Tyer in mask

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer plows through piles of work in her office on Feb. 23. Tyer said last week that she would "advocate for masks in school," as coronavirus case rates begin to rise ahead of the school year.

PITTSFIELD — With COVID-19 case counts rising in the Berkshires, the School Committee will discuss whether or not to mandate masks for the upcoming school year during their meeting on Wednesday.

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Students at Taconic High School in Pittsfield wore masks up until the final day, pictured. Will they have to again this school year? The city is weighing up what to do as COVID-19 case counts rise in the Berkshires.

Over the last two weeks, Pittsfield’s average coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents doubled from 6.7 to 13.2.

The district held off on making a call one way or the other about masks when the state’s Department of Education released updated guidance for schools on July 30.

The state “strongly recommended” that districts have all kindergarten through sixth grade students and all unvaccinated staff, visitors and students in seventh grade or above wear masks while indoors.

In Superintendent Joe Curtis’ letter to district families on Aug. 2, the district chief said that families would have an answer on the Pittsfield Public School District’s mask policy no later than August 23 — under two weeks from the start of classes.

Recess unmasked: Pittsfield schools relax outdoor rules to align with state

In an Aug. 2 interview with radio station WAMC, Mayor Linda Tyer, who is also on the School Committee, said that coronavirus cases weren’t at a point in the community where she would consider a citywide mask mandate. But as cases continued to increase Tyer revised her statement, telling Live 95.9 hosts Slater and Marjo last week that she would ”advocate for masks in school.”

Mountain bike course proposal

A mock-up by the American Ramp Co. for the Springside Park mountain bike skills course and pump track being proposed by the Berkshire Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association. The design was presented to the Pittsfield Parks Commission on July 20.

The proposal for a Springside Park mountain bike skills course and pump track returns to the Parks Commission at 7 p.m. on Tuesday without a ruling from the Conservation Commission over a potential wetland issue.

The plan has been ping-ponged back to the Parks Commission after the Conservation Commission decided during their Aug. 5 meeting to wait to issue their ruling until an exact location has been finalized and approved by the Parks Commission.

The Conservation Commission had been asked to rule over whether the skills course plan fell within a wetland or buffer zone and thus under the commission’s jurisdiction.

In recent weeks residents have voiced their concern that the proposed course site would not only negatively impact the Springside Park flora and fauna, but would also encroach on the park’s wetlands.

“It’s not in any areas that the Conservation Commission regulates,” Conservation Agent Rob Van Der Kar told the commission during their meeting. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Residents who attended the meeting raised the concern that the commission wasn’t dealing with the latest iteration or orientation of the skills course.

The Berkshire Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association has presented two iterations of their plan for a skills course. Both proposals were in the same general area of the park — near a baseball field north of John T. Reid Middle School.

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The latest site proposal for a mountain bike course at Springside Park in Pittsfield shifts the track farther south, placing it over an old baseball field. The Berkshire chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association has proposed versions of the track. This design was presented to the Parks Commission on July 20.

One proposal shifts the track to the north of the field and another shifts the track south and covers the field.

Conservation Commission chair James Conant said he didn’t want to have the commission rule on a location if it hadn’t already been approved by the Parks Commission. The Parks Commission held off on approving the proposal during their last meeting in July in order to hear how the Conservation Commission would decide on the wetland issue.

Commissioners settle on Springside Park for mountain bike skills course; new obstacle appears

The Conservation Commission is slated to discuss the issue again during their Aug. 26 meeting.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation will host an in-person informational meeting for a proposal to replace a bridge on Holmes Road.

The current design calls for $2.9 million in state funds to replace the bridge over the railroad in order to reduce impacts to an adjoining utility pole. Construction would being in the fall 2023.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Heads-upAs we noted last week, community forums begin this week over what to do with the almost $32.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds Pittsfield is set to receive this year and next.

We asked, you responded: What should Pittsfield do with American Rescue Plan Act funds?

The series of four forums are intended to open communication between residents and city leaders over how to allocate the funds to public health and human services, economic recovery, housing and neighborhoods and cultural organizations. The two scheduled this week are as follows:

Public Health and Human Services: 6 p.m. Aug. 16, cafeteria at Conte Community School, 200 West Union St.

Economic Recovery: 1 p.m. Aug.18, Berkshire Innovation Center, 45 Woodlawn Ave.

The city has also launched a public survey asking residents to rank funding priorities for public health services, business assistance, household assistance and infrastructure needs. The survey can be found in English here or Spanish here until 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6149.