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Central Berkshire Opts for Universal Masking This Fall
12:02PM / Friday, August 20, 2021
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DALTON, Mass. — The Central Berkshire Regional School Committee on Thursday night was the latest to opt for universal face coverings for students, staff and visitors this fall. 
Berkshire Hills, Mount Greylock, North Adams and Pittsfield have previously endorsed universal masking. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on July 30 issued guidance that "strongly" encouraged masking by unvaccinated individuals but not for those vaccinated. Since then, the state has seen a sharp increase in positive cases even among the vaccinated community. The governor has preferred to allow school districts to make their own decisions regarding face coverings. 
In a communication to the school community on Friday morning, Superintendent Leslie Blake-Davis said her recommendation for this action was based on prior discussions with the district's Safety and Wellness Subcommittee and with community members who "provide medical health and wellness expertise to ensure that our decisions are for the betterment of the whole."
"Without their dedication and commitment to Central Berkshire students, we would not be able to do what we set out to do — which is to prioritize and maintain healthy learning settings," Blake-Davis wrote. "Please know that as a collective group, we have utilized state guidance as well as information from the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control], (as well as protocols and procedures from neighboring districts) to assist us in our decision-making process."
The district has made "significant investments" in heating and air conditioning systems, she said, as was sanitation and personal protective equipment such as KN95 masks, wipes, filters and air purification systems. 
"As such, we are in a much better place to begin the 2021-2022 school year, even given the challenges of COVID-19," the superintendent wrote. 
Staff and parents will be getting access soon to the new Health and Safety Plan. Masks will be required indoors for everyone and on buses, as required by state and federal regulations, except when eating. The district have use of the BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test to assess symptomatic students as well as students that has been identified as close contacts; social distancing as much as possible and defined "lunch pods"; and state guidance on activities such as music. All sports guidelines will be processed through the Dalton health agent in collaboration with Athletic Director Jared Shannon and our high school Principal Aaron Robb.
"We are extremely excited to welcome our students back to school this fall! Despite the many challenges this pandemic has put in front of us, it has not diminished the energy and commitment we have as a community toward educating our students; we will continue to go above and beyond toward providing meaningful learning opportunities that allow our students to reach their goals. Lastly, I feel fortunate for such a positive thinking resilient team of educators. In partnership with our families, and the ongoing community partnerships in all seven of our member towns, this makes us an exceptional learning community," Blake-Davis said. 
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