Framingham Schools Not to Bring Back Phase III Students in December

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FRAMINGHAM – Framingham Public Schools has decided not to bring back about 2,000 students in Phase III to the classrooms in December.

Framingham went red again yesterday, after two weeks as yellow, and prior to that 9 consecutive weeks as a red or high-risk community, dating back to the start of school in August.

“We have decided not to bring any additional staff back into school on December 4, 2020. We have also decided to postpone the start of Phase III in-person teaching and learning until mid-January,” announced Superintendent of School Bob Tremblay to staff today.

That means Phase IV of hybrid learning will also be delayed. It was scheduled to start in January 2021.

“While these decisions are often difficult to make, and sometimes even harder to hear, please know that we are doing the best that we can to adjust to new information that evolves daily, leading me at times to abandon previous plans despite hours of planning and best intentions,” said Tremblay to staff.

“When we initially began the year remotely, Framingham had between 8-11 COVID-19 cases per day. We were steadily “in the red” in the state-issued metric and, as a result of our community health conditions, directed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) to shift to remote teaching and learning. The expectation, however, was and has remained that highest and high needs students, as defined by the DESE, obtain their education and services in-school and in-person,” wrote Tremblay.

“As we gradually phased students and staff back into our schools on October 5, 2020 (Phase I) and then on November 5, 2020 (Phase II), we successfully kept COVID from spreading within our classrooms or schools despite increases in the community. As a result, we decided to proceed with a graduated hybrid model to bring back the next group of high needs students (Phase III) in December, a decision consistent with the state’s revised metric where Framingham was now “in the yellow” and aligned with Governor Baker and Commissioner Riley’s directive: bring students back to in-person learning,” wrote Tremblay. 

“Yet since my announcement on November 13, 2020, Framingham’s COVID cases have increased substantially and the City now averages more than 30 cases per day. And while to date we have successfully avoided school-based transmissions, I have become increasingly concerned about a well-intentioned plan to bring back additional students and staff in December amidst red metrics, imminent holidays and travel, and the likelihood of more COVID cases to come. All of these factors have led me to shift – yet again – our district Return-to-Learn efforts,” wrote Tremblay. 

“As I stated, no additional students or Unit A staff will be returning in December to start Phase III. Phase I and Phase II, however, will remain in place. The FHS start time will remain 9:00AM until mid-January.  District leaders are working collaboratively with school based administrators and teachers to reformulate our plans to design an educational system for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year that will seek to allow staff with documented underlying medical needs some flexibility in working remotely. Staff with documented child care needs that have resulted due to COVID will be addressed on a case-by-case basis to assess the flexibility in working remotely; while we cannot promise this for everyone, our goal will be to serve as many of you as possible, while providing our families with consistency of instruction,” wrote Tremblay.

Families will be surveyed and contacted for a commitment to a form of instruction (remote or in-person) for the remainder of the school year. Once we have all of that data, we will work to align the numbers and reconfigure a sustainable educational system. The results of the survey will help to shape the model of instruction that we can provide based on the number of students electing each model, staffing, and space.

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