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FRAMINGHAM – Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay announced more high needs students would return to their physical classrooms in December this morning, November 13, as Framingham increased its case rate from 15.6 cases per week last week to 23.1 cases per day per 100,000 yesterday,

“We are pleased to share that we will be inviting the remainder of our high needs students back to school, in-person, in December. This completes the final step of our Phase III return to school. While this is not the start of the district’s hybrid educational model (Phase IV), it is a significant step toward our long-anticipated return to school,” said Tremblay in an email this morning.

“Our first group of highest needs students returned in early October; our second group of high needs students returned in early November; and we are now preparing to welcome our final group of high needs students in early December,” said Tremblay.

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Return to School DateFPS Students
December 7, 2020High Needs Students in Elementary Schools
December 14, 2020High Needs Students in Middle Schools, Framingham High School, and FHS Thayer Campus

“This graduated return of nearly 25% of our total student population will set the stage for what I hope to be our larger-scale hybrid return in January 2021, depending on the community health conditions in the weeks that follow this phase of return to school. We have been planning for each phase of return since last March and will be communicating with impacted families who are scheduled to return to school shortly,’ said Tremblay.

“As with each phase of the back-to-school plan, families scheduled to return to school buildings will have the option of committing to the in-person return or electing to remain at home in a remote learning environment. The forthcoming survey will allow us to finalize our transportation plan and will be shared with families as soon as possible, according to the return-to-school schedule,” said Tremblay.

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As presented by Governor Baker and Education Commissioner Riley, changes in the State’s “stoplight” metric reflect new data points that will guide our efforts and planning in addition to the ongoing conversations that the School Department has with the Framingham Department of Public Health. Changes to the metric alone, however, do not change the fact that COVID cases are all around us and while COVID cases have and will likely continue to rise and fall in every community, Framingham’s Department of Public Health has confirmed that our schools are not sources of virus spread. We must, however, be vigilant in our efforts to keep our community protected from COVID.

As such:

  • In addition to the existing free COVID testing sites in Framingham available to residents, I am working closely with the City’s Director of Public Health to offer voluntary, weekly testing exclusively for Framingham Public Schools staff as an added risk mitigation effort;
  • In addition to social/physical distancing that has now become standard operating procedure, the requirement of face coverings/masks remains firmly in place for everyone and at all grade levels, and with the exception of scheduled and managed mask breaks, at all times;
  • Please restrict travel. Periods of quarantine do not help move us toward our goal of returning to school, in-person. According to the Governor’s Travel Order, anyone who travels out of state or the country is required to quarantine for 14 days upon return or produce a negative PCR COVID test that has been administered up to 72 hours prior to arrival in MA;
  • I will consider commencing winter sports if/when we are able to begin our hybrid model in January as returning to school will continue to be the priority over returning to anything extracurricular, though I recognize that all are important to the overall school and health experience;
  • The school schedule at Framingham High School will revert back to an earlier schedule with a start time for students of 7:20 AM, and a dismissal time of 1:54 PM. The bell schedule is included in the second page of the 2020-2021 District Calendar;

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  • In preparing for this next phase, Friday, December 4th will be an asynchronous day of learning for all students Kindergarten through Grade 12 so that teachers can begin to set up their classroom for the return of identified students. 
  • The return of students to the classrooms may affect the recent announcement of the Universal Elementary Lunch/Recess Hour that will begin on November 16th. This is under review and will be addressed in a future communication as we get closer to the December return dates. 
  • There have been questions about how hybrid instruction will work. The Agreement between the Framingham Teachers Association (FTA) and the Framingham School Committee provides the following:
  • In the hybrid model, student learning should occur during the scheduled class time. Regardless of the cohort in which a student is participating, the expectation is that the student is engaged in their learning for the full school day.  

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  • Teachers in the hybrid learning model will provide daily, developmentally-appropriate, synchronous, face to face interaction, with at-home students for attendance taking, direct instruction, instructional check-ins, providing feedback, and/or to permit students to interact with one another. 
  • When engaging both at-home and in-person learners, educators will prioritize the safety and learning needs of in-person learners. When necessary to facilitate the safety of the learning environment, educators may turn off audio or video during a lesson. In such instances, educators will return to simultaneous teaching as soon as the safety and/or learning needs are resolved. 
  • The nature of simultaneous teaching experiences may differ based on grade level, subject, and structure of the course. However, when it is not feasible or appropriate for remote students to engage in the remainder of the live lesson, teachers shall provide meaningful asynchronous tasks, aligned with curriculum standards, for remote students to engage in during that portion of the instructional period.

“Our facilities are ready with nearly $3M of federally COVID-appropriated money spent on personal protective equipment (PPE), HVAC system upgrades, signage, and extraordinary risk-mitigation efforts in anticipation of this graduated return of our students. That said, however, we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to prevent any spread of virus which may be contracted from outside of our schools, and we must proceed cautiously and gradually,” concluded the Superintendent’s message at 7 a.m.

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.