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Hoosac Valley Regional Schools Receives Donations

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School Committee accepted a donation of 20 Chromebooks from Berkshire Community Action Council and $1,000 from Walmart.

"We are grateful to get some more devices during this time," Superintendent Aaron Dean said at Monday's School Committee meeting. "We are able to find resources from a number of different places."

With remote learning, the district is dependent on students having access to computers and the internet. Although many students have their own machines, the district has deployed a fleet of Chromebooks so education can continue for all students.


The School Committee also accepted the $1,000 grant from Walmart to be used at Hoosac Valley Elementary School. 


Principal Rebecca Sawyer said she had applied for this grant, and that she plans to meet with her leadership team to discuss how to best disperse the funds.

Business Manager Erika Snyder said the funds have no strings attached and can be used in any way the school desires.

Chairman Michael Mucci noted that the administration staff has been hypervigilant with grant opportunities and thanked them for their work.


"These things keep coming, and it is great," he said.


In other business, Dean said Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently surveyed districts to see if they are meeting structured learning time guidance. He said DESE requires an average of 35 hours every two weeks and that the district met this with an average of 37 hours.


He said the district is still looking to discover ways to increase this number with new learning opportunities.


"I am happy that we cleared it, but I want everyone to know that we aren't just sitting here thinking everything is perfect," Dean said. "Every day we are looking at ways to expand what we can provide students."

Dean said it has not always been easy to hit state thresholds through the pandemic. He said guidance and benchmarks were often "moving targets" as more was learned about COVID-19 and the state rolled out new protocols. 

Dean said the district is still looking toward the future when a vaccine for COVID-19 is more readily available.

"Once we are two weeks past this holiday spike and the vaccine starts to get out and we can start moving forward with those in-person opportunities," Dean said. "There are a lot of moving parts in these decisions, and we don’t take it lightly."


As of Monday, the district has returned to a fully remote education model with COVID-19 cases spiking in the region and school district. Dean said the target return date is still Jan. 25. He said if COVID-19 numbers are lower in two weeks, he hoped to return to their hybrid model.


Dean added that essentially all Berkshire County schools are now fully remote. He said he meets frequently with other area superintendents.


Committee member Regina Hill updated the rest of the committee on what was discussed at the technology subcommittee.


She said the district has deployed 777 Chromebooks to families in the district and will develop a refurbishment schedule so the district will regularly be able to replace aging machines.


She said this would likely be a two-tiered schedule. Teachers may receive a more advanced Chromebook while students would receive a more basic machine.


Hill added that they also discussed hiring a new company to redesign the district website.


"This could be a better fit for us that would allow us to share information more easily," Hill said. "It would be more user friendly."

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Cumberland Farms Presents Plans for New Adams Location

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

The new proposal has a slightly small building.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission applauded the plans done by Cumberland Farms so far and voted to reconvene on April 8 once its engineer has had a chance to review them. 
The Westborough-based convenience store chain had proposed to place a new store on Commercial Street between Elm and Prospect streets several years ago. The company ran into opposition in its first attempts to get through the permitting stage and withdrew its application in 2018. 
It has returned with a slightly smaller profile for the store and presented its plans on Thursday to the Conservation Commission, which has jurisdiction because of the proximity of the Hoosic River to the proposed site. 
The convenience chain is still proposing to demolish Al's Service Center at 95 Commercial St. and two other structures, all owned by Carol Ostrowski, and build a gas station/convenience store just south of its older location that will be closed. There also have been changes in zoning since its initial proposal, when it had to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance. This is considered a new application.
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