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Southern Berkshire Regional School District Responding to COVID Case

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Southern Berkshire Regional School District

Last week, the Southern Berkshire Regional School District sent out an alert that one of its community members had tested positive for COVID-19. The district represents the towns of Sheffield, New Marlborough, Egremont, Monterey, and Alford, Massachusetts. WAMC asked superintendent Beth Regulbuto about how the district is responding to the situation, and what preparations she’s taking before the holiday and the possibility of further community spread.

REGULBUTO: Luckily for us, we have had a wonderful experience. And I'm not sure what to attribute it to. I'm hoping it's our community compact that we made. We have our, you know, COVID agreement where everybody has been assigned an agreement from staff and our families saying that we will take care of each other by ensuring that we wear masks, and that we follow all the protocols given by the state. And we've had really great experience. The couple of instances that we've had in this district have been close contacts of people who are have been remote. So we're just doing the formality of notifying the state if someone who's remotely participating in our district has been identified, and you are required to notify the community of that. So that's really all my message has was.

WAMC: Now, how many folks in the broader school community to date have tested positive for COVID?
I've only been made aware of- Well, I don't know about the wider range. But for us, I've only had two notifications. And like I said, of people who've been totally remote.
Can you walk us through the current setup for the district? Is it a hybrid model, a full remote model? How are folks getting educated in the district right now?
So we've been in the hybrid model since September 28th successfully. So we have one cohort coming Monday, Tuesday. We have Wednesdays fully remote for everyone. And then the second cohort coming Thursday, Friday, of course. Our higher needs students are coming four days a week. So we've been having great success with that as much as you can say, their success. We'd prefer everybody in the building. We'd especially prefer our littles in the building more frequently. But right now, it's certainly better than the alternative.
Walk us through what happens when you get notification of someone in the school community testing positive.
So you have a hotline that you call into at the state. And they take very basic information, there's- We don't even get, often, names or anything. The public health nurse will call people who are identified as close contacts themselves. So we just get very basic information. I'm going to make- this isn't our case, but they'd say, student, grade 12 has tested positive and then you go from there. You determine what kind of notification you need. You- It would be the same thing is anytime I have to close school. I have to make a decision of whether or not I'm closing a room, a wing, a building, you know, or the district. So you know, and then you evaluate all the circumstances. We go right down the line from the CDC, there's very specific guidelines from DESE. And we make our decisions from there. And then we put out all of our notifications and walk through the normal process. So it's pretty straightforward, believe it or not. There was just a lot of initial reading to make sure you're you're doing the right step at the right time.
Now with what level of distress are you looking at the coming winter holiday? We saw a big spike after Thanksgiving and a big spike after Halloween before that. What are your thoughts right now looking at the end of the year?
We've been, like I said, shockingly successful with people maintaining their social distancing. You know, there was a lot of districts around us who had to do some closures. We haven't, knock on wood, had to do any of them. We decided as a team. I met with the teachers and we've decided that we're going to continue to, we're not going to close or, you know, wait till mid-January to come back. We're going to try to do the same thing that we did. And people understand that if for some reason they need to travel, or they need to see family, or whatever it is they need to do, that they're responsible for quarantining when they return and honoring the compact that we made to everybody. You know, kids need activities. We have some after-school things, we're going to try to run at least basketball, and so I think people really want those activities for their kids. So they're going to honor staying at home and and being responsible through the holidays so that we can get right back to it in January.
What would it take for the southern Berkshire regional school district to go fully remote at this point?
It would take a widespread either, you know, staff or students for us to close down. We'd be safe- We're not we're not rebels here, where we're, if there's a need to close we will absolutely close and take the appropriate precautions, do the appropriate cleaning quarantine and go fully remote. So, we're fully prepared to do that. But like I said, luckily we haven't had to do that yet.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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