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Pittsfield Schools Plans Return to Hybrid After February Break

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Interim Superintendent of Schools Joseph Curtis delivered hope in his weekly update to Pittsfield Public School students, staff, and family on Friday of plans to return all students to in-person hybrid learning after February break.  

This plan will be presented to the School Committee on Wednesday and, if approved, it will be provided to all families on Friday along with options for parents/guardians who want their children to continue in remote learning.

Two weeks ago, the School Committee voted that career and vocational students Grades 10-12 would return to classrooms on Feb. 1; certain special education classes including Stearns first and second-grade inclusions begin Monday, Feb. 8, and all other students return no sooner than the week of Feb. 22 "or as soon as realistically possible.

That week, the state Department of Public Health's weekly update on COVID-19 data for the previous 14-day period in the city showeed a positivity rate as of 3.32 percent and there were 29.4 cases of the virus per 100,000 people.  

"On an additional positive note, our daily local health data continues to improve," Curtis said, announcing that the city has now reported a percent positivity rate of 2.3 percent as of Feb. 2. "This demonstrates a continued gradual decline in our overall percent positivity."

On Feb.1, Mayor Linda Tyer in her State of The City address said current public health data is beginning to look promising.  At the time, the 14-day positivity rate rested at 3.5 percent, taking Pittsfield out of the high-risk red zone and into the yellow zone.  

Last week, the United Educators of Pittsfield spoke out about feeling blindsided by the School Committee's vote to return to in-person hybrid learning. The union is accusing the committee of privately debating and then approving the change, filing an Open Meeting Law complaint with the School Committee and the city clerk in relation to the Jan. 27 vote.

"This deliberate effort to deny parents the information they need to make informed decisions about the health and welfare of their children is a clear violation of the state's Open Meeting Law," said Melissa Campbell, the president of the UEP.

The School Committee now has 14 business days from the complaint's date to respond. The UEP is asking for revocation of the votes, a return to remote learning, and compensation to teachers affected.   

On Monday, Curtis said he had no comment on the situation as the School Committee and the UEP are addressing it formally.

In a letter dated Feb. 4 to the UEP Executive Board, School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon said the union quoted a portion of the memorandum of agreement that "does not accurately reflect the agreement of the parties when viewed as a whole."
She said Curtis had been the committee's representative in talks and that the union leadership had attended a meeting on Jan. 25 with administration about the items on the committee's agenda for Jan. 27. 
"The assertion that the Committee's deliberation 'behind closed doors' in executive was in some way inappropriate is also inaccurate. As you are aware, unless the UEP specifically authorized the Committee to discuss the UEP's proposals in Open Session (which it did not), the Committee was legally prohibited from doing so," she wrote, adding that the committee is open to returning to proposal-based  talks. "In closing, the Committee made its decision based upon the available medical data related to both COVID-19 and student health and learning. In the Committee’s judgment, it is no longer appropriate to continue in the remote only phase."

Curtis on Friday also announced the district, in partnership with the Board of Health, the mayor's office, and County Ambulance, will be conducting a pilot testing event for Taconic High School staff and some career and vocational-technical education students.

This will be conducted at Taconic for staff and students who are attending in-person learning such as cosmetology, health technology, and culinary.

"Again this is a closed testing event specifically for the staff at Taconic High School along with selected students in our CVTE program," Curtis added.

He strongly urged Pittsfield residents to stay strong during the February break that runs from the 15th to the 19th, avoiding traveling over the vacation because of exposure to airports, public transit, hotels, and rest stops which are hot spots for COVID-19.

"We must continue to adhere to strict safety protocols," he said. "Including wearing a mask, hand washing/sanitizing, not participating in large gatherings, and not traveling during February vacation."

The last day of school is now Monday, June 21, because of snow days that the city has recently experienced.

Tags: COVID-19,   remote learning,   

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March Is Downtown Pittsfield Restaurant Month

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. has announced Downtown Pittsfield Restaurant Month, a month-long promotion highlighting Pittsfield local downtown restaurants. 
Downtown Pittsfield Restaurant Month runs from March 1 to March 31, 2021.
People are encouraged to dine local for the month of March and share their support for local restaurants by posting a photo of a dine-in or takeout order on social media with #dinelocal. Particiapnts are encouraged to share the photo with Downtown Pittsfield Restaurant Month's Facebook page by tagging @downtownpittsfieldrestaurantmonth. 
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