Pittsfield Public Schools Release Statement On Return To In-Person/Hybrid Learning
The Pittsfield Public Schools continues to closely monitor the research, health metrics, and local community developments tied to coronavirus cases. In addition, the school district has also closely monitored the impact that long-term remote education has on students. We wish to share important information about our response, as well as ask for your partnership, as we continue to develop a path leading to the return to in-person education.
Since March 2020, our community has experienced multiple interruptions in how education is traditionally delivered to students.
While the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic that took place at the end of the 2019-2020 school year were challenging, the hope and expectation was that the phase we experienced last spring would be only temporary.
As the start of the 2020-2021 school year approached and the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continued to evolve, it became evident that the ability to resume traditional in-person education was still not a reasonable expectation.
The Pittsfield Public Schools, like many other districts in the region and country, experienced multiple challenges, interruptions, and re-designs of educational models in recent months.
Although we began the 2020-2021 school year in a 100% remote learning model, there was an expectation to transition to modified in-person education within a short period of time. In response, the Pittsfield Public Schools implemented hybrid learning models by mid-fall. This hybrid model included the engagement of CVTE students and staff, substantially separate special education students and staff, and traditional education students and staff in an in-person learning environment.
By mid-November 2020, following notification that multiple members of the greater-City of Pittsfield community had tested positive for COVID-19, and\or were awaiting results of COVID-19 tests, the Pittsfield Public Schools in consultation with the City of Pittsfield Board of Health, suspended all in-person learning at all schools within the district. In-person learning within the Pittsfield Public Schools was tentatively suspended until early December 2020 pending further monitoring of considerations associated with an anticipated return to hybrid learning\in-person learning.
By mid-December and as the holiday season approached, the COVID-19 health metrics continued to trend at unfavorable rates. Given the health metrics, the Pittsfield Public Schools in consultation with the City of Pittsfield Board of Health, announced another extension of the suspension of in-person learning. All students attending the Pittsfield Public Schools were expected to remain in all-remote learning until health metric data trends showed a decrease in local COVID-19 cases over a two week period that resulted in a percent positivity rate of 3% or less. This decision, guided by local health metrics and data and tied to our community’s percent positivity rate, was made with an abundance of caution for the health, safety, and well being of our students, staff, and community.
While remaining hopeful that local data trends would allow for a return to in-person education, the available data ultimately did not indicate that our community was in a position to return students and staff to in-person education in January 2021.
As we approach February 2021 and distance ourselves from the increase in COVID-19 cases related to recent public gatherings, holidays, and family events, our public health data is now displaying favorable trends. That data reflects a gradual decrease in the percentage of positive cases in our community.
While now trending favorably, the 3% positivity rate data point earmarked as the point in which students and staff would transition back to in-person learning, has yet to be attained.
The recent interruptions of in-person learning and the hesitancy to return too quickly to in-person learning models based on the physical health and well-being of our students, staff, and community no doubt also takes its toll on the social and emotional well-being of all stakeholders.
There are many valid fears in the COVID-19 era - none larger than ensuring that school districts act reasonably and responsibly in the best interests of their students, staff, and community.
As we get deeper into the 2020-2021 school year, the fear tied to the impact remote learning is having on the development of students is also at the forefront of considerations that we as a school district are responsible for. In addition to our student’s educational development, the development of life skills, as well as the nurturing of our student’s social, mental, and emotional health certainly fall under the responsibility of school districts.
These responsibilities, goals, and dynamics create a difficult balancing act. The Pittsfield Public Schools, as well as every school district in the country, are attempting to navigate this balancing act with significant feedback coming from stakeholders both for and in opposition of an immediate return to in-person education.
Pittsfield, like every school district and community in our country has distinct characteristics, available resources, internal nuances, and external dynamics that make the decision-making path tied to returning to in-person education unique. These distinct considerations do not lend themselves to a “one-size-fits-all” approach to returning to in-person education.
Taking into consideration Pittsfield’s distinct characteristics, the potential risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the potential damage associated with the educational, social, and emotional well-being of youngsters, the Pittsfield Public Schools anticipate a safe return to an in-person education model.
Last evening, the Pittsfield School Committee voted unanimously to begin the transition back to hybrid/in-person education immediately.
This transition includes a directive to implement a gradual process of students and staff returning to in-person/hybrid learning.
Under this directive, the following timeline for a return to in-person learning includes:
CVTE STUDENTS RETURN BEGINNING 2\1\21 (Career, Vocational, & Technical Education Students)
SUB SEPARATE EDUCATION STUDENTS RETURN BEGINNING 2\8\21 (Including Stearns School 1st & 2nd Grade Inclusion Model Students)
ALL OTHER STUDENTS RETURN BEGINNING WEEK OF 2\22\21 (Remaining Student Body) ____________________________________________________________________________
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