|Pittsfield Closes Taconic, Reid Because of Staff Shortages|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
06:19PM / Wednesday, January 05, 2022
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Taconic High School and Reid Middle School will be closed on Thursday, Jan. 6, and Friday, Jan. 7, because the schools do not have enough staff to open. Both schools are anticipated to reopen on Monday but families will be notified by Sunday.
Superintendent Joseph Curtis had cautioned on Wednesday that school closures could happen because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
He sent out a video and written communication to Pittsfield Public School families announcing that the current, historically high case counts could eventually warrant the closure of one, many, or all schools.
There is no set metric for school closure but the cases have been rising daily.
"As you know, we provide a COVID-19 case count report, which currently shows 108 active students and staff cases, this is one of the highest number of cases that our school system has on record since the beginning of the pandemic," Curtis said on Wednesday.
"Like many of our surrounding districts, along with school districts across the nation, we have been short-staffed in some areas since the start of the 2021-2022 school year. In some schools, staff shortages are approaching a level that could interfere with our ability to safely supervise students."
The district's surge mirrors the one happening in Pittsfield, which currently has 591 estimated actively contagious cases and a case rate of 159.9 per 100,000 people.
On Wednesday, the state reported 292 new cases for the county, a record daily number since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
Curtis added that schools can also be closed if it is determined that they cannot operate safely because of staff shortages. Any schools closed will have to make up the days at the end of the year, similar to snow or weather days, and sporting events would be postponed.
"The most recent rise in COVID-19 cases after the December vacation could cause a school-specific or district circumstance that makes it necessary to close one school, multiple schools, or the entire district," He said.
"There is no threshold or number that drives a decision to close, rather an analysis of each school’s staffing levels and the ability to operate school safely. Principals are maintaining a staffing level spreadsheet throughout each day and night that I and other district leaders are watching closely. Principals that have staffing levels of concern communicate with me each night and early morning."
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is resisting calls for returning to remote learning. State officials say schools will be provided with the supplies and testing kits they need to stay open. However, rising case counts and staffing shortages for quarantines are putting pressure on schools. In North Adams, school officials on Tuesday said the system is "on the edge" of not being able to provide supervision to keep kids in class.
The Pittsfield Board of Health was expected to have a routine COVID-19 update from Director of Public Health Andy Cambi and discuss the city's masking directive but the meeting, to be held in person, was canceled. It would have been the first since the post-holiday surge.