Look Ahead: Final preparations to start school underway

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PITTSFIELD — The school year begins next week, bringing with it new plans for distance learning and the specter of one day phasing students back into classrooms.

The School Committee will break into another executive session at its meeting Wednesday to discuss ongoing negotiations between the Pittsfield Public Schools' administration and employee unions, as they seek agreement on the terms and timeline for reopening school buildings.

At least 69 alumni are challenging the committee's decision to change the Taconic High School Braves mascot, signing onto a petition demanding members postpone bidding the Braves goodbye. Submitted for discussion at the 5 p.m. mid-week meeting, the petition asks the committee to hold off on changing the mascot until there is resolution on a bill that would ban public schools in Massachusetts from using Native American mascots, or until signatories have a "fair opportunity to weigh in."

The committee will receive a rundown of the equipment and technology the district has so far purchased to make school work during a pandemic — including 30 air purifiers, laptops, WiFi hot spots, 180 no-touch thermometers and several hundred thousand face masks that will be available to students as needed. The School Committee last month approved a compulsory mask policy for anyone on school grounds.

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The Elizabeth Freeman Center has adapted its major annual fundraiser, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, to the era of COVID-19, this year fundraising entirely online.

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Participants can walk solo routes the agency mapped out in North Adams, Adams, Pittsfield, Lee or Great Barrington and posted online, or one one of a series of socially distant "mini-walks" in each of those communities from Sept. 8 to Sept. 18. Registration and fundraising details can be found at https://www.elizabethfreemancenter.org/.

On Tuesday, the City Council will be asked to approve tax exemptions for three market housing projects, upon the recommendation of the Community and Economic Development Committee. With the council's blessing, Mill Town Capital would receive a 10-year tax incentive totaling $151,259 on a $6.3 million project to redevelop five parcels at 730-745 Tyler St. into a new 16-unit building and a separate four-unit building.

The investment firm, pending council approval, would receive a second 10-year incentive totaling $84,189 on a $3.6 million overhaul of the existing structure at 765 Tyler St. to offer 16 housing and two retail units. Per a final agreement set to go before the council, AM Management Inc. would save approximately $90,180 on property taxes over the next decade at 235 East St., where it proposed investing almost $2.6 million to create 27 housing units.

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With an OK from the council, five more projects will receive Community Preservation Act funding totaling $223,000. At the top of the list is the Berkshire Family YMCA, which was is due to receive $110,000 for exterior restorations and new windows.

Councilors are also due to accept an $8,500 grant from the state Department of Public Health to assist with the city's pandemic response.

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


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