By Luke Canavan
FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham School Committee voted this week to approve a new mask and face covering policy for when students return to in-person classes on February 24.
Phase III students will return to the classrooms in a hybrid model starting February 24. This will be the first time many Framingham students have had in-person learning since March 2020. Phase IV, and the final group of students, are scheduled to return to their classroom in a hybrid model in March 2021.
(Updated) The new School Committee policy requires students to wear a mask at all times, unless during a designated mask break or when they are eating or drinking.
“A mask/face covering that covers the nose and mouth must be worn by all individuals in school buildings, on school grounds and on school transportation, even when physical distancing is observed,” states the new policy.
Students can be excused from the mask policy if they have certain medical conditions or behavioral challenges. It is possible that other types of barriers may then be used in certain cases, such as shields for the face or physical divider. Students will need a doctor’s note in order to be excused from the policy.
“We first voted on this policy and then realized we needed some more MOA language put in there, which [ended up] being perfect,” said School Committee Member Tiffanie Maskell. “Shoutout to [Adam Freudberg], who actually caught some of that language that needed to be changed.”
“[The subcommittee] had a quick meeting yesterday to go over those changes,” said Maskell. “We voted unanimously on this policy, as well as voting to make a recommendation to the full subcommittee that we skip a second reading of this policy and that we vote this in expediency.”
Because of the vote by the subcommittee, the School Committee did not have to go through a second reading of the entire policy and was able to move directly to a motion. The 8-memeber School Committee voted unanimously to approve the policy on February 17.
“This was a much needed policy. The Massachusetts Association of School Committees offered a model, and [Tiffanie Maskel] and the [Framingham Public School] team made sure to align it fully with our contracts, as well as the materials that were previously provided by the district,” said School Committee Chair Adam Freudberg. “Everyone knows by now how essential masks are and how the Framingham Public School has very strict mask rules, and rightfully so, and this was just another way of getting it in writing.”
“One thing about this policy which is really great is as we navigated through various things we found out new ways to do things,” said School Committee Member Geoff Epstein. “There was a lot of time spent on the MOA (with the Framingham Teachers Association) hundred hours of negotiations with great care taken on this particular part of it. So what we’re doing is shifting language from there with other language to get it into policy so we have a permanent, durable product which is repliable. … I applaud the whole process here and I wholeheartedly support it.”
Luke Canavan is a spring 2021 SOURCE intern. He is currently a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studies Communication and English. He is passionate about film, television, writing, and literature, and upon graduation, he hopes to work in the entertainment industry full-time, where he can pursue his love for storytelling.
Graphic by Walsh Middle School student Julia Shapiro.