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Principal Tara Barnes, left, gives an update to the School Committee on Thursday at a meeting held outside at Clarksburg School.
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Barnes offered some pictures to show how the children are adapting to health protocols required because of the pandemic.
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The entry from the inside, where some shifting occurred with windows and doors to the main office.
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Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Finance Jennifer Macksey shows the almost completed nurse's office that has a sink for the first time.
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The School Committee will next meet on Oct. 15.

Clarksburg Moving to Next Phase in School Reopening

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The new entry has a window and speaker to the main office. 
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg School is moving to the next phase in reopening next week with the return of the middle school grades. 
 
The school opened on Sept. 14 with Grades kindergarten through 5 gradually transitioning into half-days in school and half-days remote and Grades 6 through 8 completely remote. Classes were held Monday through Thursday with Friday as professional development and evaluation. The intent had been to operate in this configuration and then reassess at the end of September with an eye to the local health data related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 
 
"It's going really well, Fridays we're debriefing with all the staff, about what's working, what's not," Principal Tara Barnes told the School Committee at a special meeting on Thursday. "We're making adjustments to procedures of how we do things, if we see the need coming up. So that's been really useful time that we put into the schedule."
 
It's going well enough that the School Committee voted to take the next step of expanding the amount of time in the building.
 
Beginning Monday, Oct. 5, Grades 1 through 5 will attend in person all day, Monday through Friday. Kindergarten and Grades 6 to 8 will go half-days in school and half-days remote, also Monday through Friday, with two cohorts switching between mornings and afternoons.
 
"For different grade levels, we will keep a schedule a.m./p.m.," said Barnes. "And the rationale behind that is really just space, we have not been able to use the library space, we haven't found any neighbors who can collaborate with us to give us an extra space. So we're really tight on that right now."
 
The principal said there are also staffing challenges at the middle school level that make it difficult to have students in an in-person setting. 
 
Math and English language arts classes will held in person and science and social studies remotely. Students with high needs would be able to have extended time in person. 
 
"This is possible because of the really hard work our superintendent and assistant superintendent have put into the building in terms of getting the HVAC systems up and running," Barnes said. "[Assistant Superintendent] Jen Macksey has been here for probably 24 hours a day camped out overseeing the workers who have been here non-stop making sure that our ventilation systems are up to par working and right now. ...
 
"We've got really fresh air. And it's working. So this is really good news."
 
The school found parts of its ventilation system weren't working, which was the main delay for in-person learning for the middle school grades. The portable HEPA, or High Efficiency Particulate Air, filters that were ordered have been plugged in and are working.
 
In addition to the ventilation, a number of other projects have been completed, including a brand-new entrance that school officials had hoped to be completed earlier this year. The entry creates a secure airlock to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the school and gives the office views into the airlock and outside the entrance, from where the old door to the office had been located. There's also a new public address system — a first for the school — and a new handicapped bathroom. 
 
The main office was also reconfigured to better serve the administration, the nurse's office and teachers' lounge were both renovated, and asbestos abatement completed in that area of the building. The work is a small part of the improvements that the school is hoping to do upgrade the outdated building.
 
Space, however, continues to be an issue and this means for the time being some classes will have to continue to be remote because social distancing within the school is not possible. 
 
Barnes said the classes that are meeting have been doing well in abiding by health protocols instituted by the state. She showed the School Committee some pictures of what the students and teachers are doing to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. 
 
The children have been using hand sanitizer and washing their hands in the sinks, keeping their masks on unless they are taking mask breaks, and following procedures the teachers have implemented, such as placing napkins for masks to rest on or paper bags to store them. 
 
"I think because we wash as we go out, we sanitize when we come in, everybody's got that down pat, they're like the best expert hand-washers this side of the Mississippi," said Barnes. "It's like they know exactly what to do. They are having no problem acclimating to this new way of doing things. ... and they're adjusting really, really well."
 
The Student Support Center is providing teaching assistance and connecting with kids on a regular basis, the principal said, and a remote coach is checking in with students who have been opted out of in-person learning. 
 
"Everybody's doing an amazing job. And I just wanted to start with that because it's just when you walk through the building and see all this work happening under these new conditions that everyone's had to adjust to it's pretty phenomenal — students, staff, everybody," she said.
 
The school is also providing free breakfast and lunch for every student from a state grant that runs through the end of December but that officials hope to have extended. Students are eating in their classrooms, including those who are coming in in the afternoon. Morning students are taking lunch home with them. 
 
The schedule will be reassessed again near the end of the trimester on Dec. 9; parents who have opted to keep their children home on remote will have the opportunity to change to the hybrid system or vice versa. However, Barnes said that decision will run to the end of the school year in June. 
 
Superintendent John Franzoni pointed out that the spacing as set up in the classrooms is defined by the number of children and that's why parents can't simply opt in and out at different times.
 
"It's not a quick process. We just had one of our other NBSU schools, one of the homeschool families was requesting that their child come back," he said. "It will take us at least a week to realign that classroom because we're using all the space that we can in our classrooms."
 
Franzoni said they want children in the classrooms but parents need to make a commitment one way or the other.
 
"We want to make that a consistent plan for them where they can learn effectively," he said. "And I think, again, this administration, the school staff have done a great job of setting these plans up that benefit the children and to do it safely."
 
He also said the school systems were depending on parents to abide by the guidance on traveling and contacts. During a health forum call with other local education officials and school nurses, he learned that many of the COVID-19 cases arising this summer had been from travel to other affected areas. 
 
"It's an automatic 14-day quarantine for any student or staff and we've had that happen in some of our schools already," he said. "It's just a precaution because that's the only way it's going to come here is by being brought in here. So we're we're trying to be very cautious and very safe about keeping the virus out of our school buildings."
 
The committee also approved two homeschool plans, pending other approvals by the state. The superintendent reported that the Northern Berkshire School Union's central office has moved into its new location in the Wall-Streeter building on Union Street. 
 

Tags: Clarksburg School,   COVID-19,   school reopening,   


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Clarksburg School Seeks Town Support to Pursue Renovation Plan

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — School officials are planning to submit a statement of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority next year. 
 
But they want to make sure there's town support before considering any building project.
 
Voters rejected a $19 million renovation and addition project in 2017 but gave the OK to a $1 million borrowing last year, giving half to the school for infrastructure projects. The school's put in new boilers, had some asbestos-abatement done, created an accessible bathroom, redone the nurse's office and teachers room, and installed a new secure entrance and public address system. The electrical panel is the next project and all schoolwork will be remote on Thursday and Friday while it occurs.  
 
"We've done these great projects over the last six months here, but we still have a tremendous amount of work to do in that building. It's not over," Assistant Superintendent of Operations & Finance Jennifer Macksey told the School Committee last week. "The superintendent and I are having conversations with the town about what our next steps are. ... We need a renovation project to go forward with the SOI, but we need to be sure we have the town's support before we invest a lot of resources in that process again."
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