The following is a press release from the Framingham Public Schools.
FRAMINGHAM – On October 5th, approximately 145 students and 150 staff members returned to in-person teaching and learning in Framingham. The District’s Autism and Multiple Disability program is successfully operating in eight Framingham Public School buildings. All of the children who’ve returned to in-person learning are in substantially separate (sub-separate) classrooms, also known as self-contained classrooms. This is a classroom environment outside of the general education setting for children with significant learning needs. These classrooms serve students who require a highly modified curriculum, smaller class size, and a lower student/teacher ratio.
Today, October 19, the Framingham Public Schools is formally announcing the next phase of the Graduated Hybrid Plan with the return of additional high needs special education students and dually identified special education English Learners.
The District continues to consult with the Framingham Department of Public Health on the Back-to-School: Phase II Plan which is illustrated here.
However, the District is planning to bring back the second wave of high needs students and staff on Thursday, November 5, 2020.
These students include both sub-separate and inclusion students at BLOCKS Preschool, as well as sub-separate students with developmental delays, learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, and intellectual impairments. The November 5 return date will bring approximately 424 students and 247 staff members into nine Framingham Public School buildings – eight of which are operating with the students and staff who returned on October 5. These are fluid numbers that may be adjusted as families make decisions about choosing a fully remote option and as staff determine their plans with Human Resources. Families and staff members impacted by the November 5th return to in-person instruction were sent a communication via email, call, and/or text this morning.
Many have raised valid concerns about Framingham’s COVID cases. In general, if a district receives a red designation for a high average daily case rate in the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) weekly update, the decision to continue to provide in-person instruction to vulnerable students (including those with disabilities, English learners, and students who have not engaged with remote learning) needs to be made at the local level. Solely receiving a red designation does not in any way automatically mean that all in-person services have to be discontinued. In fact, DESE recommends that districts continue to provide as much in-person instruction as possible to vulnerable students using the key safety protocols outlined in our guidance.
To reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, the district has planned extensively, going above and beyond the most recent and available guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Massachusetts DPH and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). We are committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment for all of our staff and students. No one strategy alone can limit the transmission of COVID-19. So, Framingham is approaching the return of students with a layered defense where many small interventions and strategies are combined.
All of our interventions and protocols can be found in our Back to School Plan. These include upgrades to air quality and placement of air purifiers in classrooms, wearing of mask/face coverings by everyone in the schools throughout the day (and providing additional personal protective equipment for staff who work closely with students), frequent hand washing (or hand sanitizing), frequent cleaning and disinfecting of schools, and enforcing physical distancing. Additionally, the District encourages everyone to monitor their own symptoms daily and for staff or students to stay home if they are not feeling well. The continued successful return of our students will require continual collaboration between administrators and staff and ongoing cooperation among staff, students, and parents.