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Pittsfielders Asked to Light Up Neighborhoods During Senior Week

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Senior week is normally a time for graduates to spend their last days celebrating — awards nights, spirit days, proms, graduation rehearsals and, finally, the big day itself. 
That's not happening for the class of 2020. A global pandemic has forced the seniors home and left the schools dark.  
Taconic High School is hoping to literally lighten things up.
Teacher Heather McNeice said teachers and administrators have been busy finding creative ways to celebrate the class of 2020 in place of typical events put on hold during the pandemic.
"We are not foolish to think we can replace any of the long-standing traditions," she said in an email exchange. "Our hope is that it provides a bit of support for our seniors and that someday when they look back at this time they remember some of the good and not all of the bad."
McNeice sits on a committee with other Taconic teachers and administrators who weekly discuss different options this year for the senior class. So far they have delivered more than 350 senior lawn signs and have plans to install downtown banners for both Taconic and Pittsfield High.
McNeice said they have carried on the momentum through May and now ask households to purchase colored lights to help light up neighborhoods and commemorate seniors during a virtual senior week.
Starting Sunday, June 1, residents are encouraged to light up porches, decks, trees, sidewalks, driveways, and windows with school colors. 
"Any and all lights can be used depending on how creative residents want to get," she said. "Patio lights, floodlights, Christmas lights etc. I have visions of families getting into their cars to drive around town or take an evening walk to see the lights — like Christmas in June, only it's warm enough to enjoy the outdoors!  I would love to see this tradition carried on for years to come."
Lights can be purchased anywhere and cost between $3 and $5. McNeice said she knows for sure that they are sold at Carr Hardware, Home Depot, and on Amazon.
McNeice said they have other plans in the works as well to make senior week special. 
"Ordinarily, class trips, awards night, prom, and graduation take place during this week," she said. "We hope to plan some of these things in the future when social gatherings are acceptable again but we feel it is extremely important to acknowledge and honor the original dates."
She said graduation would have been June 7 and asked residents to get behind the class of 2020 to make these coming weeks special.
"There has never been a better time for our community to come together. The rivalry between Taconic and Pittsfield High School is one I usually enjoy but now more than ever it is important to show a united force and show our seniors we are stronger together," she said. "Sometimes people think the grass is greener on the other side and move out of the area to test the theory. 
"I believe the grass is greener where we water it and our community is stronger when we invest in it."

Tags: graduation 2020,   Taconic,   

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College Leaders Talk about Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Crisis

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Higher education is learning lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic that it will inform their operations long after the crisis has passed, a group of top administrators agreed on Friday.
"I had begun to think about the ways in which the modalities of teaching that remote learning offers can infuse and enrich some aspects of teaching, without suggesting that we would move in any way to a fully remote learning platform or even a largely remote platform," Williams College President Maud Mandel said.
"There are aspects of the modality of remote learning I think faculty have found to be enriching of their teaching, and that's one area that I think could have significant impact in a positive way."
Mandel joined Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President James Birge, Berkshire Community College Ellen Kennedy and Bard College at Simon's Rock Provost John Weinstein in a virtual town hall hosted by 1Berkshire.
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