FRAMINGHAM – Superintendent Bob Tremblay reminded Framingham Public Schools staff today “the expected in-person return date for all FPS staff is February 1, 2021.”
“I believe that it is critical that our staff return to our buildings in order to become acclimated with the facility changes and COVID-mitigating guidelines and protocols that have occurred since last March. Just like the changes you might see at retail stores, where signage abounds reminding patrons to keep appropriate social and physical distance, wash hands, move in specific directions around the building, etc., our schools have similarly evolved with the more than $3 million of facility investments that have been made,” wrote Tremblay to staff today, January 20.
“While Phase I and Phase II staff have already worked a short time in our schools in the fall, there are many staff who have not yet returned to the district since we closed our doors last spring,” said the Framingham Public Schools Superintendent in an email.
“This announcement aims to give all staff the opportunity to become acclimated to their teaching and/or office environment. In addition to the personal protective equipment (PPE) and facility upgrades that have taken place and which we report out weekly, we are now offering individual PCR testing for all in-person staff. This is a significant risk-mitigation measure that will help to provide more school and district-specific data as a complement to the City’s data around percentages of positivity and the number of daily new COVID-19 cases rather than simply link the return of staff and students to only the city’s metrics,” wrote Tremblay.
“While I am still anticipating a February 2021 return of students as presented in the decision-making schedule, I am not able to be as exact at this time as I am waiting on more detailed information about the availability of testing for students to complement PCR testing for staff,” wrote Tremblay. ” In the meanwhile, however, all FPS staff are expected to report and work from their classrooms and offices beginning February 1, 2021 in anticipation of the start of the hybrid model unless they have otherwise been notified of an approved ADA accommodation. I’m pleased to report that we are also exploring childcare solutions that might otherwise prevent some members of our staff from returning. More information on this and a host of other topics will be forthcoming in the days ahead, but I didn’t want to stall this notification and delay your planning efforts.”
“With respect to student testing, I submitted an application to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) last Monday for Framingham to be considered for DESE-sponsored pooled testing for students,” said Tremnblay to staff.
Pooled testing involves mixing several test samples together in a “batch” or “pool” and then testing the pooled sample with a PCR test for detection COVID. This approach increases the number of individuals that can be tested using the same amount of resources as a single PCR test. The test is performed at least once per week with anterior nasal swab for all students. Results are delivered within approximately 24-48 hours. If a pooled test result is negative, then all individuals within that pool are presumed negative and may continue to remain in school. If a pooled test result is positive, then all individuals in the pool must quarantine until they are retested individually.
“Individuals may participate in pooled testing only with valid consent. Although this program is voluntary, we believe regular testing will help sustain in person learning and make our community safer,” wrote Tremblay to staff.
“Although the district has not yet received formal approval from the DESE regarding our pooled testing application, I am encouraged to have been invited to participate in a webinar for applicant districts on Friday, January 22, 2021,” announced Tremblay.
“My sincere thanks to all of you for your commitment to our children and community. I recognize these are trying times for everyone and we will continue to do the best that we can in our efforts to improve communication and to work with our staff to ensure a consistent experience for our students as we prepare for the next leg of our exhausting COVID-19 journey,” concluded Supt. Tremblay in his email to staff.