Return to School Update
August 27, 2021
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Dear Framingham Community:
There have been a number of new developments in recommendations from state and federal officials to guide us in managing COVID-19 in our school community. The most up-to-date guidance is provided below in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQ) and responses. As the guidance evolves, we will provide updated information to our community.
1. How is COVID-19 and the Delta Variant Being Managed in the Framingham Public Schools (FPS)?
Similar to measures in place last spring, FPS has many mitigation measures in place, including but limited to:
Universal masking for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors and on school buses (some exceptions may apply to students who cannot mask due to a medical condition or behavioral need).
Masks may be removed during mask breaks or when outside
Adults may remove their masks when working alone or in a segregated space (e.g. cubicle).
Physical distancing as much as possible while eating indoors and during defined activities.
Ventilation/air purification systems in each school that operate properly and with effective air exchange.
Masks will be required for passengers and drivers on school buses in accordance with the federal public health order. In addition, all FPS school buses will have windows open at all times.
2. How many FPS students are fully vaccinated?
Below are the current vaccination rates among FPS students. The District will provide monthly reports on student vaccination rates which will be posted on the FPS COVID 19 website. If you or your child are not yet vaccinated, please participate in a Framingham vaccination clinic (see dates and locations below).
Framingham Public Schools Vaccination Rates Among FPS Students
Current as of August 2, 2021 from SNAP Electronic Health Record/MIIS
3. Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine for my child?
The City of Framingham Office of Public Health Nursing is offering vaccines. No appointment is necessary. No health insurance is needed to receive the vaccine. However, if you have health insurance, please bring your health insurance card.
City of Framingham Office of Public Health Nursing
113 Concord Street, Framingham, MA 01702
Monday-Friday: 8:30am - 10:30am
Tuesday-Thursday: 5:00pm - 7:00pm
Community COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic - Harmony Grove Elementary School
The Framingham Public Schools is partnering with V-Care Pharmacy, Metrowest Pharmacy, and the Framingham Coronavirus Community Outreach group for a free community COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Saturday, September 11, from 9am-12pm at Harmony Grove Elementary School on 169 Leland Street in Framingham, MA.
All three vaccines will be available at the clinic; both first and second doses will be administered. The FDA-approved Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine will be available for students 12 years of age and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available for anyone 18 years and older.
Students must be accompanied by an adult and parental consent forms are required for children 12+ receiving the Pfizer vaccine. Parental consent forms in multiple languages are available at MetroWest Pharmacy's website at metrowestpharmacy.com. Printed forms are available at Harmony Grove and the Framingham Public Schools Welcome Center.
Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, and Hindi consent forms and translators will be available at the vaccine clinic.
Residents can pre-register for appointments online at MetroWest Pharmacy's website. However, appointments and pre-registration are not necessary. Walk-ins are welcome.
The COVID-19 vaccine is free. Residents can get a vaccine even without insurance, a driver's license, or a Social Security number. Identification is not required.
First dose - Saturday, September 11 - 9:00am - 12:00pm
Second dose - Saturday, October 2 - 9:00am-12:00pm
4. Will FPS host vaccination clinics for students? If yes, when?
Framingham High School and Walsh Middle School - 9/17 (first dose); 10/7 (second dose)
Fuller Middle School and Cameron Middle School - 9/24 (first dose); 10/15 (second dose)
Parents/guardians will need to complete a written consent form for each student ages 12 years to 18 years to receive the vaccine at the clinics. More information about the clinics including the consent forms will be provided at the start of school in September.
5. Are all Framingham Public Schools (FPS) staff members required to be vaccinated?
Currently, there is no requirement for FPS staff members to be vaccinated, however, we will be engaging in discussions with all district union leaders on this matter.
6. What PK-12 health and safety protocols are being recommended now by health experts and key decision-makers in light of the Delta variant?
A timeline and summary of the most recent guidance issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) and elected and appointed State officials can be found on the District’s COVID-19 Page.
7. There are inconsistencies in the guidance from the AAP, the CDC, and the MA DPH. What are the health and safety rules that FPS will follow in the upcoming school year?
FPS has consistently followed the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To find out more, check out the August 13, 2021 SMORE. FPS collaborates with the Framingham Department of Public Health Health using the current community data and trends to balance the guidance from all of these agencies.
8. Will FPS require additional physical distancing when we return to school?
While there is no physical distancing requirement, the District will make every effort to maintain as much physical distance as possible between students when they are eating and in classrooms. Our principals and educators will do their best to maintain as much physical distance throughout our school buildings as possible with previous distancing signage still in place as a visual reminder.
9. Is there a remote learning option for students this year?
There is not an option for remote learning this school year. The State is requiring in person learning this year; therefore, we are unable to accommodate families the same way we did in the past.
10. My child is immunocompromised and in-person learning does not feel safe to me. Is there a remote option this year?
11. If a student or staff member is sick and experiencing symptoms, such as fever, cough, runny nose, what should they do?
The district will not require students to complete the MyMedBot daily attestation form this school year. However, before coming to school or getting on the bus families should assess their child’s state of wellness before leaving home for school. It is expected that each family will assess each of their children every day for the symptoms listed below:
Fever 100 F or 37.7C or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
If the student has any of the above symptoms that are out of the ordinary for them (not related to documented seasonal allergies, migraine, etc.) they should stay home from school and notify their school nurse. The school nurse will follow-up with the family regarding the child’s symptoms and develop a plan for return to school. If the student becomes ill while at school, arrangements must be made for a parent/guardian to pick the child up. Please provide your school and your school nurse with four emergency contacts who can pick your child up from school if they become sick during the day.
Students will need to be picked up from school within one hour after you are contacted to get them.
Please update your emergency contact information as soon as it changes.
Students who experience COVID-19-like symptoms may return to school after they:
Have received a negative antigen, PCR , or NAAT test administered in a healthcare setting (or an alternative diagnosis);
Are symptom-free; and
Have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
12. Can students participate in the class virtually if they experience related absences from symptoms or illness?
No. While our educators understand the impact of learning loss and recognize the need for flexibility given these extraordinary times, at the same time, we must comply with the State’s time-on-learning requirements. Students who are ill or exhibiting symptoms should stay home and will be marked absent.
13. Will FPS participate in the DESE sponsored COVID-19 testing program, including pooled testing?
Yes, FPS will participate in the DESE COVID-19 testing program.
- Routine COVID Safety Checks (Pooled Testing): Routine COVID safety checks (pooled testing) will be available weekly for students and staff. Testing will take place on site at school during the school day. Shallow nasal swab samples are collected, pooled and tested in groups of 5-10. Schools will receive the results within 24-48 hours. Students can continue to come to school while awaiting safety check (pooled) results; they do not need to quarantine while awaiting results. If a safety check test is positive, the students in the pool will be administered follow-up testing with a second sample collection at school with BinaxNow (rapid antigen test) and/or individual PCR testing, as necessary. Parents/guardians will only be notified if their child is in a positive pooled test. If you do not receive notification from the district, then your child’s results were negative. The Routine COVID Safety Checks/Pooled Testing will begin in early September.
“Test and Stay” quarantine protocol is for students and staff who may have been exposed to COVID-19 while in school: “Test and Stay” allows students and staff who were exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 at school to remain in school as long as they have no symptoms. Instead of missing school, these students and staff will be administered a daily BinaxNOW rapid test at school. They will continue to quarantine outside of the school day. Students and staff participate in “Test and Stay” for a minimum of five days after they may have been exposed. Please see below for more detailed information on the Test and Stay protocol. The “Test and Stay” protocol will begin in early September. (More detailed information is provided in Question #14 below).
Symptomatic Testing: Individuals (vaccinated or unvaccinated) who present with COVID-19 symptoms while at school will be tested using BinaxNOW nasal swabs. Under no circumstances should families send their symptomatic children to school for testing. The FPS COVID Team in collaboration with the Superintendent will continue to assess transmission of COVID-19 in our school community. The decision to move forward with symptomatic testing will be in consultation with the Framingham Board of Health based on the incidence of COVID-19 in our population.
Although DESE is offering symptomatic testing as part of its overall testing program, the district will NOT be implementing symptomatic testing at this time. If your student develops any COVID 19 symptom(s) or becomes ill at school, arrangements must be made to pick the student up from school. Students will need to remain out of school until they have received a negative antigen or PCR test administered in a healthcare setting or an alternative diagnosis, are symptom-free; and have been without fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
A signed consent form must be completed to participate in any COVID testing. An online consent form must be completed for each student. We ask that you fill out the form whether or not you want your child to participate. If you do not want to participate, please select the option to decline participation. Please click here to complete the online consent form.
14. Will FPS be following MA DESE’s “Test and Stay” testing protocol recommendations?
Yes. FPS will be implementing the MA DESE’s “Test and Stay” quarantine protocol. The goal of the “Test and Stay ” protocol is to allow students and staff to remain in school as safely as possible, while lessening the burden of quarantine on students, their families, teachers, and school administrators. Under the “Test and Stay” approach, students and staff who come into contact with an individual who tests positive at school, on the school bus or at a school sponsored extracurricular activity and have been able to follow the district’s safety measures will have the option to 1.) quarantine out of school and not attend work/school or 2.) Participate in the“Test and Stay” quarantine protocol and be allowed to attend work/school with testing.
Those who participate in the FPS “Test and Stay” protocol may remain in school as long as they have no symptoms and participate in daily COVID-19 testing at school. Since current data indicate that vaccinated individuals are testing positive for the virus, we strongly recommend participation in the Test and Stay protocol for all individuals regardless of vaccination status.
In addition the following additional safety measures will be implemented for students and staff in the Test and Stay protocol:
They must wear a mask at all times, other than eating or drinking;
When unmasked, (e.g., eating/drinking, mask break) they should be physically distanced from others whenever possible;
They must also continue to actively monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days; and
If symptoms develop, they must isolate at home and check in with School Nurse/HR.
The “Test and Stay” protocol consists of a daily nasal swab performed by a qualified healthcare personnel for 5-7 days following exposure. For your child and/or a staff member to be eligible for this program, we must have a signed consent (coming soon!) on file before testing can occur. If we do NOT have a consent form on file, your child will need to quarantine at home for a minimum of 7 days and follow Framingham Public Health Department quarantine guidance.
We now know much more about COVID-19 than we did in the past. With a variety of effective mitigation strategies (e.g., vaccination, masks/face coverings, handwashing, staying home when sick, physical distancing, ventilation, cleaning and disinfecting, contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation in place we feel confident that the “Test and Stay” strategy will keep our students and staff safe.
15. Can students and staff identified as a close contact while at home (e.g, non-school based close contact) return to school and participate in the Test and Stay program?
The Test and Stay protocol is only intended for school-based close contacts. Individuals identified as a close contact of an individual outside of school should follow Protocol B-2 or B-3 in the SY22 DESE/DPH Protocols for Responding to COVID-19 Scenarios.
16. What is the guidance related to the athletic program?
No one should attend any sporting event/practice as an athlete/coach/official or spectator if they are exhibiting signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or are currently in isolation, or quarantine for an exposure (unless participating in the test and stay protocol and has had a negative BinaxNOW on the day of the event, including weekends).
The Framingham Public Schools requires all student athletes to provide consent and participate in weekly Routine COVID Safety Checks (Pooled Testing).
All indoor sports require face masks for everyone in attendance (athletes, coaches/officials, spectators)
17. Will athletes need to be masked in locker rooms?
Yes, they will need to be masked in locker rooms and on school buses/vans as federally mandated.
At this time, masks are required for all athletes participating in and spectators attending all indoor events (e.g., volleyball) until such time as the CDC says it is safe for large groups to be unmasked indoors;
Access to indoor locker rooms will be limited
18. What do I have to do to return to athletics after COVID-19 infection?
According to the latest guidance from American Academy of Pediatrics, Parents/guardians should notify their pediatrician if their child tests positive for COVID-19 to document the infection and to provide medical clearance for return to sports. It is also important to inform the athletic trainer and school nurse of the recent infection to develop a return to play plan.
19. What are the health and safety rules for the Framingham Fine and Performing Arts?
Masks must be worn by students and staff at all times. Instrumentalists will play with appropriate masks and bell coverings attached and singers will sing indoors with masks on.
The Framingham Public Schools requires all participants in after school extracurricular marching band, jazz band, chorus and theatre performances to provide consent and participate in weekly Routine COVID Safety Checks (Pooled Testing).
20. What are the current travel restrictions? Will I be able to travel out of state without a quarantine?
We are currently reviewing travel guidance in accordance with the State and CDC guidelines. In the meantime, here are the most up to date guidelines: Massachusetts COVID-19 Travel Guidance references CDC guidance and suggests that if you are vaccinated there are no restrictions on domestic travel, and you can travel freely. Here are the CDC’s recommendations for unvaccinated people, including a viral test 3-5 days after and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. After international travel, CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals get tested 3-5 days after travel and self-monitor for symptoms.
21. DESE indicates that it will no longer publicly report COVID-19 positive cases in schools. Will FPS continue to publish these data?
Yes. FPS will continue to share COVID-19 information in the following ways:
All close contacts (vaccinated and unvaccinated) will be identified and contacted by FPS administrators and school nurses; and
The district will report the number of positive COVID-19 cases for staff and students physically present in FPS during their infectious period on the FPS COVID-19 Website.
22. If I test positive for COVID-19, when can I return to school?
All individuals (regardless of vaccination status) who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for a minimum of 10 days after symptom onset (or specimen collection date if asymptomatic). Return to school will be based on a minimum of 10 days of isolation time and resolution of symptoms and a letter or email of release from the MA Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC), Framingham Public Health Department/other local health departments. Repeat testing prior to return to school is not recommended. Please do not participate in pooled testing programs for at least 90 days after a positive test.
23. What criteria will be used to determine who is a close contact?
The administrator and the school nurse will work with the individual who tested positive to identify all close contacts. Close contacts are defined as individuals who have been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive individual while indoors for at least 15 minutes during a 24-hour period. If your student is identified as a close contact a Contact Tracing Nurse will inform you of next steps.
24. Will students or staff ever need to isolate or quarantine? If so, how will quarantining work when there are no remote learning options?
Yes. When any individual tests positive or is identified as a close contact (outside of school exposure), they will be required to isolate per CDC/MDPH and local Public Health Department guidance. For school-based exposures, those who participate in the “Test and Stay” program can remain in school as long as they are asymptomatic and their BinaxNOW test remains negative. Close contacts who participate in the “Test and Stay” protocol must still follow quarantine guidelines outside of the school and actively monitor for symptoms for the full 14 days.
It is recommended that fully vaccinated individuals who are close contacts of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection, be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and wear a mask in all indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test. If it is a school exposure, we highly recommend participating in our Test and Stay program.
25. Will students eat lunch in the cafeteria this school year?
Yes, students will generally eat lunch in the cafeteria. Additional spaces, furniture and physical spacing have been taken into consideration at each school. Please reach out to your child’s administrative team should you have specific school-based questions.
26. Will lunch and breakfast be free again this year for all students?
Yes, breakfast and one lunch per student are free for all FPS students this year.
Please continue to make sure that your school has up-to-date contact information, including cell phone numbers, for all Primary and Emergency contacts associated with your child(ren). At least 4 contacts should be listed. It is extremely important that we are able to reach you for important communications.
COVID INFORMATION WEBSITE
Members of the COVID Team have been working hard behind the scenes to update a dedicated website with COVID Information and Resources. This site will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.
Please visit https://www.framingham.k12.ma.us/covid for more information.
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