By Christine Mulroney
FRAMINGHAM – Even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to pose significant risks in our community and across the state, Framingham educators – in every capacity – have remained steadfast and dedicated to providing in-person instruction and services to our students. We understand the value and the need to work as closely as possible with our students because all of them have experienced too much disruption and trauma over the past year and a half.
As we all do our best to be working in person and meeting our students’ needs, we must also acknowledge the challenges before us caused by regulations from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The public must be made aware of the reckless requirements that DESE has around use of the “test and stay” protocol for vaccinated individuals.
DESE is not allowing districts to let those who are vaccinated yet are also considered to be close contacts of individuals who have tested positive for COVID to voluntarily participate in a school’s “test and stay” program.
This policy is at odds with the reality that even fully vaccinated individuals are testing positive for COVID-19.
Students and staff who want to be as safe as possible and protect those around them must seek out their own COVID tests.
As cases continue to rise, testing is becoming more difficult to schedule. DESE is shamefully putting our students and staff in the position of having to scramble to find a test, punishing them for being vaccinated rather than supporting them in being safe and responsible members of our school community.
For staff members, this may mean having to use sick time if they can only be tested during the workday; and remember, the “test and stay” protocol consists of seven consecutive days of testing.
In addition, members of the FPS community received a communication on December 8, 2021, about the surge in COVID-19 cases in the schools. In this communication, it indicates that vaccinated individuals who are close contacts to an individual who tested positive to COVID-19 will no longer be notified if they are a close contact.
So, any staff member or student who is vaccinated will never know their exposure to COVID-19 and therefore, unknowingly potentially expose family or friends to COVID-19.
Vaccinated individuals in the Framingham Public Schools are now being penalized for attesting that they are vaccinated.
Not only is DESE not allowing them to participate in “test and stay” protocols, but the district is also not even going to notify them that they are a close contact to someone who tested positive so that they could voluntarily attempt to schedule testing on their own to be as safe as possible to reduce the risk of exposing family, friends, and community members.
Please let DESE know that it must change its policies around “test and stay” to allow vaccinated students and staff to participate in school-based testing.
Please call or email Jeff Riley, the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and Russel Johnston, Senior Associate Commissioner to demand the school’s “test and stay” program be accessible to all staff and students regardless of vaccination status.
Our students and staff deserve the peace of mind, and it is in the best interest of keeping our community safe.
And if you have a vaccinated individual working in or attending school in an FPS building, please email the Framingham School Committee and insist that all individuals need to be notified if they are close contacts despite their vaccination status.
Christine Mulroney is President of the Framingham Teachers Association.