PITTSFIELD — By the end of this week, Pittsfield Public Schools will have completed its transition back to hybrid learning.
Getting to this point has not been without its challenges. The School Committee has pressed ahead with reopening plans over the objections of the United Educators of Pittsfield’s executive board, which went on to file an unfair labor practices charge against the committee.
With children in some special education and vocational programs already back in school part time, the remaining elementary and secondary students on Thursday and Friday will see the inside of a classroom again for the first time since November.
Caregivers seeking information about the district’s hybrid transition may want to watch the School Committee’s Zoom meeting that begins at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, when Interim Superintendent Joe Curtis will provide a report on school reopening. The meeting will air live on Pittsfield ETV channel 1302 and is scheduled to stream live online at http://www.pittsfieldtv.net/CablecastPublicSite/watch/1?channel=9. Residents can call into the meeting at 872-240-3412 using the access code 406-529-309.
A local health leader said she’s encouraged to see that new coronavirus infections have declined steadily in the city since mid-January. Since Feb. 15, the city’s health metrics placed it in the low-risk “green” designation for the first time since October.
On the state’s most recent community-level data report out Thursday, Pittsfield was still categorized as “yellow,” but as Gina Armstrong, the director of public health, explained Friday, the state’s ranking does not include two days of data where average daily cases and test positivity continued to decline.
Armstrong said a few different factors may be contributing to the city’s progress. For starters, people are beginning to receive their second dose of the vaccine, and the fact that many have already been infected may be helping cool the local rate of newly reported infections.
But Armstrong also said Pittsfielders are also doing a good job complying with health and safety rules.
“And we see a high level of compliance with the mask wearing [and] social distancing. We’re seeing our businesses being in compliance with all the safety standards,” she said.
A feared post-Super Bowl surge thankfully did not materialize, said Ricardo Morales, the city’s commissioner of public works and utilities and also the data guru on Mayor Linda Tyer’s coronavirus task force.
Morales shared another result which he looked upon positively — the concentration of viral markers in municipal wastewater sampled a few days after the big game was 97 percent below the post-holiday peak on Jan. 5.
Scuttled by what many felt like was a case of poor timing, a proposal to move the city to a “pay-as-you-throw” trash disposal was tabled by the City Council last week, with members leaving open the option of revisiting it. At a 7 p.m. Zoom meeting Tuesday, councilors will, however, be asked to refer to the Resource Recovery Committee another petition first introduced in 2018 that proposes a different way of ending the city’s unlimited curbside trash pickup, which opponents criticize for its cost and harmful environmental effects.
A public hearing on a proposal to ban outdoor commercial cannabis cultivation throughout the city will also happen virtually at the council’s Tuesday meeting. If passed by the council, no new commercial outdoor grows would be permitted in Pittsfield.
Former Massachusetts governor and Berkshire County resident Deval Patrick will appear alongside Dr. Adrian Elliot, chief of emergency medicine at Fairview Hospital, Dr. Eden-Renee Hayes, director of the Davis Center at Williams College, and Rosa Tobango, LPN of Laurel Lake Nursing Home, at a virtual panel discussion from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
The virtual event “Unmasking COVID-19: Vaccine Q&A” will provide space for communities of color to discuss and learn more about the vaccine in the context of how people of color have been treated by the medical establishment throughout the course of the nation’s history. To register, go to https://tinyurl.com/1qegiz7w.
The Women of Color Giving Circle and the Rites of Passage and Empowerment Program (R.O.P.E.) are launching a virtual well-being series for youths ages 13-18 years old at its inaugural session at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Sessions will be held every other Tuesday after that.
For the first time in a long time, residents will be able to ring in the weekend with a night at the movies. The Phoenix Theaters Beacon Cinema, Pittsfield’s only movie theater, reopens its six-screen complex on North Street with reduced capacity on Friday.