LETTER: Framingham Teachers Association Opposes Returning To Any In-Person Learning For Fall 2020 Without Safety Assurances

FRAMINGHAM – The members of the Framingham Teachers Association care deeply about the safety and well-being of our students, as well as the quality of the education we provide. The best interests of our students and overall success of this school system are our top priorities. We have demonstrated our willingness to go above and beyond to ensure that our students have every opportunity to be successful. We want nothing more than to be back in the classrooms with our students.

However, it is simply not yet safe for a physical return to schools, as that will place students, educators, staff and families at risk. Health
officials have not fully reassured the public of the utmost safety to return to school buildings while COVID-19 persists.

In all teaching and learning environments, 6 feet of social distancing must be the minimum standard. Face coverings must be worn by ALL students, staff & visitors with the exception of documented medical conditions, where face coverings are contraindicated.

The Framingham Teachers Association opposes returning to any in-person learning in the Fall of 2020 until the community and staff are assured it is safe to do so. This is a difficult decision for everyone. But it is the best way to ensure everyone’s health and safety and allow for all of us to begin planning now for a remote learning environment.

We call on the District to work together with us, without further delay, on improving, refining, and setting standards for remote learning. We request‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌School Committee and Superintendent ‌make‌ ‌public‌ the inspections and ‌evaluations‌ of the HVAC systems and windows of each building, including ‌upgrades‌ and‌ ‌repairs‌ ‌to ‌‌HVAC‌ ‌systems‌ and windows‌ in order for them to open and have screens‌ ‌to‌ ‌provide‌ ‌proper‌ ‌air‌ ‌exchange,‌ ‌filtration‌ ‌and‌ ‌climate‌ ‌control‌ ‌to‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌the‌ ‌safety‌ ‌of‌ ‌students‌, ‌educators and staff.‌ This information must be communicated in multiple languages and terms that the general public can understand. We also call for the district to commit to all necessary updates to windows, HVAC systems, air quality and air exchange with outside air before any staff member or student is required to report to any building.

Environmental concerns looming large include but are not limited to:

○ Fumes from cleaning products that can irritate lungs and potentially aggravate asthmatic conditions.
○ School buildings with poor ventilation.
○ Rooms without windows and work spaces that are located in inner areas of the building.
○ Lack of negative pressure ventilation where recommended.
○ In at least one school building where our youngest students are, some rooms have Univents that draw in air just above the artificial surface playground found to most often contain very hazardous substances that “off-gas” in high temperatures.
○ A commitment to follow the safe use disinfectants on the EPA N-list and follow preparation guidance and directions on the label.
○ Given the conditions of many of our buildings, the Heat Index must be used to inform where and how we teach and learn. An Index in the zone Caution or Extreme Caution should require immediate action if teaching and learning is occurring in a school.

The FTA embraces a plan by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts and The Boston Teachers Union to have a phased-in return to schools which begins with remote learning and allows for proper health and safety measures to be brought into place and properly monitored.

To that end, the FTA supports a remote model to start the 2020-2021 school year.

A remote start, which includes a later start date for students, will allow time for educators and staff to participate in necessary professional development, collaborate with peers and prepare for an improved distance learning environment, to connect with families either virtually or safely in person to make sure they have the tools they need and are prepared for distance learning. It also provides time to build initial relationships with students through virtual platforms without wearing a mask.

While we understand the district is required by DESE to submit a plan and the need for our families to be informed, we are saddened and disappointed that this detailed document was only shared with the association on July 24 for the first time, without our input, despite requests to bargain in advance of the document being sent to school committee for approval on Wednesday, July 29.

Any focus on getting our students into school buildings before conditions are safe is distracting from the most important conversations; ensuring that our instructional strategies meet the needs of all students, especially in light of the academic loss last spring.

Our hope is that by focusing on remote learning, we can put all of our energies towards meeting the academic and
social/emotional needs of our students while they remain at home learners.

To reopen buildings too soon, with the likelihood of closing again due to a potential surge in infection rates, ignores the reality that, without testing, contact tracing, and proven anti-body therapies, the risk level for the entire community is too large.

Respectfully submitted,
Christine Mulroney, President

Framingham Teachers Association

On behalf of the FTA Executive Committee and FTA Representative Council

editor

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

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