Meeting

At Monday's School Committee meeting, Hoosac Valley Regional School District Superintendent Aaron Dean shares updates about the upcoming budget process and the impact of COVID-19 on staffing.

ADAMS — Hit with a rise in COVID-19 cases as it returned from winter break, the Hoosac Valley Regional School District struggled with staffing but avoided an emergency closure last week.

The district warned Jan. 2 that virus-related staff absences made an emergency closure possible, and there were points during the past week when the district was “getting close to that threshold,” Superintendent Aaron Dean said at a School Committee meeting Monday.

“This week, knock on some wood, we are in a little better shape in some of those places,” Dean said.

The district dealt with more than 20 cases as it returned from break last week, Dean said, adding, “Our nursing staff is definitely taxed.”

The school is doing everything it can to stay open, officials said.

“If we have to close the school, it’s most likely because we can’t get enough teachers or adults to keep the schools safe and be in every classroom,” School Committee Chairman Michael Mucci said.

In addition to adhering to masking and distancing guidelines, the district is sharing information about vaccination opportunities with families. About 40 percent of students across the district are vaccinated fully, and more than 90 percent of staff are vaccinated, Dean said.

The state gives middle and high schools the option to allow vaccinated people to go mask-less if at least 80 percent of students and staff are vaccinated.

Just over 40 percent of Hoosac Valley Middle School students were vaccinated fully and 55 percent of Hoosac Valley High School students were vaccinated fully as of Dec. 21, the district said.

Budget process scheduled for March

Anticipating that Gov. Charlie Baker will release his budget recommendation around Jan. 19, the district is discussing its needs and priorities for the upcoming year.

While federal COVID-19 relief money has helped districts during the past two years, the districts do not expect that money to continue. So, Hoosac Valley has begun to have “a lot of hard discussions,” Dean said, naming special education as “an area we’re taking a real hard look at.”

Early intervention is a priority to prevent students from being misidentified for special education. About 26 percent of district students are eligible for special education, Dean said.

“A lot of students get, I would say, falsely identified for special education, and you get bloated numbers,” he said.

After Baker proposes his funding numbers for public schools — the Legislature still can change the allocations — the district will draft up its budget.

Residents will get a chance to offer comments and questions at a March 7 budget hearing, and a final vote will come March 28. Both events will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Cheshire Elementary School, 191 Church St.

Parent forum at Cheshire Community/Senior Center

In December, the district had its first parents forum, an opportunity for them to ask questions and learn about the district’s work.

The next forum will be at 6 p.m. Feb. 3, in the Cheshire Community/Senior Center.

Brodie Lanoue wins superintendent’s award

Dean on Monday named Brodie Lanoue, a Hoosac Valley senior, as the district’s recipient of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Award of Academic Excellence.

Danny Jin, a Report for America corps member, is The Eagle’s Statehouse news reporter. He can be reached at djin@berkshireeagle.com, @djinreports on Twitter and 413-496-6221.