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Editor’s Note: File photo of Commissioner Jeff Riley speaking at Walsh Middle School before the pandemic.

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FRAMINGHAM – Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley wants to eliminate remote and hybrid learning for elementary school students in the Commonwealth as of April 5 and by April 28 for middle school students.

Last Friday, the Massachusetts Board of Education voted 8 to 3 to give the Commissioner the authority to not count learning time towards the state’s requirements if a public school district is in remote or hybrid learning.

Districts are required to have 180 days of learning each school year.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released new guidance today, March 9, that reduces social distancing guidelines to 3 feet in classrooms but continues with 6 feet in cafeterias.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended 6 feet of distancing between Individuals.

DESE is now requiring only a minimum of 3 feet.

The new guidance indicates waivers will not be accepted from school districts, that can not fit all students if above the 3 feet minimum.

Remote and hybrid learning time would end for elementary students on April 5 and April 28 for middle school students, for school districts.

A high school date would be announced next month.

Many suburban school districts are already in a hybrid model, and some have been since last fall.

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Framingham Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay last night told the Framingham Board of Health his district has two obstacles to full-time 5-days-a-week elementary education return on April 5.

The first obstacle is that he can not fit all the elementary school students in classrooms at 6-foot distances.

The second obstacle is that a memorandum of agreement was reached with the Framingham Teachers Association last summer (2020) that has all students at 6 foot distances in the classrooms for the 2020-21 school year.

in late 2020, roughly 50% of parents made the decision to keep their students home and in remote learning mode only.

Parents would still have that option to keep children remote, under Commissioner Riley’s plan to return all elementary & middle school students to full-time classroom learning in April.

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Last month, Framingham students with the highest needs – students in phases 1, 2, 3 – returned to the classroom 5 days a week.

Earlier this month students in Phase IV began a hybrid model with classroom learning. The final group of phase IV students returned to the classroom yesterday.

Tremblay said last night, the public school district “needs some direction,” from the Health Department and the Framingham Board of Health on the elementary return plan by the state.

And Tremblay said the district needs “some time talking with the Framingham Teachers Association to see where the union is with their thinking around the 6 foot agreement and whether or not it makes sense to think about something less than 6 feet.”

The Framingham School Committee held a closed door meeting to discuss the Massachusetts Education Board 8-3 vote and Commissioner Riley’s plan last Friday night.

Framingham Teachers Association President Christine Mulroney told SOURCE last night, March 8, “we are confident that the district & the FTA will partner to review the MOA & make adjustments to keep students & staff safe.”

The Governor said starting Thursday, March 11, teachers and other school staff are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

President Joseph Biden made K=12 teachers and childcare workers eligible for the vaccine last week, and more than tens of thousands of teachers snagged vaccine appointed at Massachusetts CVS last week.

Tremblay did say the Massachusetts DESE will grant a “limited number of waivers” on the return to in-person learning.

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.