Dear Students, Parents and Families, and Staff Members,

We hope that everyone in our school community is doing well this summer and continuing to follow public health guidelines to keep yourselves and your families safe and healthy. We are writing to share preliminary information with you about reopening the North Adams Public Schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Now, more than ever it is critically important that we all work in close collaboration to support the education of young people in our community while continuing to meet our shared responsibility to protect ourselves, our students and educators, and our community from the risks associated with COVID-19.

The decision to close our schools in March and move to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was not an easy one, and it presented us all with new challenges. Looking forward we all have concerns and uncertainty about how we will approach the new school year, and that’s why we’re asking for your help, starting with a brief survey to help us in our planning efforts.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has set the following goal for the fall: “the safe return of as many students as possible to in-person school settings, to maximize learning and address our students’ holistic needs.” The initial guidance from DESE also acknowledges that as public health data changes over the course of the school year we may have to make adjustments along a “continuum of fall reopening models.” This means that we need to plan for in-person learning with new safety requirements, hybrid learning, and fully remote learning, and that we all should expect that we will need to follow each of these models at different times during this school. Locally, a committee of administrators, program coordinators, and teachers have been meeting to develop these plans and to focus on teaching and learning, special education, health services, and facilities and operations under all three education models.

With regard to in-person learning, if we look at what has been proposed and happened in other countries and states, we know that returning to school without following public health guidance will lead to sharp increases in infection rates. So, while we share the state goal of returning to in-person learning and teaching for the fall, as education leaders in North Adams we will insist on an uncompromising emphasis on safety. This means that our planning efforts will be guided by the following commitments to our students, educators, staff, families and caregivers:

  • to preserve the health and safety of all members of our school community;
  • to base all plans developed for the pandemic recovery of schools in the guidance and research from the medical and public health community; and
  • to collaborate with state and local public health professionals to ensure our decisions to reopen or close schools will reflect public health data for our community.

To meet these commitments, we need to know how many students we will have in each classroom, to look at how we are setting up schools and classrooms to maximize space for physical distancing, and to present this information to DESE by July 31.

That’s why we are asking you to complete an online survey to help us understand some of your preliminary plans and needs. Because we need to submit our plans to DESE by the end of the month we’re asking you to complete the survey by Friday, July 24, 2020, at 5:00 PM. If you need to complete a paper copy of the survey, please contact the assistant to the superintendent’s office at or 413-776-1458. The survey also will be translated and made available in other languages on the district website.

This survey is the first step in an ongoing communication process. If you have questions, concerns, or suggestions about returning to school, please email We will present more detailed information about fall reopening plans during community forums that will be held in early August. Your feedback between now and then will help to create the reopening plan we will submit to the state.

Thank you for your help in completing the survey, and please enjoy the remainder of the summer.


Barbara Malkas. Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools                                                                


Tom Bernard

Mayor and School Committee Chair


Michelle Darling

Co-President, North Adams Teachers’ Association


Lisa Tanner

Co-President, North Adams Teachers’ Association