CHESHIRE, Mass. — North Adams Public Schools and the Hoosac Valley Regional School District will remain fully remote with hopes of returning to a hybrid learning model after winter break.
Superintendents from the two school districts released letters to families and staff Friday morning indicating that their respective schools will remain in mostly fully remote learning models.
In North Adams, Superintendent Barbara Malkas reported that the community has hit public health benchmarks that justified moving to remote learning through Feb. 12. This would be the last day of school before winter break.
"The number of positive cases statewide and locally continues to decrease substantially this past week. However, the data, while promising, is not below one of the thresholds necessary to return to school in the hybrid model for next week," Malkas wrote. "Each Thursday evening the Department of Public Health releases the city/town and Berkshire County data updates for the previous 14-day period. The most recent data has shown that there is a decrease in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city, county, and state."
Malkas included data:
3 percent positivity rate for the City of North Adams: Current rate is 1.68 percent.
3 percent average positivity rate for 15 collective towns and cities that represent locations where staff or students who enter North Adams Public Schools reside: Current rate is 3.59 percent.
Winter break starts Feb. 15 so the district would consider a return to the classroom Monday, Feb. 22, when students are slated to return from break. She wrote if public health data allows schools would reconvene in the hybrid model for students in Cohort A.
COVID-19 Pooled Testing
would also begin that week and Malkas asked parents/guardians to look for the announcement for an online forum for Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 6:30 p.m. in regard to the testing.
"This forum will provide background and information on informed consent for this program," she wrote. "I will be joined by Dr. Daniel Doyle from Berkshire Health Systems to discuss the benefits of a schoolwide testing program to help open our schools and hopefully keep them open longer."
Malkas did urge families to stay vigilant and avoid large gatherings this Super Bowl weekend.
"With a strong desire to return to 'normal,' it might be tempting to gather for a celebration for the Super Bowl. However, we know that we can successfully reduce the rate of infection by some simple consistent practices," she wrote.
In a letter to families, Hoosac Valley Superintendent Aaron Dean wrote that the district will remain in Phase II of its reopening plan with the anticipated return to full hybrid education Monday, Feb. 22.
"Unfortunately, I am writing to inform you that we are going to remain in our Phase II reopening next week," Dean wrote. "As Adams remains a high-risk community designated as red, we cannot move to our fully hybrid model. At this point, our new target date for return to the full hybrid model will be Monday, February 22, following the break."
The school system reverted to remote on Jan. 11 as Adams slipped into the "red level" for COVID-19 cases with the anticipation of returning to school on Jan. 25. However, Adams has remained in the red
On Jan. 29
, the School Committee voted to begin a phased transition back into hybrid learning after hearing from parents at a special meeting about the difficulties their children and families were having because of fully remote learning.
However, this shift was dependent on public health that the administration agreed was not favorable currently to a larger scale return to the classroom.
"It is our hope that both communities will move off the red designation by then. Please do your part to help reduce community spread, so we can return to school. You can help by avoiding gatherings such as Super Bowl parties and by wearing your masks. Thank you and stay safe," Dean wrote.
In Phase II special populations such as kindergarten and special education are allowed to return to classrooms.
In contrast, Central Berkshire Superintendent Leslie Blake-Davis wrote to families that the district has successfully transitioned to a hybrid learning model.
"Yesterday and today were positive transition days to our hybrid learning model. Students were happy to reconnect with each other and with their teachers! The weather held out so some outdoor fun was an added highlight. Similar to what we experienced in our hybrid setting prior to going remote, students were cooperative and demonstrated safe practices," she wrote on Friday.