Officials said the district has been working "over the last few months," planning how students and teachers can return safely to classrooms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposed plan follows the guidance provided by the Commonwealth and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and had inputs from a volunteer Back-to-School Task Force of educators, school leaders, and the FPS central office administration.
Framingham's Back-to-School Plan outlines three models of instruction requested by the DESE; in-person, remote, and hybrid.
FPS said the plan delineates a "graduated hybrid model" that starts full-remote in September, and then evolves into a hybrid (in-person and remote) model following a collaborative decision-making process with the Department of Public Health beginning in early October.
According to the plan, the proposed timeline to transition into a hybrid model in the Fall will be announced "after more is known about the virus, physical infrastructure, ventilation, and indoor air quality construction upgrades occur, professional development takes place, the heat that lingers from the end of summer is behind us, and the threat of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) is reduced."
The plan states that "physical distancing will be practiced in combination with other everyday preventive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing cloth face coverings, frequently hand washing, monitoring of symptoms, and staying home when sick. FPS will provide students with a mask if needed."
All non-essential furniture will also be removed from classrooms and other spaces to allow for social distancing. If physical distancing is difficult to implement, particularly in office spaces and/or reception areas, FPS said barriers may be installed, or rooms may be reconfigured as needed.
Prior to the reopening of schools, the District said it will ensure that ventilation systems in each school operate properly and air exchange is effective. It is also considering the installation of ionization systems.
All high touch surfaces like door knobs, handrails, and light switches will be sanitized regularly, doors will be left open whenever possible, and the use of portable air cleaners, plexiglass barriers, and touchless paper towels dispensers will be considered on a case by case basis.
When it comes to school buses, the District said guidelines say it must limit capacity to one-third, significantly reducing the number of students who can be offered transportation to school.
"To adhere to the guidelines, FPS will prioritize bus transportation for all eligible riders (students in Grades K-6 living more than two miles from their assigned school) who request a seat. For ineligible students (students in Grades K-6 living under two miles from their assigned school and all Grades 7-12 students) who request bus transportation and are provided transportation based on available space, FPS will offer a seat, for a fee to be determined. FPS is also designing a plan that will address special circumstances such as daycare drop-offs, multiple residences, and hardship waivers."
While FPS said the plan and protocols may change according to evolving information and guidance, as well as bargaining with local unions, it is due to be presented to the Framingham School Committee on Wednesday July 29th. If approved, the plan will be submitted to the DESE on July 31, 2020.
The School Committee and Board of Health is encouraging the Framingham community to watch the Board’s joint meeting on Wednesday July 29 at 7pm, during which the tenets of the plan will be discussed and a recommendation or endorsement from the Committee will be made.
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