1302.24 Locally-designed program option variations.

(a) Waiver option. Programs may request to operate a locally-designed program option, including a combination of program options, to better meet the unique needs of their communities or to demonstrate or test alternative approaches for providing program services. In order to operate a locally-designed program option, programs must seek a waiver as described in this section and must deliver the full range of services, consistent with §1302.20(b), and demonstrate how any change to their program design is consistent with achieving program goals in subpart J of this part.

(b) Request for approval. A program’s request to operate a locally-designed variation may be approved by the responsible HHS official through the end of a program’s current grant or, if the request is submitted through a grant application for an upcoming project period, for the project period of the new award. Such approval may be revoked based on progress toward program goals as described in §1302.102 and monitoring as described in §1304.2.

(c) Waiver requirements. (1) The responsible HHS official may waive one or more of the requirements contained in §1302.21(b), (c)(1)(i), and (c)(2)(iii) and (iv); §1302.22(a) through (c); and §1302.23(b) and (c), but may not waive ratios or group size for children under 24 months. Center-based locally-designed options must meet the minimums described in section 640(k)(1) of the Act for center-based programs.

(2) If the responsible HHS official determines a waiver of group size for center-based services would better meet the needs of children and families in a community, the group size may not exceed the limits below:

(i) A group that serves children 24 to 36 months of age must have no more than ten children; and,

(ii) A group that serves predominantly three-year-old children must have no more than twenty children; and,

(iii) A group that serves predominantly four- and five-year-old children must have no more than twenty-four children.

(3) If the responsible HHS official approves a waiver to allow a program to operate below the minimums described in §1302.21(c)(2)(iii) or (iv), a program must meet the requirements described in §1302.21(c)(2)(i), or in the case of a double session variation, a program must meet the requirements described in §1302.21(c)(2)(ii).

(4) In order to receive a waiver under this section, a program must provide supporting evidence that demonstrates the locally-designed variation effectively supports appropriate development and progress in children’s early learning outcomes.

(5) In order to receive a waiver of service duration, a program must meet the requirement in paragraph (c)(4) of this section, provide supporting evidence that it better meets the needs of parents than the applicable service duration minimums described in §1302.21(c)(1) and (c)(2)(iii) and (iv), §1302.22(c), or §1302.23(c), and assess the effectiveness of the variation in supporting appropriate development and progress in children’s early learning outcomes.

(d) Transition from previously approved program options. If, before November 7, 2016, a program was approved to operate a program option that is no longer allowable under §§1302.21 through 1302.23, a program may continue to operate that model until July 31, 2018.