By Ashlyn Kelly
FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham School Committee’s Health And Wellness Subcommittee met for the first time with its new members and chair, and discussed students’ physical and mental health coming out of the pandemic, drug use prevention programming, and evaluation of the food service program as goals.
This was the first meeting of the subcommittee in 2022, with the new School Committee members who were elected in 2021. District 6 School Committee Valerie Ottaviani is chair. Other members of the subcommittee are District 2 member Richard Finlay, District 4 member Adam Freudberg, and District 9 member William LaBarge. Framingham Public Schools Director of Health and Wellness Judith Styer also attended the subcommittee meeting.
The first goal the subcommittee discussed was how to support students and staff members as the mask mandate is lifted and the district moves out of the pandemic.
Finlay said, “I’m just really concerned not only with children … but even our staff.”
Freudberg said he would like to see “continued transparency and publishing the data – both the data on how many students and staff are involved in the different COVID-19 testing in school buildings, as well as the vaccination data that the district has published online for many months.”
In regards to the removal of the mask mandate, Ottaviani, who is a nurse, said while there may be some relief, there will also be anxiety, “especially for some of our staff and and for kids who have lived through pretty horrible things.”
Finlay said he thinks “kids are going to be pressured in one way or the other, whether they’re wearing the mask or not wearing the mask.”
The District 2 School Committee member, who has two kids in the district, suggested partnering with an outside group, like the Edward M. Kennedy Center which goes to the high school once a month to talk to students.
Freudberg suggested, “additional education on that one-way masking – wearing the right quality mask really works.”
Another goal the subcommittee discussed was continuing their work on anti-drug use.
Freudberg said the city receives money from the marijuana stores that must go to community impacts.
“I’m wondering if we can look into the feasibility of any of that money going towards perhaps joint department of public health and school district substance use prevention initiatives,” said the District 4 School Committee member.
The last goal the subcommittee talked about was having The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University come in to evaluate the nutritional value of the food services program in the schools.
According to Styer, this was a goal of the previous subcommittee but she was unsure if the evaluation ever happened.
Styer said she is concerned about “getting food out of the classrooms that don’t meet the nutritional guidelines. The federal regulations include eating food that is outside of the food lunch program.”
Finlay said from his own experience as a custodian, “food really shouldn’t belong in the classrooms – It’s a custodial nightmare with mouses.”
The next subcommittee meeting is scheduled for March 2 at 7 p.m. It will be a remote meeting.
Ashlyn Kelly is a Spring 2022 SOURCE intern. She is a is a senior communication arts major with minors in political science and journalism at Framingham State University. When she is not writing an article, you can usually find her in a theatre.
Editor’s Note: article was updated at 5:22 p.m. to correct attribution for a quote. It was originally attributed to Freudberg. It should have been Finlay.