PITTSFIELD — After months of planning, the district is poised to gradually welcome students back to classrooms.
With priority on students who require added support and older vocational students who need hands-on training, Pittsfield Public Schools is still aiming to complete its transition from remote to hybrid learning by the end of October — provided COVID-19 trends hold steady.
The city has managed to tamp down coronavirus cases, landing Pittsfield in the state's lowest-risk category for the virus. Given as much, the district's all-remote Sept. 15 start to the school year drew the attention of state education commissioner Jeff Riley, who recently pressured it and 15 other districts in communities the state considers low-risk to disclose when they plan to bring most kids back to classrooms.
Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless, who still does not have School Committee-approved agreements with each employee bargaining unit despite ongoing negotiations, had avoided announcing a definitive timeline for the shift to hybrid instruction. But the district provided more insight shortly after Riley's letter, releasing a tentative schedule under which some special education, English language learner and vocational students were set to head back to classrooms on Monday.
A national spotlight shone on the Berkshires this past weekend, when PBS NewsHour aired asegment by Great Barrington native Zachary Green about racial injustice in his hometown, which he explored in interviews with Regi Wingo of the Elizabeth Freeman Center, Chief Executive and Founder of Multicultural BRIDGE Gwendolyn VanSant, president of the NAACP Berkshire County branch and Pittsfield School Committee member Dennis Powell and college student Dorree Ndooki.
And on Wednesday, a free and virtual discussion will be held with consultant and former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who will share insight into the life and legacy of her late husband, Congressman and civil rights icon Elijah Cummings, whose posthumous memoir "We're Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy," is out now. Preregister online to receive the Zoom link for the 7 p.m. event organized by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College, The Berkshire Eagle and the NAACP.
The Berkshire Museum has also adapted and updated its 2019 exhibition, "Their Stories: Oral Histories from the NAACP" for pandemic times by digitizing the show, which will launch in virtual form on Friday evening and run through January.
Fundraising is underway for the local Out of the Darkness community walk, part of the annual nationwide campaign to raise support for suicide awareness and prevention organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The online campaign has so far raised $21,109 toward the $75,000 goal it aims to hit before Dec. 31, with details about this year's event available on the foundation's website.
You can also join in on efforts to raise money for the nonprofit working to end veteran homelessness, Soldier On, by running, jogging or walking a "virtual" 5K run this week. The agency this year scrapped its annual golf fundraiser for the pandemic-friendly races, which supporters can register to enter online, and have between Monday to Sunday to complete the race on their own time.
And as the city works with agencies to identify space to provide beds for the homeless this winter, Rev. Ralph Howe is scheduled to give members of the Human Rights Commission a presentation at a 6 p.m. Monday remote public meeting about the shelter that received special permit approval to open its doors at First United Methodist Church.
Amanda Burke can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.