This was posted on Wednesday, February 16 and last updated on Thursday, February 17 at 7:27 a.m.
FRAMINGHAM – It has been two years since the public has been physically allowed to attend a Framingham School Committee meeting in the Memorial Building. But starting in March, the public will once again be welcome to physically attend meetings.
The School Committee voted 8-1 tonight, February 16, to allow the public to be present at their meetings.
District 7 School Committee member Tiffanie Maskell, who attended the meeting virtually, voted against the motion.
She said her health was more important than the volunteer job.
Editor’s Note: School Committee members are elected and paid a $5,000 stipend.
District 6 School Committee member Valerie Ottaviani, a nurse, raised the issue at the meeting Wednesday night, with District 3 School Committee member Jennifer Moshe making the official motion. Both School Committee members were newly-elected in 2021.
“We need to open our meetings” to the public, said Moshe.
Other than administrative staff and the media, the public has not been present at any School Committee meeting since March 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Students and staff have physically been back in schools since spring 2021.
“We are elected officials, and the public belongs here,” said District 2 School Committee member Ricky Finlay. “it is the right time to bring them back.” Finlay supported bringing the public back in 2021, but his motions with former School Committee member Scott Wadland failed last year.
The City Council has allowed the public to attend its meetings in the Blumer room since last year.
The City of Framingham has had a policy since last summer that requires masks for anyone inside a municipal building. The City of Framingham has had a mask mandate for all indoor public spaces since mid-January 2022, after the surge of cases following the holidays with the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
District 8 School Committee member Jessica Barnhill said she would support the motion, as long as the Committee still allowed Zoom participation for the public.
She said the Zoom participation allows parents, who do not wish to bring their children to meetings, to participate.
Earlier this week, the Governor signed legislation to allow remote and hybrid meetings through mid-July 2022.
District 1 School Committee member Beverly Hugo wants the School Committee vote to require unvaccinated individuals to be mandated to wear a mask if they attended any meeting in person.
“If we open up to packed house and not masked, we are exposing ourselves,” said Hugo. who said there has to be some safety precautions.
Many of the School Committee members said that was not legally allowed, and the amendment was not considered.
Ottaviani said that every elected School Committee member still has the option to wear a mask.
District 4 School Committee members Adam Freudberg said he researched the matter last year as chair and that the School Committee can not mandate that individuals not vaccinated wear masks in the Memorial Building.
Ottaviani agreed. She said it is a public building, and that the City Council does not mandate that individuals, unvaccinated, must wear masks to attend their meetings.
The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 2.