North Adams Students Return to School with Minimal COVID Restrictions

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Students in the North Adams Public Schools return to classes this week with minimal COVID-19 restrictions in place, as the district continues to follow public health guidance on the virus.  

Superintendent Barbara Malkas said students will only be required to wear a mask when in the nurse's office or when returning from COVID-19 quarantine. K-through-8th-grade students returned to classes on Tuesday while Drury High School students began on Wednesday.
"Right now, both DESE and the Department of Public Health, in keeping with the guidance from the CDC, is recommending vaccination as a primary personal mitigation strategy," Malkas said at Tuesday's School Committee meeting. "And that includes not only the primary series of the vaccine, which children ages 6 months and up are now eligible for, but also includes boosters." 
Students who test positive for COVID-19 and are symptomatic must isolate. Students who are not symptomatic are still expected to attend. 
Malkas said parents will have the option to opt-in for symptomatic rapid testing for their child via a consent form. 
"If a child presents as being symptomatic, parents will be called, the child will be sent home," she said. "And the expectation would be that the child would either have a waiver to allow us to test them in school or for them to receive testing through the testing center for their health care provider.
Employees, Malkas said, will also have to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance. The committee approved updates to all of the district's student and employee handbooks to reflect the changes. 
In other business, Malkas updated the board on summer hires for the district, calling it unique compared to previous years, with difficulties finding qualified applicants. 
"This is a very different kind of hiring season than we've seen before, but it is something that is going to take a lot of additional effort and consideration," she said. 
The district, Malkas said, has three teaching position vacancies, several assistant teaching vacancies and a vacant adjustment counselor position. 
"The state is also very concerned because this is not just a North Adams Public Schools issue, but it has become a statewide issue," she said. "It just feels much harder and much more difficult in regions where we tend to have a limited pool of applicants to begin with." 
The committee approved a memorandum of agreement with Custodial Employees union AFL-CIO, State Council 23, Local 204.
• The committee approved a settlement agreement with the North Adams Paraprofessional Association/MTA/NEA.
• The committee approved a settlement agreement with the North Adams Cafeteria Workers Association. 

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North Adams Council to Vote on Greylock School Project

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council will take up a borrowing authorization for the $65 million Greylock School project at a special meeting on Monday. 
If it is approved, there will be a ballot vote for a debt exclusion in September for the city's $20 million portion of the cost.  
The committee is planning a full-court press to convince citizens of the need for a new Greylock School to replace the closed 1965 building and the deteriorating Brayton Elementary that needs millions in repairs. 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey said it was important for the members of the School Building Committee to attend Monday's meeting to show their support for the project. The project designers from TSKP Studios will be on hand to answer questsions as will the project's financial adviser. 
"It's an exciting night. It's really the first night that we publicly showcase this project to the City Council," the mayor said at the committee's meeting early this week. "We really need the School Building Committee there ... 
"You may not have a speaking role, you may want to speak, but we need to really show the support of the council and also really praise the hard work that this committee has been doing."
The School Department has created several videos including a show on Northern Berkshire Community Television, presentations, a FAQ and a website about the project.
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