periodically throughout each day to use the toilet.  Child-sized toilets are located in the classrooms for the convenience and safety of the children.  No child is ever punished, scolded, or humiliated for soiling, wetting, or not using the toilet.  Teachers can be a source of information and guidance in the toilet learning process. 

Classroom Configurations and Placements

Children are eligible for placement in an infant room if they are at least 8-weeks-old and less than 15-months-old at the time of enrollment. Children are placed in a toddler room if they are between 15-months- and  33-months-old at the beginning of the academic-year and in a preschool room if they are between 33-months-old and five-years-old at the beginning of the academic-year. Children remain with the group for the entire academic-year, for example, a child remains in a toddler room until the end of the summer following the academic-year even if he turns 2.9 years during the year or summer. The classrooms may be mixed-age. Developmental placements (children placed in a fixed-age group outside of their chronological age) may be considered and requires approval from the Massachusetts Department of Education. Please click here for the EEC Developmental Placement Policy.

Placement decisions
The placement of children in classrooms at the CECE is a very careful and thoughtful process. We strive to balance a variety of aspects of the group. These aspects may include gender, age, social connections, individual needs and abilities, class size, family circumstances, and schedule requests. We have several goals when we determine placements. We solicit input from teachers and parents to place children in supportive social groups.

Many children spend the two or three years of their infant/toddler and preschool years with the same group of children and teachers, although this may vary for individual children or groups for a variety of reasons and is not guaranteed.

Interactions among Mixed-age Peers
The classrooms at Fort Hill collaborate with one another to a great extent. Children interact with children from other classrooms both formally and informally on the playground, in the visual arts and music studios, the common spaces, and in the classrooms. There are many opportunities for children to interact with children of all ages and for siblings to interact with one another during the day.

Preschool Visiting Program
In addition to informal and spontaneous visiting, the preschool classrooms have a system through which children independently choose to visit the other preschool classrooms and the studios. Each child has a magnet with his picture on it. When he wants to move to a different space, he asks his teacher, takes his magnet from the magnet board in his classroom, and checks in with the new teacher so that she knows he will be in the group. He places his magnet on the magnet board in the new classroom and the new teacher communicates with the original teacher so that all teachers know where the children are at all times.

Transitions and Orientation Programs

Open House
We hold an annual Open House in the winter for prospective families to visit the school, see the classrooms, and meet the teachers. All supervising and studio teachers attend the Open House. We send invitations to all eligible toddler families, as well as to families who have inquired about the program during the year.

Starting the Year
A family’s transition to an early childhood program is important in developing relationships and communication among adults and children. At the beginning of the year, some children are new to Fort Hill, some are returning after a summer break, and some have been here through the summer. For every child, even returning children, the first days of the year at Fort Hill are filled with new experiences. We try to make this adjustment period as smooth and comfortable as it can be for each child because it serves as a foundation for developing trusting relationships and a positive and fruitful year at Fort Hill, as well as for future transitions. We have designed a transition program to allow families and children to gradually become familiar with the teachers, the other children, and the environment. Because each child responds to separation individually, this period of adjustment may vary among families. The classroom teachers work with each family to facilitate a smooth transition. The preschool and infant/toddler programs differ slightly because of the developmental needs of the children. Teachers maintain communication with families throughout the year, as many factors can affect a child's transition to school. Teachers communicate in person and electronically to share information with parents about children’s adjustment to school, and to hear the parent's perspective on how the transition is going. A formal conferencing time, known as “Initial Parent Conversations” is planned for late September or early October to discuss the transition.

New Students’ Home Visits
Children who are new to the program or who are transitioning from the toddler program to the preschool are invited to meet the teacher during a home visit. During the home visit, children have the opportunity to meet their teachers for the first time in their home environment. Parents provide teachers with written and verbal information about their child’s preferences and needs. Parents share information with teachers about their child’s routines, cues and developmental milestones. Teachers may respond to questions about their practice and philosophy of working with young children. Please click here for a copy of the Home Visit Form.

The August mailing includes a scheduled time for a home visit for each new toddler and preschooler during the week before school begins (the infant teachers call families to arrange the infant home visits). Home visits are very informal. Their primary purpose is for children to meet teachers while in a familiar environment and in the company of their parent or caregiver to form a strong foundation for a trusting relationship among children, teachers, and parents.

The visits last about fifteen minutes; no preparation is necessary. Teachers arrive at a child’s home, looking forward to meeting the child wherever s/he feels comfortable. Home visits can take place on the front steps, the driveway, a child’s room, basement playroom, or outdoor swing set. Teachers often take a picture of the child in a spot of his/her own choosing. A home visit ensures that each child who arrives at school for the first day sees a familiar face in the classroom. The children confirm the value of these visits by referring to them throughout the year, “Remember when you came to MY house?”

A Home Visit Supplement Form is enclosed in the August mailing. This form gives parents the opportunity to note any thoughts, concerns, or knowledge about their child that they or their child feel is important for teachers to know prior to the first day of school. Parents complete the form and give it to their child’s teachers at the time of the home visit.

Infant teachers discuss the Infant Sleep Policy with families whose children are younger than fifteen-months-old during the home visit.

Preschool Two-Day Orientation Program
There are twelve to twenty children in each of the preschool classrooms. On the first two days of school the class size is reduced to allow children to be introduced to new friends and teachers, the classroom routines, and organization of the day in a small group with a lower child-to-adult ratio. This is an important transition even for those children familiar with the school and with prior large group experience as it allows them to be introduced to their new group in an environment with more individualized attention. Children attend school on their regular schedule for one of the two orientation days.

Infant/Toddler Orientation Program
We encourage families to consider the first week of the program as an important foundation for your child’s full adjustment to her/his time at school as it helps to form the bridge between home and school. Transitions are often eased when a parent remains with the child and the child’s schedule is reduced during the first week. We hope you will plan to stay with your child for a few hours to play, observe and communicate with the teachers and other families during the first days of the program. When children are prepared for and nurtured by their parents in the classroom setting, children gain an initial feeling of familiarity and emotional security that usually carries over when the parent is no longer present. This time also gives teachers an opportunity to observe and ask questions about individual patterns of interaction to enable them to continue consistency of care when the phase-in period is over. Children benefit in many ways when teachers and parents communicate and develop positive relationships. We hope that by transitioning in this way, you will feel a part of the classroom throughout the year.

Returning children also benefit from the orientation program. All children will return to a new environment with new children and, most likely, at least one new staff member. The orientation allows children an opportunity to ease into routines after a long break, to become familiar with the changes, and reestablish connections. Teachers and families plan together how to support returning children.

Transitions for children who are new to Fort Hill
The following procedures facilitate the transition for children who are new to Fort Hill:

  • Teachers make home visits to all children new to Fort Hill.
  • The year begins with an orientation program; if a child begins in the middle of the year, we encourage parents to stay in the classroom or building until the child is comfortable.
  • Teachers read the developmental history forms and reports from previous teachers.
  • Children attend an Open House or are invited to visit the school before beginning the program.

Transitions to New Classrooms within Fort Hill
There are several times when children may experience a transition to a new classroom at Fort Hill. For example, the summer program is a separate program and enrollment decreases during the summer, therefore in the late spring we review the summer enrollment and reconfigure the classrooms for summer. Similarly, when a child reaches the age of 2.9 before September 1, he or she is eligible to begin preschool and transitions from the toddler wing to a preschool classroom at the beginning of the academic-year.

For a variety of reasons, including Massachusetts Teacher certification requirements, teachers typically remain in either the preschool or infant/toddler wing; therefore, children move to a classroom with new teachers when they move from toddler classrooms to preschool classrooms. The children in the toddler classrooms are typically placed in mixed-age groups in all three preschool classrooms. To the greatest extent possible, we place children with at least one classmate from their toddler room.

Transitions for children moving from the toddler rooms to preschool are supported in a variety of ways.

  • When children transition from the toddler program to the preschool, families are invited to attend an Open House and to arrange time to observe the preschool classrooms.
  • The director provides families with detailed information, through a blog and face-to-face meeting, about how the preschool program differs from the toddler program. For example, the schedule options, class size, teacher: child ratio, tuition rate, daily schedule, assessment and reporting practices, and program differ in each of the levels.
  • Teachers begin describing the transition during the January conferences.
  • Children visit classrooms and siblings frequently throughout the year, and therefore are familiar with many of the children and teachers, as well as with the physical facility.
  • The director, teachers, and families share information about social connections and carefully plan placements in groups.
  • In the spring, teachers carefully plan for the children who will be attending preschool in the fall to spend more time in the preschool classrooms with their familiar toddler teachers. In the summer, the toddlers spend increasing amounts of time on the preschool playground and in the preschool classrooms, with their familiar teachers and both with and without preschool-age children.
  • In the summer, toddler teachers begin introducing routines similar to the preschool routines, e.g., slowly moving lunch to a later time and increasing independence.
  • During the August professional days, the toddler teachers and preschool teachers meet and discuss individual children and how best to support them. Teachers read the Developmental History forms of all children.
  • We communicate with families about their child's placement in early August, and share teachers and class lists in order for families to begin familiarizing themselves with the child's new group. Families are welcome to contact the assistant director or director with questions about their child's placement.

Differences between the Fort Hill Toddler and Preschool Programs
Because the preschool program differs in several ways from the infant/toddler program, the director writes a blog and plans a meeting with toddler families to describe some of the differences.

The differences between the preschool and toddler program are described below:

Preschoolers enroll for 3, 4, or 5 days with the following options:

    8 a.m.–12:45 p.m.
    8 a.m.–2:45 p.m.
    8 a.m.–4:45 p.m.

Families may extend a day until 2:45 p.m. or 4:45 p.m. on a space-available basis. The fee for this program is paid separately and is not eligible for the Smith College employee tuition grant.

The tuition rate for preschool is less than for toddlers because the class size and child:teacher ratios are different.

Class Size:
There are three preschool classrooms. One classroom, Group S, is limited to 12 children. The other two rooms, Group A and Group B, are larger and are limited to 20 children. These rooms may be either mixed-age rooms with children ranging from two years, 9 months to five-years-old, or single-age rooms, depending on the applicants and renrolling students each year.

Child:Teacher Ratio:
The Massachusetts state law mandates a child:teacher ratio of 10:1 or better. We choose to have more teachers in a classroom than the state requires. When a preschool classroom is enrolled with 17–20 children, there are three teachers. When there are fewer than 17 children, a classroom is staffed with 2 teachers.

The teaching teams typically remain as either infant/toddler or preschool teams (there are different teacher certification requirements for each age group) and it is almost certain that your child's teachers will remain in the infant/toddler wing and your child will meet new teachers in the fall. We have several strategies to ease this transition. Children visit the preschool classrooms frequently and the visits increase during the spring. In the summer, the toddlers who are preschool-age eligible typically spend a great deal of their time in the preschool areas.

Children do not necessarily stay with all of the children from their toddler room. The existing groups (South Room and East Room) are typically split up. We ensure that every child is placed in a group with another child with whom he or she has formed a strong friendship and discuss these relationships with teachers and parents. Please feel free to share information with your child's teacher during the May conference if your child has a special friendship. Because the preschool classrooms collaborate to a great extent, children have many opportunities to interact with all children in preschool.

Visiting Program:
Similar to the toddler program, children in preschool are free to visit other classrooms, as well as the visual arts and music studios during the morning. Teachers maintain a system for keeping track of the children. In this way, they can visit other friends and experience a wide range of materials. Preschoolers also frequently visit siblings and familiar teachers in the infant/toddler wing.

The music and visual arts studio supervising teachers teach the studios in the morning and assume the responsibilities of supervising teachers in the afternoon. The visual arts studio is open to only preschoolers, as the materials in the studio may be small enough to pose a choking hazard for young children.

Daily Schedule, Snack, Lunch, and Nap:
The preschoolers typically begin the day on the playground shortly after 8:00 am. They also typically eat lunch and begin nap later than the infant/toddler rooms. Snack in the preschool is "open" or "choice" snack (the infant/toddler rooms may do this occasionally - in preschool it is typical that snack is available for children to choose the time during the morning they want to eat snack and they independently set their place, serve themselves, clean-up their space, and document that they had snack (each classroom has a system, e.g., putting a clothespin with your name into a basket when you arrive for snack). Because of the number of children and the small refrigerators, preschool lunches are kept in their cubbies, not in a refrigerator, so many families use ice packs to keep the lunch cold.

Assessment and Reporting:
The preschool teachers prepare narrative reports for the January conference period and electronic portfolios for the May conference period. Families take the portfolio home when their child leaves Fort Hill.

Preschool to Kindergarten Transition
The majority of kindergartens in the surrounding area have an age cut-off date of five-years-old by September 1. Children who are born between September 1 and December 1 typically spend three years in preschool because they are eligible for preschool when they are 2 years, 9 months old and are eligible for kindergarten when they are five-years-old.

The following activities facilitate the transition for children moving from Fort Hill to kindergarten.

  • Preschool teachers visit local kindergartens to familiarize themselves with the programs.
  • Teachers and families begin sharing information about kindergarten during the January conferences.
  • In the late spring, teachers follow children's lead in discussing the transition to kindergarten.

Daily transportation
All children are transported to and from Fort Hill by family or caregivers. Families complete a Transportation Plan and Authorization Form prior to beginning the program, which identifies the mode of transportation and individuals granted permission to pick-up the child on a non-emergency basis. Parents are responsible for supervising children to and from the program. Please refer to the EEC Transportation policy for state guidelines.

If your child will be arriving after 9:15 a.m., or will not be in school, please call the office before 9 a.m. (413-585-3290). If a child does not arrive at school by 9:15 a.m., as mandated by law, we will call all the contact numbers, including emergency contact numbers, to ensure that the child is safe. 

The program does not transport children.

Field Trip Transportation
All field trips are walking field trips; children and teachers walk to the Smith College campus or to events in downtown Northampton. Infants and toddlers are transported in strollers or wagons with seat belts. 

In the event of a medical emergency during transport, the following procedure will be followed:

  • If and accident or acute illness occurs during transport, the supervising teacher takes charge of the emergency, assesses the situation, and administers first aid as needed. The supervising teacher determines the method and urgency of treatment based on the severity of the illness or emergency. If necessary, the teacher will call 911 to summon an ambulance. If on the Smith Campus, the teacher will call Campus Police at 413-585-2490.
  • A supporting teacher contacts CECE and notifies the director of the emergency, detailing the nature and extent of the injury or illness and the proposed plan of action.
  • The director notifies EEC, 413-788-8401.
  • Teachers carry an attendance list, cell phones, first aid kits, emergency contact information, medical forms, and medications on all field trips.
  • Teachers log the destination, route, and group information on a clipboard in the office before leaving the school. 

Emergency Transportation
In the event of an emergency, children and staff walk to the Smith College Museum of Art. Infants and toddlers are transported in strollers and wagons. Campus Police make arrangements if they determine that additional transportation is needed. Campus Police can be reached at 413-585-2490. 

The CECE does not currently accept volunteers. The following guidelines are in place if there is an exception to this policy: 

  • Volunteers will receive an orientation to the program, will be assigned a supervisor, and will be trained in the philosophy and emergency procedures of the program;
  • The office coordinator will document the dates, hours of service and responsibilities of each volunteer in a log maintained in the office; 
  • volunteers will be under the direct visual supervision of an EEC qualified educator at all times; and,
  • the volunteer will complete an EEC Background Record Check prior to performing volunteer work. 

Student Participation
Students participate in the CECE program in a variety of ways. Students 

  • work as assistant teachers hired through Student Financial Services;
  • complete requirements for courses, e.g., conduct classroom observations and pre-practicum experiences; and,
  • conduct research in collaboration with faculty.

Student Assistant Teachers
The CECE hires students as assistant teachers through Student Financial Services. Student assistant teachers complete employment requirements similar to those of regular staff members, including a Background Record Check and an orientation program.

The orientation plan includes training in emergency evacuation, mandated reporting, child guidance and communication, sanitation, and food preparation.

Students are under the direct supervision of an EEC qualified educator at all times, unless a student meets the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care teacher certification requirements.

Students Fulfilling Course Requirements
Students may participate in the classrooms to fulfill the requirements of their coursework. Students contact the office coordinator to schedule a time to observe at Fort Hill. Students follow the guidance of the faculty teaching the course. Teachers monitor the students in the classroom. Students are never alone with children. 

Student interns may also participate in the Fort Hill program to fulfill requirements for a Smith College academic program. Faculty members assign student interns and supervise the students, with assistance from the supervising teacher in the classroom. Student interns complete a Background Record Check prior to interacting with children. 

Student Research Assistants
Students may also participate in the Fort Hill program as research assistants to faculty members. All research activity is approved by the Smith College Institutional Review Board. Student researchers complete a Background Record Check prior to interacting with children. Please see Fort Hill Research Practices and Policies for more information.

Student research assistants do not participate in orientation or other training or hiring procedures as their interactions are limited and defined by the research project. Faculty members supervise the students, with guidance from the supervising teachers.