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McCann Tech Working to Keep Students Connected

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — McCann Technical School students are making do with remote learning but the school still hasn't determined how it will deal with graduation.
"It is going well, and I have to give a ton of credit to our faculty and staff," Principal Justin Kratz said in an interview Friday. "They have done a really phenomenal job in something that teachers were never formally trained ... they have really stepped up to the challenge 
Kratz gave an update to the School Committee a its meeting held remotely Thursday evening. The meeting was unable to be live stream to the public so the committee opted to post a recording online at a future date.
On Friday, Kratz said, for the most part, McCann has had few issues keeping students connected during the novel coronavirus pandemic that has closed schools across the nation. He said those who did not have devices for remote learning were able to borrow one from the school. 
"We didn't have the same magnitude of need like Pittsfield having to get out thousands of laptops," he said. "But every kid who needed a device got one. We had enough in the building to take care of the students in need."
He said there may be a dozen or so students without an internet connection at home so the school has been delivering other learning materials.
Kratz said teaching shop remotely has been somewhat of a challenge
"It is definitely difficult and our shop instructors are really coming up with some creative stuff to present material but ultimately you cant replace hands-on shop experience with anything virtual," he said. "You can try to supplement it or prime the students for next year."
For example, culinary students are watching videos to learn knife skills but there are still challenges. Even for computer heavy shops, students don't have access to the school's powerful machines or the expensive software used in class.
He said they are trying to reinforce what students have already learned and are preparing them for future lessons when the school's doors open again.
"No matter how you slice it or dice it there is going to be some learning loss when we come back," he said. "So we are trying to look at things the students would have received and get them ready and primed to learn when they get back." 
The principal said they are also extending support to families and working closely with students who may be less engaged during the pandemic.
"I am really pleased with how much our students are participating but like any school, we have a handful of students we are working with to raise their level of engagement," he said. "Our councilors have been doing a fantastic job reaching out to families to offer support. All is going as well as it could in this type of situation."
As for graduation, McCann is holding off on any decision until they have more information.
"We felt like a moving target was not going to be helpful to parents who may want to invite people or make plans," he said. "So instead of putting out a bunch of hypotheticals early on that, we would have to change we are waiting."

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North Adams Veterans Memorial Bridge Deemed 'Structurally Deficient'

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Jersey barriers and barrels were put up this week to limit a section of the roadway to two lanes. Plans are to soon prohibit large trucks from the bridge.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The 61-year-old Veterans Memorial Bridge has been declared "structurally deficient" after the most recent inspection by the state Department of Transportation. 
The city's Department of Public Services in a Facebook post on Thursday said the state has issued weight limit restrictions and lane closures. 
"These restrictions are due to structural deficiencies found during a recent inspection and are necessary to keep the bridge open until a repair plan can be implemented," stated the post. "Alternate truck routes [sic] detour signage will be posted over the next few weeks. Thank you for your patience."
The span is briefly narrowed to two lanes about halfway through its 171-foot span with barrels and jersey barriers. 
"This is a precautionary measure, because there is some critical deterioration," said Mayor Jennifer Macksey on Friday. "So these actions are being taken to really make sure that the rest of the integrity is safe and that big heavy vehicles avoid the area when we get to that point."
The ratings posted by MassDOT's Highway Division on Friday list a deck condition of 7, which is considered "good." But the superstructure rated a 3 and the substructure a 5. 
According to the Federal Highway Administration, ratings of 4 or less are classified as poor and 5 or 6 as good. The superstructure's rating of 3 lead to its designation as "structurally deficient." 
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