Q&A With Framingham Superintendent On Schools During Coronavirus Crisis

FRAMINGHAM – Framingham Public Schools have not been open since March 11, and the earliest they could re-open under Governor Charlie Baker’s order is April 7, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This weekend, the Framingham Public Schools is distributing Chromebooks to students who have no devices at home.

Distribution was at every school yesterday, and 3 locations Sunday morning. The Superintendent of School Bob Tremblay was at the library for distribution this morning.

The Framingham Public Schools is also providing a lunch and a breakfast for any Framingham student Monday through Friday at four schools from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., until school re-opens.

The lunch is FREE for all, even if you were not on the free or reduced lunch plan. The lunch is open to all Framingham students, even if you attend other schools in the city. Students must be present in the vehicle, for drive-up service. Walk-up service is available.

There have been many questions on parents’ minds since schools closed, so SOURCE asked the Superintendent Tremblay a half dozen questions on Friday. (SOURCE also asked Mayor Yvonne Spicer a half dozen questions too on Friday.)

***

What is Framingham doing to provide education to students who have not been in class? 

In the days that we have been out of school, our teams of administrators, teachers, and support staff have been working virtually to create resources for students and families so that learning can happen at home.

We continue to develop resources on our website as educational enrichment activities for families to access.

You told the School Committee the District has the Chromebooks to go 1-1. Why haven’t you done that? 

We do have enough Chromebooks to match the number of students in the district, but rolling out a 1:1 initiative is something that needs to be done thoughtfully and with a specific educational plan in place. This distribution is entirely different.

Under normal circumstances we would have had training for students, distribution of Acceptable Use/Digital Citizenship Agreements, Chromebook cases, etc.

The 1:1 rollout in the last 24 hours was a crisis management effort, not the two-year phasing plan that we had envisioned.

Nobody expected that we would be out of school for three consecutive weeks or potentially longer.

The move to provide access to every household is hardly perfect, but the idea is that if we can at least make sure that every household can remain in contact with the school(s) and have access to the curriculum resources that are posted on our website, then we are in a much better position than do nothing at all to advance learning while our students are away from school.

I’m hearing from some parents why can’t the Framingham Public Schools provide online lessons for those who do have technology, not with a special education IEP, and then work to get the others up to speed. It seems the majority is waiting on a few.

Our goal is to give EVERY child the ability to access the learning resources that are available – and growing – on our district website.

Depending on how long we will ultimately be out of school, the plans may change. At this point all school districts across the State have direction from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), through Commissioner Riley, that schools cannot simply move from their brick and mortar settings to school online.

The directive has been clear from the State that, if anything, we are only to provide “enrichment” for families, nothing more because of the equity challenges that many communities face. 

Parents say they have seen other districts doing things, why can’t Framingham? 

There are some districts that are better positioned than Framingham to essentially shift to an entirely online platform and just continue school as usual, but students with specialized learning needs or language support needs – even in districts that have established 1:1 models – are left behind when they do not have the in-person high quality support that they need.

We expect that the DESE will come out with additional guidance for districts, but at this time it is our hope to get technology into the hands of every FPS family, make sure that there is a reliable connection to the internet, and connect them with their school so that learning can continue. We continue to work with our teachers at every step along the way of this dramatic shift in the world of teaching and learning.

Why aren’t teachers mailing or emailing packets or homework for students? 

We are working closely with the Framingham Teachers Association and our school administrators to engage communication between home and school.

This will get stronger when everyone has the tools that they need and when there is additional guidance from the DESE.

Getting technology into the hands of students over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) and ensuring that all staff had access to their own technology (devices) this past Friday was a critical first step.

The best approach to engage learning is through virtual means (e.g., read-aloud videos, links to enrichment resources, etc.), not photocopying “busywork” type worksheets for students.

Will there be MCAS this year? 

As I understand it, the DESE is exploring all of the options and working with the Governor’s office to file legislation that would allow flexibility around this year’s testing requirements.

To date, the State of Massachuestts has postponed both the Grade 10 ELA assessment scheduled for March 24-25 and the opening of the grades 3-8 ELA assessment window scheduled for March 30. 

When schools re-open how do I know the schools are safe? the buses safe?

Given what we know about how long the virus lives on surfaces, we can be confident that we will have been out of the buildings and off of the buses longer than the lifespan of the virus.

Additionally, all high touch surfaces have been cleaned at all schools, offices, and on all school buses.

Prior to our return to school there will be yet another cleaning that will take place at every school across the district.

What happens if schools do not re-open before June 30? What happens to grades? 

We are looking to the DESE for guidance on this.

I don’t have any specific answers at this point and I wouldn’t want to guess at answering such an important question.

At this point I am only aware that the Governor has closed all Massachusetts Public Schools until at least April 6, 2020.

I will certainly provide updates as we get them from the Commissioner of Education.

What message would you like to say to parents, as a parent yourself:

This is the perfect time to seize every moment as a learning opportunity. Engage in discussions that have profound meaning and use the global crisis at hand to learn, together, how to become better human beings.

Care for others who are less fortunate that you – families who are experiencing job loss, hunger, and life turned upside down.

Every parent is their child’s primary educator.

Public education does a great job in the 6 or so hours that we engage children each day, but from this challenge in our life comes the terrific opportunity to celebrate our families and enjoy the company of one another. Play games. Read together. Work online together to learn something new.

This is THE opportunity to slow down and look within our own means to care for one another.

***

Photo by Cheryl Gordon

editor

email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176

Translate »