Fate of Pittsfield schools' summer programs uncertain

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PITTSFIELD — Commencement isn't the only question mark looming for school administrators as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic stretch deeper into the spring months.

Pittsfield schools superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said the district is considering how to utilize the summer months to make up for any lost learning and prepare students for the next school year.

A lot of the district's summer programs take place at nondistrict sites, like Berkshire Community College and Camp Russell in Richmond.

"Right now, it's doubtful we're going to be able to replicate those summer experiences. For all of us, it's going to be a radically different summer than we're used to in the Berkshires," McCandless said. "Our students and our teachers are likely looking at a drastically different summer educationally, as well."

On average, he said, about 10 percent of the district's students enroll in some sort of summer program, be it for remediation or enrichment. Right now, it's unknown whether the commonwealth will be safe enough this summer to reopen camps and other venues and programs to the public.

Some camps, like the popular Camp Holy Cross in Goshen, have taken the initiative to call off their own 2020 camping season, out of precaution.

Even if some venues do open up, McCandless said he's unsure how the district could fund a summer program to accommodate all students. The superintendent, like many other school leaders, has been directly emailing, texting and calling students and families who have additional questions about what's next.

"I try to do a lot of myth busting around that," he said.

To the question of whether students will have to repeat a whole grade because of changes caused by the pandemic, McCandless said, "absolutely not." But, he said, students who don't complete their coursework this spring might have to make it up before being promoted to the next grade

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