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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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Cheshire Town Meeting Approves $6.6M Budget, Rejects Pot Bylaws

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Carol Francesconi takes the gavel as moderator for the meeting. 
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Town meeting on Tuesday night rejected four citizens' petitions that would have greatly limited marijiuna facilities.
Voters did approve amended versions of the 16 other articles on the annual town meeting warrant during a nearly three-hour session held in the Hoosac Valley High School gym. 
That included a revised fiscal 2021 budget of $6,640,131.64, authorizations for purchasing a number of vehicles and the redirection of $60,000 approved last year but unused toward a design work for turning Cheshire School into a municipal complex.  
The marijuana bylaws would have required any growing facility to file a water usage report annually to the town; allowed only one non-retail cannabis facility in town; broadened the definition of "facility" to include accessories such as fences, plants and related items; set up a 24-hour odor control; and asked the Planning Board to revisit its approved bylaw. 
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