As School Reopening Deadline Nears, Some Districts Say More Time Is Needed

Superintendent Dr. Robert Tremblay wants Framingham Public Schools to be one of the Massachusetts districts that give a waiver for the deadline to begin full in-person classes for some students

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Schools across Massachusetts are preparing for a full return to the classroom, but some districts are struggling to meet the deadline.

Framingham just welcomed back its final cohort in its final phase of bringing students back in a hybrid form this week. School officials are hoping to be one of the districts who get a waiver for a more gradual move to fully in-person learning.

"To think that we can turn this on April 5 and make it happen for all elementary school students, logistically, I think, is a problem," said Dr. Robert Tremblay, the superintendent of Framingham Public Schools.

The state is pushing forward with phasing schools back into in-person learning next month.

Tremblay told the Board of Health this week that a waiver will likely be necessary for urban districts like Framingham that just started sending kids back hybrid and will need more time to figure out spacing requirements and union agreements.

"Certainly, in Framingham schools, we can't fit all of our elementary students back at six feet, and we have an agreement with the Framingham Teachers Association that provides just that restriction," Tremblay said to the Board of Health during its March 8 meeting.

Framingham students who spoke with NBC10 Boston understand the administration's hesitancy to send all students back so suddenly.

"It does make sense, because we have like 500-600 kids in each grade," said junior Breena Sullivan. "It's a lot of kids, like if you were to, like, come to one of our lunches, it's, like, huge."

"I feel like it's not, like, the best option, due to COVID," said fellow student Luiz Silva.

Grandparent and Framingham Public Schools crossing guard Donald Shay says he thinks kids need to be back in school, even if they can only be three feet apart.

"Right now, with the kids being out, the parents can't work because they have to stay home," he said.

But some parents say whether or not the state gives Framingham a waiver, they will be keeping their kids remote.

"There's no sense to come back, it's almost the end of the year," argued Framingham parent Meire Barbalho.

"Please rest assured that we are moving toward an expanded in-person return to school this year," the superintendent said in a statement. "There are steps and processes to be followed as I'm sure you can appreciate, but we have begun taking those steps in our planning for the expanded return of students starting in April. The school department is finalizing a family survey to be launched this week and we will be meeting with the Framingham Teachers Association (FTA) to work through the expanded return-to-school logistics and consulting with the Framingham Department of Public Health on our plans in light of the recently voted regulations by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education."

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