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Clarksburg Board Confirms Closure of Public Buildings for Interim

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Select Board confirmed last week that it would keep town buildings closed to the public for the indefinite future. 
The board had held an emergency meeting to vote to close the buildings on Nov. 3, one day after Gov. Charlie Baker issued new orders reducing the number of people who could be indoors at private venues to 10. A number of other restrictions on gatherings and maskings were made because of a sharp spike in transmission of COVID-19 in the state. 
"I don't think the situation is getting any better out there. In fact, it's had quite a bit of a tick up," said Chairman Ronald Boucher at Tuesday's meeting. 
Board member Danielle Luchi echoed his sentiment, saying, "I agree to keep our last vote up until further notice."
Robert and Lauren Norcross, who have become involved in the Senior Center, objected that keeping the community/senior center closed was doing a disservice to the town's elderly.
"It bothers me that we're following all the regulations from Nov. 2, I have it right in front of me of all the state regulations," said Robert Norcross. "And I don't understand where there's a lot of elderly that are suffering from depression, loneliness. And if we follow all the guidelines, I don't understand why we can't go to the senior center."
Norcross said the center would limit numbers, ensure people were masked and had a cleaning protocol in place. 
"If you're gonna make your own decisions, close the school, close everything down, and all stay at home, because we'll all be safe," he said. "But no, we have these guidelines that we follow and I don't understand why the senior center can't follow these guidelines, and still be open a couple days a week for people to come and socialize and stay 6 feet apart, wear mask and everything like that."
Norcross' point was that Clarksburg School has been open for in-person learning since September.
"We're actually going beyond what is recommended," said Superintendent John Franzoni in response to a question from Boucher. "For example, we don't allow any visitors into the school. ... The only the only extra people who have been allowed in are the contractors doing work. And they have to be tested to be in the building."
Franzoni said the school has also been diligent in sanitizing, including using an anti-virus mister through the classrooms every day. Schools have had limited spread compared to other group situations, he noted, and the state's older residents have been at the most risk for contracting the novel coronavirus. 
"But that's my point is we had a plan way back in in May or June, and we were open for a while and then all of a sudden we were closed down," said Norcross. "We have a plan. We follow all the rules. And I don't understand why you're following the rules and why it's OK for one group and not OK for the other."
Lauren Norcross said the Council on Aging had been diligent in cleaning surfaces, including doors, taking contact information and making sure participants were masked and 6 feet apart. 
"[We can] work on some of the details maybe so that everybody feels secure and reassured," she said. "My second point it is very beneficial to the mental health of people in social isolation."
Robert Norcross said Adams, Cheshire and Williamstown centers were open and having their chair yogas but Clarksburg, the smallest, was not. 
Their arguments did not sway the board and they felt a letter from the Board of Health, an almost direct copy of the state's guidance, said Board of Health member Cindy Shock, confirmed their decision.
Boucher said the reopening of the center was something the Board of Health and the Select Board could discuss at some point but made a motion to keep the building closed.
"We've had two reports of COVID in Clarksburg. OK, so we need to be diligent here," he said. "I understand where you're coming from on your side. But on our side here, we got to keep the community safe."
The board voted unanimously to continue closure of town buildings and allow for curbside pickup at the library. 
In other business, the board:
Voted to move Select Board meetings to the Community Center when it is able to reopen. Boucher said Administrative Assistant Amy Cariddi will shift into the Ketchum Meeting Room to give her a quiet space to work.
• Voted to designate a 2006 Chevrolet Impala used by the Police Department as surplus and to accept bids for it "as is." Bids are due by 11. a.m. on Dec. 3.
• Voted to accept the resignation of temporary Town Clerk Paul McLatchy III. McClatchy, town clerk in Rowe, had stepped in to help the town through the election period. 

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Pittsfield Superintendant Warns of Prohibited Toy Guns

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The district has been alerted of a concerning trend that is prohibited on school grounds: Orby or Orbeez gel guns.

The toy guns shoot gel or water beads and are said to pose a risk of physical harm and being mistaken for a real firearm. They are a violation of the Pittsfield Public School's code of conduct and could result in a suspension of 11 days or more.

"Though these may appear as simple toys, it's crucial to recognize the potential risks tied to their usage. By raising awareness, we aim to educate our community about the possible hazards associated with these items, emphasizing the importance of informed decision-making and responsible behavior," said Superintendent Joseph Curtis in a memo to the Pittsfield Public School community on Friday.

Last fall, someone used a similar gun to target cross-country students and a coach from Lee High. No one was injured in the incident. 

Given the frequency of school shootings nationwide, Curtis said schools cannot afford to accommodate anything that even remotely that resembles a firearm. The toy guns and gel beads are secured behind a locked case in Walmart on Hubbard Avenue, many indicating that they are for ages 14 and older.

"The Pittsfield Public Schools firmly maintains that Orby toy guns and any associated pellets should not be brought onto school premises, including both indoor and outdoor areas. This directive is in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all students, staff, and visitors within our educational environment," he wrote.

"We stress the significance of following this directive to prevent any potential hazards or disruptions that may arise from the presence of these items on school grounds. By upholding this standard, we aim to cultivate a secure and conducive learning environment for everyone within the Pittsfield community."

The superintendent listed three potential hazards of the water-bead guns in the schools:

  • Physical Injuries: The guns have the capacity to propel projectiles at considerable speeds, posing a risk of injury to the eyes, skin, and even teeth, particularly when fired in close proximity.
  • Misidentification Risks: Due to their realistic appearance, some Orby guns may be mistaken for genuine firearms. Such misidentification could result in confusion and potentially perilous encounters, especially if law enforcement or bystanders perceive them as real weapons.
  • Public Disruption: The act of firing Orby guns in public settings can be highly disruptive and alarming to others. Such behavior may instill fear and panic among individuals nearby, potentially leading to charges of disorderly conduct or harassment.
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