The teachers are developing 'visible thinking' to engage students and visualize goals.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The School Committee is pushing to have a new secure entryway installed before the end of February -- the deadline to use a $35,000 state grant.
The aggressive time frame means that teachers will be asked in upcoming negotiations to agree to a two-week holiday break, starting with a half day on Friday, Dec. 20, and ending on Friday, Jan. 3.
"It would be ideal to be able to start that on that day, given our timeline and the aggressiveness of getting this project done while students are not in the building," said Principal Tara Barnes at Thursday's meeting.
School Superintendent John Franzoni said starting work on that Friday would be part of the bid process, which also would outline work being done over Thanksgiving, Christmas break and, if necessary, February vacation.
"That's the backup plan," agreed Business Administrator Jennifer Macksey. "But we've specified everything to be done over Christmas break with a contingency that if the building is not clear in that time span, then we have February. We're not going to rip it apart until we're sure."
The original plans for renovating the school had included upgrades in security to the 60-year-old building. But the failed renovation vote means the school is trying implement priority upgrades piecemeal. This is only the second major project after since failed vote.
"I think it's been amazing the work that Jenn Macksey has done to push this forward," Barnes said. "It's all coming together ... we're like leap years ahead of where we've been ... we've been kind of stuck in the mud."
The new entry will include a safety glass airlock that will allow the office personnel to see who has entered and be able to buzz them in. The office on the right side of the entry will have a safety window installed and dropbox and the office's exterior door will be replaced with a safety glass window.
"It's going to improve significantly the entrance of the building, to make it more safe and secure, and also some cameras will be part of that," Franzoni said. "We're also looking into options to, as part of this work, to include having a PA system that will be functional in this building so that we can make announcements that can be heard by everyone in the building."
A second phase of work is hoped to start later in the year to create a second office within the administrative area.
The funds are coming from a $35,000 school security grant secured by Barnes with the balance coming from the $1 million in borrowing approved by town meeting earlier this year for capital projects for the town and school.
"Even though the town owns the building, we're taking ownership of the project ... to try to make sure it gets done and to use this grant funds effectively," said Franzoni, noting the boiler project had not gone as smoothly.
The initial deadline for the grant was the end of the year but because it was not received until August, the school was able to work with state officials to get it extended to the end of February.
Macksey it will be tight: once the bids are opened, the glass will have to be ordered and Select Board will have to authorize the spending debt exclusion funds, and the company will have to work during the limited period when school is closed. And to start, an asbestos abatement will have to be done with the tiles in the entryway.
"It's gonna be a push but we can get it done," she said. "Provided, you know, that nothing crazy doesn't happen."
Barnes also gave a report on professional development, saying she's been participating with a principals' advisory committee for the state and with Research for Better Teaching, a group that does professional development. Her latest work shop focused on developing a positive school culture.
"I tried to think about how to integrate the things that I'm learning when I come back. So for example, this leads into the next thing of just what we did here in school," she said. "So one of the things that's been an emphasis on the beginning of the year has been making thinking visible and so when I'm doing PD with teachers, I try to model it."
The most recent was about "thinking visibly" through displaying priorities on posters and having the staff determining where their strengths are and what they need to work on. Those efforts are being integrated into the students' work as well.
"Students are wondering things, puzzling about things, asking the questions and we're trying to capture what they're thinking on paper in some fun, new creative way that's motivating for them," Barnes said, showing some of the illustrations being used by the children. "So this is one way to get their thinking visible in the classroom."
Teachers are also putting visible instructions up in the classrooms to aid students in puzzling through problems and concepts. "Students are reacting to that," she said. "We want them interacting with their thoughts, with each other, and again, making it visible."
"It's such a heavy lift for teachers ... it's a lot of work and when they're organizing and doing something new," she continued.
In other business,
• Franzoni reported the North Berkshire School Union approved for central office to relocate to the Wall-Streeter mill on Union Street. The landlord is Moresi & Associates, the same as the current location in the Puccio building on Church Street.
"It's not ADA compliant, it's not confidential (the conference table is in the business manager's office) ... we made the best of it for many years," he said.
The administration has been seeking a new space that would be larger, more comfortable, confidential and secure, and be handicapped accessible. The space on the first floor of the Union Street building at 2,500 square feet would cover all those areas and also provide an office for the school union's information technology director, who's been working out of his car and from the schools over the past year.
• Macksey explained that state has passed a law that would allow a designated person to sign warrants, rather than have all three board members sign, so bills can be paid.
"The catch to this is whoever signed has to report at the next meeting," she said, adding that her office can provide the warrant and attached bills by hard copy or digital. "It would save on running around."
The town of Clarksburg recently instituted this, designating the chairman, and Rowe is interested, Macksey said, but Savoy was not. She had not yet spoken to Florida.
The board wanted a discussion first and agreed to put it on next month's agenda. The board also put off to the next meeting further discussion on tightening the school choice policy but voted to close the four open school-choice slots for the school year.
• The eighth-grade boys advisory group is holding its annual "Soldiers, Dice & Dragons" game event on Saturday from 10 to 4 in the gym. There will be board games and raffles available all day for a donation to Soldier On; new items such as toiletries, socks, T-shirts, sneakers, sweat shirts, linens, and gift cards for men and women.
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Clarksburg Moving to Next Phase in School Reopening
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
The new entry has a window and speaker to the main office.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg School is moving to the next phase in reopening next week with the return of the middle school grades.
The school opened on Sept. 14 with Grades kindergarten through 5 gradually transitioning into half-days in school and half-days remote and Grades 6 through 8 completely remote. Classes were held Monday through Thursday with Friday as professional development and evaluation. The intent had been to operate in this configuration and then reassess at the end of September with an eye to the local health data related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"It's going really well, Fridays we're debriefing with all the staff, about what's working, what's not," Principal Tara Barnes told the School Committee at a special meeting on Thursday. "We're making adjustments to procedures of how we do things, if we see the need coming up. So that's been really useful time that we put into the schedule."
It's going well enough that the School Committee voted to take the next step of expanding the amount of time in the building.
Beginning Monday, Oct. 5, Grades 1 through 5 will attend in person all day, Monday through Friday. Kindergarten and Grades 6 to 8 will go half-days in school and half-days remote, also Monday through Friday, with two cohorts switching between mornings and afternoons.
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The board held a joint meeting with the Board of Health to determine if it was time to begin easing restrictions on the use of municipal buildings, especially since the Clarksburg School has opened for hybrid learning.
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The debate over the definition of the structures — and whether there was a permit issued for their construction — lead to heated exchanges between town officials and the owner at last week's Planning Board meeting.
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On Friday morning, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association released the sport-specific modifications that on Thursday unanimously were approved by the association’s COVID-19 Task Force. click for more
Only about 14 voters attended the special town meeting on the lawn of the Senior Center that also gave the Select Board the ability to start new employees at wage steps commensurate with their experience and education and approved the first step in making the town clerk and appointed position.
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The small schools of Gabriel Abbott Memorial in Florida, Emma Miller in Savoy and Rowe Elementary will open students back in the classroom on Sept. 8; Clarksburg Elementary will begin the school year on Sept. 14 with a hybrid model.
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