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Hoosac Valley Considering Phased-In, Hybrid Model for Schools

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School District is expected to eliminate the full in-person education model from its plans for reopening.
Superintendent Aaron Dean said on Tuesday morning that the School Committee next week will decide what school will look like in the fall and that it is leaning toward a hybrid model.
"In next Monday's committee meeting, I am planning on sharing the timeline and framework of instruction for the coming school year," Dean said. "Still many questions to answer, but I'm confident we'll get there."
School districts throughout the commonwealth have been asked to design three education models in preparation for the next school year. Plans have included a fully remote plan, a hybrid plan, and the state preferred full in-person model that requires students to be spaced out.
The Pittsfield Public Schools last week determined that reopening the schools as normal was not optimal. 
Dean said the two district schools — the middle and high school and the elementary school — cannot accommodate 6 feet of social distancing so this option is off the table.
Instead, a hybrid model of some kind is being considered. Currently, the plan to start fully remote and transition into a partially remote and partially in class format. 
"We are going to be in some form of hybrid," Dean said. "It is currently our plan to onboard students on our remote learning platform to start the school year and gradually build in-person opportunities through the months of September and October, if the metrics of COVID-19 allow."
Dean said there is still much to work out and that the school district is still negotiating with the teachers union. 
About 800 people responded to a districtwide survey, which is still open, on learning options. 
About a third of responding parents indicated that they would choose full remote learning even if a form of in-person instruction was offered. Others thought some sort of hybrid model was acceptable.
"The results cited above, as well as input from staff, have pushed us in the direction of the phased-in approach," Dean said. "We want to be sure we proceed in a way that allows us to be successful and keeps everyone safe."
He said there was no clear preference for the type of hybrid model offered.
"We ... found no clear winner in terms of preference with items such as alternating days or weeks," Dean said. "In terms of planning models, this has at least allowed us to plan on a cohort that is fully remote and gave us an idea of some challenges we will face as we work to implement a hybrid model."
He said the survey data has provided them with a "good starting point" for transportation numbers. Dean said transportation will be one of their bigger challenges.  
The School Committee will meet remotely Monday night. 

Tags: HVRSD,   school reopening,   

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Explorers Guide to the Berkshires: 'Berkshire Destinations'

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Raven Rock in Adams is a remote and challenging destination to reach.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Local authors Jan and Christy Butler penned "Berkshire Destinations," an explorers guide to waterfalls, boulders, vistas and points of interest of the Berkshire Hills and Western Massachusetts.
"Berkshire Destinations" is the Butlers' fourth book and the "unconventional explorer's guide" includes 159 chapters that will guide readers to known and obscure waterfalls, glacial erratics, vistas, gardens, cultural institutions, and historical landmarks found in the Western Massachusetts foothills.
"Having a hiking guide to vistas, boulders and waterfalls is all well and good, so long as the weather is cooperating," Christy said. "So diversifying does provide a change of pace for rainy days or after completion some alternatives for those who want a change of pace."
Christy said he first planned to write a book only about New England statues but after receiving some feedback from friends and readers, he decided to keep his focus in Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts.
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