Framingham Public Schools Furloughs 41 Food Service Workers; District To Discuss Bus Drivers Fate Tonight

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FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham Public School Distroict has given furlough notices to “solely for 41 food services and cafeteria monitors as a result of staff’s inability to provide services while students are learning in a remote setting,” said Superintendent Bob Tremblay to SOURCE.

SOURCE published yesterday, September 1, that employees received furlough notices.

“While we are in a remote learning phase, only 28 employees are needed to provide the food services the District requires to support the FPS community. Consequently, we have had to furlough employees for whom we currently lack work,” said Tremblay.

“It is with a grave heart that we embark on this road, and we are eager to begin bringing back staff on October 5th which is when we currently expect to bring back our students with the highest needs,” said Tremblay.

The furloughs as SOURCE reported September 1 take effect Sept 15.

“Additional staff will be invited back when the high needs students are anticipated to return, likely on or around October 26,” added the Superintendent.

Unit N, food services negotiations have been ongoing, and was listed as a topic on the School Committee’s Executive Session August 28 agenda.

“Assuming a community health status designation at “yellow” or “green” based on the COVID-19 reporting in Framingham, all furloughed staff will be invited to come back when we go hybrid (scheduled for November 5th). While the decision to start the year remotely has clearly created challenges, we are hopeful that public safety measures will ensure a sooner return to in-person instruction,” said Tremblay.

“Unfortunately, this means our dedicated FPS colleagues are impacted. Employees are guaranteed to continue with their own healthcare coverage, and they will be welcomed back when the public health situation allows for in-person school lunches again,” said Tremblay.

Tremblay told SOURCE the 9-member elected School Committee will be discussing how to proceed with bus drivers who are employed by Durham School Services at its meeting tonight, September 2.

The state recently awarded an additional $2.9 million in Chapter 70 money to the City of Framingham for educational purposes, and the City Council fully funded the school department’s budget, including the furloughed employees salaries.

“I know nothing of furloughs so I really cannot comment on that as it had not been discussed with the Council,” said City Council Chair George P. King Jr.

‘”As to the budget and the state aid, I am certainly in favor of the schools getting state aid that is intended for education.  I would like to talk a bit more about how the schools manage the general fund budget and the money they carry over from that.  This practice diminishes transparency and even more importantly long term sustainability in my opinion,” said King.

“I have no doubt that it was a difficult decision for Dr. Tremblay and our school department to furlough employees and that this decision was not made lightly. The Framingham Public Schools will be largely remote for at least the first two months of the school year and my understanding is that the employees involved would normally be involved with the food services program, which will be scaled back significantly during this time,” said District 3 City Councilor Adam Steiner, who chair the City Council’s Finance subcommittee.

“Given the circumstances, this is a fiscally prudent move. Ultimately, I know we are all hoping to a return to normalcy in terms of our schools and our daily lives as soon as possible and these dedicated employees will be back working for our school system,” said Steiner.

SOURCE reached out to School Committee Chair Adam Freudberg for a statement last night on the furloughs and the budget and he had not submitted a response as of the publishing of this report.

Bus Drivers & Bus Contract

Framingham Public Schools Finance Director Lincoln Lynch IV told School Committee members in a memo “I have been in discussions with Durham over the past couple weeks in regards to payment for services not rendered during the remote period of this upcoming school year. If you remember last year we paid approximately $1.8M to Durham while school was not in session as a good faith effort to keep drivers paid while we were not in school. Since we will need them to be on standby for the dates listed below, I recommend we get to an agreement to pay a portion of the hourly rate for buses not running in order to keep the operation up and running. My recommendation does not include drivers being paid but they are able to collect unemployment.”

“After discussions with other Districts that use Durham as their transportation vendor, my recommendation is to pay 50% of the hourly rate for buses that are not running. If supported, we would pay 100% of the hourly rate for all buses that are running and 50% of the hourly rate for buses that are not running. We need to be able to have the operation up and running and ready to go as we phase in the number of buses needed,” wrote Lynch

“Paying 50% will allow for this. Most Districts are getting to an agreement with their vendors to pay a portion which is similar to my recommendation. While we wouldn’t be paying the drivers in the 50% scenario during the remote time period, drivers are able to collect unemployment until they are called back into drive. I also think we should include some sort of penalty for not having a full fleet of drivers ready to go on November 5th, similar to what we did last year,” wrote Lynch.

The School Committee is expected to discuss, and possibly vote on this recommendation, tonight.

As of September 1, these were the estimated busing needs of the district according to Lynch.

September 8: St. Bridget’s full in-person return, 4 buses needed
September 21: McAuliffe Charter, buses for high need students
October 5: FPS, buses for highest needs students return
October 26: FPS High Needs, approximately 30-40 buses needed for further high needs students
November 5: FPS and McAuliffe Charter Hybrid model, all 77 buses needed

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