taconic

Mayor Linda Tyer said the Pittsfield School Committee, on which she sits, could not wait any longer to begin getting students back to classrooms. Vocational students, like those at Taconic High School, need to return to their shops to complete hands-on learning requirements for graduating with professional credentials, she said.

PITTSFIELD — The United Educators of Pittsfield called on the district to show it has a comprehensive plan to “avoid making the current crisis worse” before students return for hybrid learning and to release information about air quality systems testing and maintenance in school buildings.

“The district must demonstrate to all families and staff involved that they have developed a detailed plan that ensures all measures are being taken to avoid making the current crisis worse before any return to in-person learning,” the UEP said in a statement released Friday night.

UEP President Melissa Campbell called for transparency from Pittsfield Public Schools. With vocational, career and technical students poised to return to school Monday, the UEP called on the district to release several pieces of information related to air quality and employee coronavirus testing plans, calling them crucial to parents’ ability to make informed decisions.

The UEP called for the release of results from the three most recent balance tests of school ventilation systems; to disclose any deficiencies identified in the systems since the start of the pandemic; to document past filter replacements; to provide a schedule for upcoming replacements; to submit its environmental assessments of school buildings to its own specialist for a review and to disclose the results of surveillance testing in the schools.

“We are entering a crisis stage in this pandemic and are opposed to the Pittsfield School Committee’s reckless decision to return to in-person learning. However, if local politicians insist on unilaterally moving forward, at the very minimum, they have a responsibility to be transparent with the community,” the statement said.

After negotiations with the district and UEP failed to reach an agreement on the positivity rate and infection thresholds for reopening, the School Committee voted Wednesday to abandon the threshold and directed the interim superintendent to see to it that a phased transition of students back to hybrid learning begins Monday. School Committee members have expressed confidence in reopening schools under the district’s health and safety protocols for hybrid learning, when about half of participating students go to classrooms in the morning and half in the afternoon.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.

Amanda Burke covers Pittsfield City Hall for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.