PITTSFIELD — The School Committee for Pittsfield Public Schools will decide during its meeting Monday night whether accelerated-learning courses in the district’s middle schools will resume this year or remain “paused.”
Last year, the district decided to pause the honors English language arts and math classes for seventh grade, and the English language arts classes for eighth grade, because of “insufficient data and missed instruction due to covid closure” according to a report from the district’s curriculum subcommittee.
At Monday night’s School Committee meeting, the subcommittee will present a recommendation that those courses remain paused at Herberg and John T. Reid middle schools for this school year, in order to allow time to discuss with teachers and parents how to fill equity gaps identified in the programs.
The subcommittee will present a recommendation that the only accelerated-learning class offered this year for middle schoolers be an eighth grade Algebra I class, that entrance criteria for the accelerated courses be revised, and that additional community members be included in consulting on the former honors program.
During the curriculum meeting late last month, the subcommittee presented data that showed that, last year, white students made up about 80 percent of honors students, even though they accounted for about 64 percent of all middle school students.
Black students represented about 15 percent and Latinx students represented about 5 percent of students in the honors programs, despite accounting for about 22 and 13 percent, respectively, of the middle school population.
“Those students that come from the most privileged identities are overrepresented in our honors classes,” Equity of Learning District Data Coordinator Ryan Buggy said during that meeting.
“Which is indicative of a couple of issues,” Buggy said. “One of them might be the criteria that we were using to find and identify students for our honors classes and our ability to prepare all of our students equally to exceed in that accelerated math course.”
Herberg Middle School Vice Principal Amy Shaw told School Committee members during the subcommittee meeting that “We came to the conclusion that, while effective for some students, the PPS middle school honors program requires reorganization in the areas of equity, eligibility, instruction, curriculum and whole-school impact.”
In city news, Mayor Linda Tyer will ask the City Council to accept a series of grants for Pittsfield’s fire and police departments, during its Tuesday night meeting.
The Fire Department has been awarded $2,900 from the state Department of Public Health for a grant intended to cover the costs of naloxone, the medicine used to reverse opioid overdoses. The money also can be used to cover training for Fire Department staff on how to respond to overdose-related calls, as well as for other medical equipment needed to treat an overdose.
The Police Department has received almost $234,000 from the state’s 911 Department to cover the cost for enhanced 911 telecommunicator personnel, and $7,816 from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security for additional equipment for the department’s Regional Special Response Team.
A grant application submitted by Chief Michael Wynn shows that the money for the team will be used to purchase gas mask filters, breaching rams, bang poles and other equipment typically used in SWAT scenarios.
On Saturday, Osceola Park will be the site for an all-ages car show and picnic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The free community event will include a “Best of Show” car contest, a raffle and reunion for Osceola Park “alumni” — former neighbors of the park. The rain date is Sept. 19, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
More information can be found at the event’s Facebook page: tinyurl.com/hvscte2u.