Return to School Questions - January 2021

  • TESTING/VACCINE

    Question

    Response

    What is pooled testing?

    Pooled testing involves mixing several test samples together in a "batch" or "pool" and then testing the pooled sample with a PCR test for detection of COVID-19. 

    Can schools test students without parental consent?

    No.

    Why is the testing only for staff who are in the building 3 days a week? There are a lot of staff who will be back on 1/27 for SPED testing, but will only be at school 1 day a week.

    Starting 1/25, PCR Testing will be available to ALL staff.

    When and where will testing be available for staff?

    A schedule will be provided to enable staff to get tested weekly.

    What's the plan for handling false PCR positives?

    We are not able to provide an alternative plan for handling false PCR positives.

    Is the free, voluntary PCR testing for in-person staff conducted via drive-through or is the testing done in the building?

    Testing is done in buildings. Drive through is available for staff who are asked by the District to quarantine due to a school-based exposure.

    If you have tested positive with COVID-19 over the last few months, do you need to get tested? If so, when is it recommended?

    Surveillance testing (like we are doing at school) is not recommended for 90 days after previously having COVID-19 because you can continue to test positive to intermittent viral shedding which does not make you contagious. However, if you have COVID symptoms, CDC and DPH recommend getting retested after 6 weeks.

    Is student testing voluntary?

    Yes, there will be a consent form for student testing. More details will be forthcoming once we learn more from the DESE.

    Have the pools been decided on at the schools yet?  

    Not yet. Groups will be clustered by grade, cohort and proximity. For example, one 3rd grade class may be a pool, or one 3rd grade class with adjoining classrooms may be pooled together.

    What is the process if there is a positive result after the pooled testing?

    If a pooled test result is negative, then all individuals within that pool are presumed negative and may remain in school. If a pooled test result is positive, then all individuals in the pool must be retested individually.

    Are these tests rapid? If not, how long do the results take to come in?

    Turn around time for testing is generally no more than 24 hours.

    If someone tests positive, how far back does the contact tracing go?

    Following CDC and DPH guidelines, contact tracing is done from 2 days before the first symptom or the positive test (whichever comes first).

    If a staff member tests positive, whom do they contact?

    Staff who test positive should contact their supervisor asap.

    Pooled testing seems like an extra step, why not test each individual?

    Pooling samples involves mixing several samples together in a "batch" or pooled sample, then testing the pooled sample with a diagnostic test. This approach increases the number of individuals that can be tested using the same amount of resources. 

    What is the schedule for the testing? What if I am teaching during that time?

    A testing schedule will be provided to staff as our COVID Team finalizes the expansion of the currently scheduled weekly PCR testing. Building administrators will work with staff to make necessary accommodations for staff to be tested. Once registered, the process only takes minutes to complete.

    Will the student athletes be required to test?

    Yes.

    It says that pooled testing will be used for K-12. Why will BLOCKS staff and students not be included if this is approved?

    Students will be included in pooled testing and staff will continue to be tested individually.

    Is there any indication when the vaccine will be available for staff?

    According to the Commonwealth, in February-March 2021.

    Is it mandatory for staff to receive the vaccine?

    No, but it is strongly recommended.

    How do you define close contact?

    Close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

     

    STAFF RETURN/LOGISTICS

    Question

    Response

    Please confirm the dates of staff return.

    February 1, 2021.

    Do staff who are part of phase 3 & 4 have to remain in the building after the asynchronous days? Specifically 2/3-2/9?

    Yes, all staff are expected to return on February 1, 2021 and continue working from their classrooms or offices for the remainder of the school year unless other accommodations have been made through Human Resources.

    Are staff still expected to return if our numbers are not trending downwards?

    Yes. Unless a pivot to remote is necessary and directed, the significant PPE, physical plant modifications to ensure appropriate social distancing, weekly PCR testing and soon a vaccine for staff are all risk-mitigation efforts that prove more reliable than community metrics alone.

    Please clarify the definition of a downward trend?

    Less daily positive COVID cases and a lower percentage of positivity week-over-week

    Will the FHS daycare be opening on 2/1 or 2/3? What about other childcare options?

    The District is generously offering childcare to align with the first day that staff are expected to return, in-person, on February 1, 2021. Starting February 1, 2021, FPS will be providing an offsite full-day childcare program for teachers managed by the Office of Community Resource Development (CRD). The program will operate at the Plymouth Church in Framingham between the hours of 7:30 am and 4:30 pm.  This program is available for Elementary school-age students and aims to support students during their remote learning. The rate is $285 per week, and financial assistance is available. All staff that completed the HR Childcare Survey will be prioritized; any additional requests will be reviewed upon availability. Official registration for this will launch Monday, January 25th.


    Contact Person: Kelley Ratcliffe, Manager of Elementary Out of School Time Programs

    Kratcliffe@framingham.k12.ma.us

    Will high school hours shift on 2/1?

    No. Per the MOA between the Framingham Teachers Association (FTA) and the Framingham School Committee, the start time changes upon the return of Phase III students as provided below:

    For the High School, the Addendum in the Unit A CBA shall be waived for the COVID-19 period for the 2020-2021 school year to allow the FHS schedule to change to allow for a modified schedule with a later start time. This schedule will be piloted for that period of time beginning on September 16, 2020 and continuing until the District is able to bring high needs students into schools for in-person learning (Phase 3), currently scheduled to begin October 26, 2020. During this pilot period, the student day shall begin at 9 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m. The teacher workday shall begin at 8:50 a.m. and end at 3:50 p.m. to allow for a 7 hour workday. Upon the return of high needs students (Phase 3, currently scheduled for October 26, 2020) the school start time will be 7:20 with other adjustments necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FHS Remote and Hybrid Schedules are included. 

    Are there going to be available locations for staff to eat?

    Staff can eat wherever they like when everyone returns provided they follow physical distancing and hygiene rules. With that said, eating creates a higher risk situation because masks are off, so staff should avoid doing so together when possible. If you are eating with others, as noted, maintain physical distancing, follow hygiene procedures, and try to face the same direction rather towards one another.

    Will 2/1 and 2/2 be asynchronous days of teaching and learning?

    Yes. Teachers should plan independent, asynchronous lessons for their students to complete on these days so staff are able to prepare for the in-person return of students.  

    What will happen to the current late start at Framingham High School when students begin in-person or hybrid learning?

     

    Per the MOA between the Framingham Teachers Association (FTA) and the Framingham School Committee, the start time changes upon the return of Phase III students as provided below:

    For the High School, the Addendum in the Unit A CBA shall be waived for the COVID-19 period for the 2020-2021 school year to allow the FHS schedule to change to allow for a modified schedule with a later start time. This schedule will be piloted for that period of time beginning on September 16, 2020 and continuing until the District is able to bring high needs students into schools for in-person learning (Phase 3), currently scheduled to begin October 26, 2020. During this pilot period, the student day shall begin at 9 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m. The teacher workday shall begin at 8:50 a.m. and end at 3:50 p.m. to allow for a 7 hour workday. Upon the return of high needs students (Phase 3, currently scheduled for October 26, 2020) the school start time will be 7:20 with other adjustments necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FHS Remote and Hybrid Schedules are included. 

    For those who are granted permission to continue remote teaching, will they be instructing only those students who also continue to be remote (as in a remote academy model) or will they be delivering instruction from home to students at school and at home? And how will this work?

    Our goal is to maintain established relationships between staff and students. Ideally, staff would continue to work with their students, whether in-person or remotely or a combination of the two (concurrent classroom model). However, where necessary due to staffing shortages, adjustments may be made.

     

    STUDENTS

    Question

    Response

    What is the rationale for the Phase I and II students coming back 1 week prior to Phase 3 & 4 students? Why not have all students come back together?

    Staggering the return of staff and students in multiple phases ensures a safer adjustment period so that everyone can become acclimated to physical plant changes and movement through the building. It also allows for technology staff to manage any bandwidth challenges that will accompany the start of remote teaching from classrooms and offices. It is also important that the community learn to adjust to significant changes in traffic patterns with the addition of more than 70 school buses that have not been on the road since last spring.

    Many other districts have done a staggered return of students by age/grade level, has Framingham considered this?

    We have determined our phasing in Framingham based on highest and high needs students and based on family commitment to sustained remote learning or an interest in returning to school for hybrid learning.

    Will students be required to complete the health attestation app on a daily basis? What happens if they do not complete the survey?

    Yes. We are asking staff and students to complete the health attestation app as an added risk mitigation measure. This is not intended to be punitive.

    Where will students be eating lunch?

    Lunch is organized at the school level. Principals will communicate this plan to their staff.

     

    METRICS/RISK MITIGATION

    Question

    Response

    Are there new/different metrics we will be following for the return since the 4% and 10 new cases were put in place before these new mitigation efforts?

    While there have not been changes to the target metrics, testing has proven to be a key factor to getting staff and students back to school in communities like Framingham where percentages of positivity and daily new COVID cases are higher than recommended community targets. 

    How do we ensure that students/staff stay home when they have symptoms?

    The attestation app is intended to be a daily reminder of symptoms which may warrant staff or students to stay home from school. Like many of the COVID risk mitigation efforts, individual responsibility is critical.

    Is it possible to have “percent of students tested” as a metric for return to school?

    Staff and student testing results will be tracked and reported. Testing of staff and students will prove to be a more reliable benchmark and decision-making tool than linking only to the city metrics.

    What is the protocol for students that refuse to wear a mask in the school building?

    Face coverings are a proven risk-mitigation strategy and are expected for all staff and students unless there are special circumstances which would warrant otherwise. Those instances would be rare and remote learning may be the preferred alternative depending on individual situations. Building administrators and the District COVID Team will address those matters when and if they should arise.

    What is the metric for shutting things down again when the regular testing comes back with positive results?

    PCR and pooled test results will be the determining factor as to if and when there is a necessary pivot from hybrid to full remote teaching and learning (classroom quarantine) or closure of any kind. An executive order from the Governor could also result in a school closure. 

     

    HUMAN RESOURCES

    Question

    Response

    If I am feeling sick, can I teach my classes virtually that particular day?

    If you can't come in to teach in person once the students return hybrid, then you should log a sick day. If you are not in with your class, you are out sick. If there is an opportunity for us to allow teachers to telework while a Classroom Supervisor covers the class, we will make every attempt to do so. However, staffing is a challenge and will continue to be a challenge.

    Will staff that tests positive have the option to continue working remotely while it isn’t safe for them to come in-person?

    That largely depends on our ability to obtain coverage, either internally or by using an available Classroom Supervisor. We certainly believe that it is best for students to continue receiving instruction from their teachers, but we must also recognize that staffing challenges will occur.

    What is the protocol if you have to travel out of state to bring a child to college? MA requires quarantining or a negative covid test.  Do you have to use sick time until you receive test results? or can you work from home?

    You will need to use accrued sick time until you receive your negative test results and present them to the District.  Where possible, we will try to allow staff to telework. We approve the requests based on: job duties, work availability, and programmatic needs. This arrangement, even if approved,  is not a guarantee and can be terminated at any time based on the needs of the school as determined by the administrator. 

    It would be very helpful to clarify the process of applying for leaves, FMLA, and use of sick time.

    To apply for a leave of absence, go to Talent Ed -- Available Forms -- Request for Leave.  To apply for FMLA, got to Talent Ed -- Available Forms -- FMLA Leave Request. To learn more about FMLA, eligibility, and the use of accrued sick time, visit the MyHr page.

    Will teachers be granted permission to continue to teach remotely based on health factors and if so, what is the criteria for such permission to be granted? 

    It depends. The interactive process under the ADA is highly individualized under the law. Our ability to grant the accommodation depends on the availability of Classroom Supervisors and the principal's determination whether a Classroom Supervisor would be a viable option in the specific class. All of these factors are taken into consideration.

    If you feel sick one day and stay home, do you need to have a Covid test before you come back?

    A member of the COVID Team will reach out to you and discuss your symptoms, but there is a good likelihood that you will. 

    If staff choose to participate in the pool testing, will they have to use their own sick time if they have to quarantine? 

    If the pool comes out positive, the entire pool will need to quarantine, so the class can function remotely as a whole. In the secondary level, that is not necessarily possible, so if coverage can be provided for the teacher to provide remote instruction, that will be what we try to do. 

    Could you explain some of the new roles being established in the District? I.e. Classroom Supervisors.

    A Classroom Supervisor provides proctoring and supervision of students when an educator teleworks and provides virtual instruction to in-person students.

    Some families may miss calls from the contract tracers due to an unfamiliar number.  Do they leave messages and/or call back again?

    Yes, we do leave messages for families and try to call back. 

    Will those hired as "Classroom Supervisors" be used only to cover staff who are out on quarantine?

    Classroom Supervisors are being hired to be an in-person presence in the classroom to enable staff to telework when facing underlying health conditions under the ADA. Even so, we are struggling to find enough Classroom Supervisors to accommodate all ADA requests.  In case staff need to be quarantined, and where possible due to staffing availability/needs, the Classroom Supervisors can certainly be deployed to assist whenever teachers are out.

    Is the COVID Team an authority-making body? 

    No. The District COVID Team makes recommendations to administrators regarding COVID-related matters.