By Christine Mulroney
FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham Teachers Association supports the decision by district administrators to delay any further return to in-person learning. Educators are disappointed that we cannot be in our classrooms teaching students in person, and we know that families and students are rightfully frustrated.
However, despite best efforts, the rate of coronavirus infections remains dangerously high in Framingham, and increasing the number of students attending classes in person is dangerous and puts the entire community at unnecessary risk.
Preparing and delivering remote lessons takes more time than in-person teaching. Supporting students is likewise more challenging in the remote learning setting. I am proud to say that Framingham educators have done an outstanding job adapting, and students are far better off now than they were in the spring when the district was flung into a mode of crisis learning.
Unfortunately, the impact of this deadly virus has not improved.
Looking over the data over the last month, it is clear that our community spread is increasing, and demonstrates that we are not in a position to return more students to in-person learning.
While the city contact tracers are working feverishly to reach out to people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus, the system is not perfect. The plain truth is that the Board of Health does not know about every child who may have COVID-19. There is not a foolproof way to notify school nurses of which children should NOT be in the building and should be isolating or quarantining
With numbers across the city increasing, staff or students could be reporting to schools without knowing that they are close contacts and should be quarantining. Even state officials are now backing off from claims that COVID-19 transmissions have not taken place in schools. But schools here and across the state have certainly been affected by outbreaks, regardless of where the outbreaks began.
Currently, there are two school buildings working fully remotely due to confirmed cases.
There have been confirmed cases at FHS, Fuller, Blocks, Barbieri, Stapleton and King.
We also know of at least one case where a staff member and members of that person’s family were affected by an outbreak.
There is no amount of PPE that will prevent the spread of this virus when an educator works within 2-to-3-feet of a student, most of whom are still adapting to mask tolerance. These are typical working conditions of many of our current in-person educators. A number of the children currently in school are nonverbal and cannot explain their symptoms. A number of the children in school now have mask refusal or difficulty wearing a mask all day.
Educators are also noting that students are reporting to school with COVID-19 symptoms, which, pre-pandemic, was fairly commonplace.
This year, those symptoms bear far greater implications. Staff have also reported that students have reported to school rather than quarantining after traveling for the Thanksgiving break. With the upcoming holidays, this is not likely to change. There are more than 90 children in Framingham who this week have tested positive COVID-19 – if they were all in school, the disease’s spread would be extraordinary.
Stopping the spread of COVID-19 will require discipline, cooperation and patience on everyone’s part. Educators have never worked harder
to make sure that the academic, social and emotional needs of students are met while also protecting the health and safety of families and our communities.
It is for that very reason that we support continued remote learning for all until we see a downward trend in the COVID-19 numbers.
In the meantime, we want to continue the dialogue about how we serve your students and your family — safely and remotely.
We hope that you will join educators for a town hall webinar about education during a pandemic. Information about registering will be out
soon. The virtual forum will be at 7 p.m. on Dec. 9. Spanish and Portuguese translators will be made available.
Christine Mulroney is the Framingham Teachers Association President