CHESHIRE, Mass. — After an early COVID-19 surge, the Hoosac Valley Regional School District has been mostly virus-free.
Superintendent Aaron Dean told the School Committee on Monday that the district's COVID-19 cases have been minimal and thanked staff for supporting pandemic protocols and safeguards.
"Since the initial surge that we dealt with at the beginning of the school year, things have settled down, and we haven't had cases in the school in the past couple of weeks," Dean said. "Using some of the procedures we used in the spring, that were very effective, helped us get through what could have been a difficult situation."
Dean reminded the committee that the state mask mandate has been extended until Nov. 1, but, he said, depending on vaccination rates with the older students, they may be able to loosen restrictions. High School students are largely separated from the younger students who are not yet able to receive the vaccination.
"They really don't cross paths," Dean said.
That being said, Dean said his focus is improving instruction and learning.
"At this point, we will do what we need to do, but we need to educate our kids," he said. "That is my primary focus."
In other business, the School Committee was presented some data from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests that was a bit of a mixed bag.
Generally, third-grade scores were consistent with the state average with 30 percent of students meeting or exceeding expectations. Similar levels were met in the English language arts portion of the test.
This was not the case with Grades 4 through 8, which had scores below the state average and with a majority of students only partially meeting the state benchmarks.
The situation was a little more drastic at the middle school level with a majority of students partially or not meeting expectations. ELA scores were a tad closer to the state average.
But in Grade 10, the district saw similar trends to the third grade test scores -- scores consistent with the state average and, in some circumstances, surpassing the state average.
Dean said he plans to target Grades 4 through 8, where there is plenty of room for growth. He added that educators were tracking testing data prior to the pandemic, which pushed the leadership team's focus elsewhere.
"We started learning where we were with the curriculum and all of those pieces, and then we were hit by a pandemic that threw a wrench into anything we were trying to do," Dean said. "It put us in a survival mode last year."
The superintendent went over the improvement plan and said he wants to continue to use data and a research-based approach to inform changes in the curriculum.
"There is some urgency, and I feel like in a typical year we would be talking about turnaround," Dean said. "I think the good news is we have people in this room who have lived through this, and we know what works and how to get there."
He said his team will review programing and pare away what is not effective and push forward what is leading to results
He said more focused supports in Grades 4 through 8 will be needed
More broadly, he said he wants to improve communication with parents and better broadcast changes in instruction and student improvement.
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Adams Altering Two Precincts to Reflect Changes in Population
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen last week voted to alter Precincts 2 and 3 to better match population. This won't change the number of town meeting members but it will change the voting precinct for one.
Town Clerk Haley Meczywor presented new Census data to the board Wednesday and said with a decrease of 299 residents over a 10-year period, the state has recommended that the town change the borders of the two precincts.
"In order to make our precincts as equal as possible, the state is recommended that we make a minor change from Precinct 3 to Precinct 2," she said.
The last Census was done in 2010. Then, the population count was 8,485. In 2020, the count was 8,166 — a 299 decrease.
After an executive session Wednesday, the board voted to award Jay Hayes of Wayland North the project that will convert the former middle school's classroom wing into one and two-bedroom apartments.
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