CLARKSBURG, Mass. — School officials' plans for reopening this fall are being complicated by the condition of Clarksburg School.
The administration is recommending a hybrid plan of in-school and remote because of issues with the ventilation system.
"Ventilation as a very key piece in keeping our schools safe," Principal Tara Barnes told the School Committee on Thursday. "We have some preliminary results that are telling us that many of our classrooms are not up to code to be able to handle COVID. In particular, they're not exchanging air."
Barnes said the building is being evaluated as part of the plans being developed to deliver education during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is requiring schools to submit plans for in-person teaching, remote or a hybrid model of both by Thursday.
"At best right now, what I can propose and what I would recommend at this point, with all the variables and the unknowns, is a hybrid model to bring students back into the building for some level of in person learning and remote," she said.
The School Committee put off a vote on a preferred plan until Tuesday, and on the school calendar although school is expected to open sometime between Sept. 11 and Sept. 16.
Officials have been struggling to implement upgrades in the 60-year-old school after voters rejected a rebuild project several years ago.
Business Administrator Jennifer Macksey said the construction of a new secure entryway is almost complete and work is being done on asbestos abatement, a public address system, an accessible bathroom and improvements to the kitchen.
Macksey said there were issues with the heating and ventilation system in the main corridor, which holds Grades 3 through 5 and the junior classrooms.
These, she said, "need to have some tweaks done to their units, but nothing that is a showstopper."
The primary wing, however, has no air exchangers, so the only way to get ventilation into the classrooms is to open windows and use fans.
"We're exploring what the long-term fix is there," Macksey said. "But in the meantime, we're looking for a temporary fix so we can bring the kids and teachers back safely. ...
"It's been a big learning experience over the last week. But rest assured, we will find a solution but it may delay the use of that wing."
She expected to have more information from the HVAC company the school is working with before Tuesday's meeting.
Barnes went over the preparations for school reopening and noted teachers have been working on unit planning through the summer and had met recently to discuss how their plans were going.
"I'm feeling really good about the position we're in in terms of planning for both in-person and remote kinds of learning activities," she said. "Teachers are getting ready to be able to pivot in between both for the first trimester, and doing great work."
The school year will be broken into trimesters and parents will have to commit to the learning program (remote, in-school) they chose for that time period.
"Families will have a date by which — and right now I'm saying the 19th, unless that changes based on any state dates changing — to be able to opt in or opt out of the plan that we submit," Barnes said. Parents would have to wait until the next trimester to make any changes because of spacing and other considerations.
She anticipated a presentation for parents on Aug. 17 once the plans had been approved.
Efforts will be made to keep students in one place during the school day, she said. "We do have students who have individualized plans, and we will accommodate their plans as best as we can in a way that keeps everyone safe."
Three electrostatic cleaning machines have been purchased to mist classrooms daily and extra cleaning will be done during the day for high-touch points. The working ventilation systems will run prior to the students entering the school and for a time after school. Hand sanitizers are in every room and portable sinks are being looked at for classrooms. Breakfast and lunch will be eaten in the classroom.
"We are working hard on trying to develop a hybrid plan but you know the other option to is to start remotely," Superintendent John Franzoni said. "Just for full transparency, the other three union schools have voted to come back in person, but they're in a different situation they don't have the same building issues, they're much smaller schools."
Barnes said, after speaking with the superintendent earlier, that they would like the meeting to be more of a discussion because there were still "variables that are unfolding."
"Our goal is to return to in-person school settings as safely as possible to maximize our all of our students," the principal said. "That's been the priority and the direction set by the commissioner [of education] from the start."
The committee did vote not to open any school choice slots for the coming year and to require masks for kindergarten and first grade.
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Pittsfield Native Killed In Air Force Crash
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The body of Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher was recovered off the coast of Japan after the military aircraft he was on crashed Wednesday.
The Pittsfield Police Department released a statement noting that Galliher was a 2017 graduate of Taconic High School.
The statement included that Galliher leaves behind his wife and 2-year-old and 6-week-old sons.
The Associated Press reported that on Nov. 29, an Air Force Osprey based in Japan crashed during a training mission off the country's southern coast. It was reported that the crash killed at least one of the eight crew members.
At this time, the status of the seven other airmen is unknown. The cause of the crash is also unknown.
Taconic High School Principal Matthew Bishop said the school is in mourning after learning of Galliher's death.
"Jake was a proud member of the Class of 2017 and was known for his exemplary character, leadership qualities, and commitment to Taconic High School. He was an outstanding student, an integral member of our football program, and an active participant in our school community. Many staff members remember his kind, fun-loving spirit and how much he positively impacted our school," he wrote in a statement released Friday afternoon. "After graduation, Jake chose to serve our country with valor and dedication, joining the Air Force. The news of his tragic and untimely passing has left Taconic in mourning, as we reflect on the loss of a bright and promising individual who embodied the values that we hope to instill in all of our students."
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