FRAMINGHAM – On Monday, our sub-separate students and their families received two notifications: one from the state alerting them that there is a serious COVID risk in Framingham and urging them to take precautions to stay safe, the other from the district informing them that they would return to in-person learning in just over two weeks on November 5th.
Receiving these two messages within hours of each other was confusing to our students, many of whom logged into school the next day anxious, scared, and uncertain about their return.
Here a few of their questions and concerns:
- I’d rather not go to school and be left back, than die.
- Why can’t we continue online learning when there’s such a high risk that
someone will become sick and spread the virus?
- What if kids do not wear their masks?
- What if I don’t feel comfortable around our classmates or even friends?
- What about kids I see outside hugging without masks on all the time?
- Will we shut down again when someone gets sick at school?
- Why do I have to go to school when my brother gets to stay safe at home?
- I’m scared.
These statements are an indication of the fear and anxiety our students feel about leaving the stability and safety of virtual learning to return to an environment that they have been told is unsafe since March, in a city where the risks are only increasing. Our sub-separate students have not only risen to the challenge of virtual learning, they are thriving because they feel safe in their routine and are seeing successes every day.
When our students return, what are the benefits? Despite being in person, our students will still be learning virtually through Zoom. Teachers will not be able to sit with them to help them learn. We will actually be recreating the virtual environment in the building.
Some of our students’ teachers are not required to come back. How do we explain that it is best for the students to be in school when in some cases their classes are still being taught by a remote teacher? How can we justify potentially risking the health of some children, while most others can continue learning from the safety of their homes until at least January?
How can we feel safe when 40 students will be gathering for lunch together in one room, without masks, a gathering which is considered finable in Massachusetts?
Furthermore, our students will have less support in their classes as we transition to in-person learning because our teaching assistants are expected to be reassigned to duties involved in that transition, such as monitoring the bathrooms, lunches, and classes where teachers are working remotely or absent. This sudden decrease in support will likely lead to students receiving less effective instruction.
Many districts who started the year in a hybrid model, or have reverted to hybrid since September, have moved to be fully remote because of safety and health concerns. This includes Boston Public, as the Mayor announced a move to fully remote instruction this afternoon. How long until Framingham has to make the same decision? Framingham has been identified as one of the ten worst towns in Massachusetts in regard to COVID cases, which are continuing to increase as we bring students back into buildings.
Respectfully submitted by the substantially-separate teams at Fuller Middle School and Walsh Middle School.