Framingham Unveils Back-To-School Working Plan; Public Meeting July 15 With School Committee & Board of Health

FRAMINGHAM – Framingham Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay will discuss a “work in progress” plan to re-open schools for the 2020-21 school year in a joint meeting with the 9-member elected Framingham School Committee and the appointed Framingham Health Board on Wednesday night, July 15.

SOURCE has a preview of that “working plan.”

“Nothing would make me happier than to provide a complete, detailed, and final FPS reopening plan so that families and staff can prepare for the start of a new school year,” said Superintendent Bob Tremblay. “The reality is that such a plan is not possible at this time with the ever-changing science that surrounds COVID-19 and with constantly shifting guidance from the DESE. Everyone is working hard to come up with answers, provide direction, and ensure safety above all, but we all just need to be patient as our plans necessarily evolve with each phase of the pandemic. We will continue to do our best to provide information as it becomes available and to engage our community in the planning through surveys and webinars. We only ask for your patience, understanding, and flexibility in return.”

Framingham Public Schools will meet the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education’s request and develop three separate plans but the district will be “prioritizing the Hybrid Model as the preferred and most likely to work for Framingham’s needs at this time.”

“Returning all students and staff back to school in a business-as-usual model is not feasible after analyzing state requirements, FPS infrastructure, and budget. In our evolving plan, hybrid means a combination of in-school learning and remote (at home) learning, likely in a one-week “on” (in school) and one-week “off” (at home) model, though this remains as ongoing discussion. Families would also reserve the right to have their child continue with 100% remote learning,” stated the Framingham Public Schools report.

Framingham Public Schools is “committed to the ‘aspirational’ six-foot distancing rule, not to the three-foot minimum standard, understanding that, at times, the distance may be necessarily reduced while students are passing. As such, we will be requiring face coverings for ALL students and staff, and we will continue to review and upgrade HVAC system operations,” stated the report.

“Given COVID-related transportation restrictions, we are looking at a transportation model that will require major shifts from past practice around eligibility and scheduling due to physical distancing guidelines,” stated the report.

The joint reports discusses schools meals, busing and classrooms, but notes multiple times the proposal is a “work in progress.”

DESE prefers students eat in classrooms, but Framingham is considering using cafeterias but with a 6-foot social distancing protocol.

“DESE guidance is to plan on one-third bus capacity based on 3-foot social distancing.

“At this time FPS is considering bus transportation only for eligible students in grades K-6 that live over two miles from their assigned school. Ineligible students in grades K-6 that live under two miles from their assigned school and all students in grades 7-12 will be offered transportation IF there are open seats after eligible students are assigned a seat. We are still awaiting DESE direction on this matter,” wrote the district in the report to be presented tomorrow night.

“Modern educational systems are designed around collaboration among students. Desks for every child, arranged in socially-distanced, forward-facing rows, is counter to educational best practices, but we are facing extraordinary times in our world and so we must adapt. We are looking to leverage all available district materials to make these accommodations and purchasing additional COVID-related furniture, as needed, to ensure student and staff safety at all times,” stated the report.

At this time, the district is considering recess for students. “Playgrounds may be used by students; District has hired a vendor to clean playgrounds,” stated the report.

In regards to academic, the reports stated “curriculum nd instruction will be evaluated to promote safety of all students and staff, particularly in courses in which students typically work in close proximity. This will impact some courses more than others. Physical Education, Science, Technology Education, Band, Drama, Chorus, and Art will review units of instruction to align with all COVID-19 safety measures and modify the curriculum in which such safety protocols cannot be followed. Regardless of the instructional model, learning time will be lost due to increased SEL and other COVID-related needs.”

“Students identified as “high needs” will receive priority placement for full in-person learning for delivery of services and supports,” stated the public school district.

“To address the social distancing and other safety measures necessary due to COVID-19, the school day will be adjusted for the 2020-2021 academic year. Students will be placed into a cohort that will remain together for all or part of the day whenever possible. While this type of scheduling is less complex at the elementary level, creating student cohorts will also occur at the secondary level whenever feasible. To reduce class sizes and minimize student movement in the building, the middle schools and high school will modify their bell schedule,” stated the report.

“A formal remote learning model is also in development to ensure students and staff are prepared in the event of a school closure. This model will allow for direct instruction to continue through virtual means so as to minimize lost learning time. Students will be trained at the start of the year in how to access technology. Unlike the previous “crisis learning” through remote teaching and learning via resource calendars, this model is intended to drive content forward, in real-time, as much as possible,” stated the report.

The public school district will step-up communication this summer, knowing their will be a lot of questions about the plan and its rollout.

Live Weekly Updates from the Superintendent will take place on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. starting on July 22. Sessions will be recorded and questions sent via email will be answered for those who are unable to participate in the live event

The district is planning “real-time interpretation in multiple languages with no lag.”

And school-specific communications from each principal will be forthcoming.

The district’s full Back-to-School plan to be presented to the Framingham School Committee on July 29, 2020 prior to submission to the DESE on July 31, 2020

The Wednesday, July 15 7 p.m. meeting can be viewed Live on The Government Channel: Comcast 99, RCN 13/HD613, Verizon/Fios 42, on Facebook on the Framingham Public Schools Facebook Page, and on Zoom at the following link or phone number: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_N0MoiuvGTNiIBOn2zWN4Zg   1-646-876-9923 Webinar ID: 812 1605 5414

The public school district will have a “tight collaboration with the Framingham Department of Public Health, Board of Health, and local pediatric healthcare providers,” stated the report.

“The Framingham Public Schools are an important partner in addressing the many public health issues we face in our city,” said Gillian Carcia, Chair of the Board of Health. “We are looking forward to continued collaboration to best serve the needs of our community.”

“Together we can best attempt to get through the uncertainty and stress reopening school creates by working through each issue in collaboration with local public health experts,” said Adam Freudberg, Chair of the School Committee, District 4. “I’m grateful that Dr. Wong and the entire Board of Health will be joining the School Committee and FPS for this essential and timely discussion.”

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