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Many schools eye hybrid reopening plan | News, Sports, Jobs

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School districts across New York submitted their plans to return to school to the state Department of Education on Friday.

However, according to Dr. Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, districts did not have to have their full plans in detail to the state by July 31 — just different assurances that guidelines released on July 13 would be met and communicated to school communities.

“In the ensuing two weeks, the state was reasonably responsive to superintendents who said we could effectively give them a plan but it will be a fake plan, it will be a hollow plan because we’re probably going to modify it over the course of August as we get ready to do this,” he said. “They changed it from “upload document here” to “insert the webpage where your plans will be.” Now, they can just review straight to the webpage and get their materials as they are updated.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ultimately has the final call, however, but districts are to proceed as though their plan is approved.

“At some point, he’ll look at everything and say, ‘Thumbs up, thumbs down,’” Whitaker said. “They also told us to assume that our plan is approved unless you hear otherwise. Everybody who submits is approved and starting to roll.”

Dunkirk City School District Superintendent Michael Mansfield said Friday that the district will release their reopening plan in the coming days.

“We’re still putting the finishing touches on our official submission,” he said. “It will go to the state later tonight with the link on the website. We’ve had all of our committees and they have worked to get and do the assurances and have gotten us ready over the next two or three weeks for a detailed plan. It’s going to take us that long to have a solid plan in place.”

Like other districts across Chautauqua County, Dunkirk is looking toward a hybrid model, utilizing elements of both in-person and remote instruction.

“We don’t know how much in-person instruction we can offer yet,” Mansfield said. “We did a parent survey, had a very good response and had over a half of our families responding. Now we need to find as many of the other half as we can and find what their thoughts are to get an idea of what our students and parents are thinking in terms of in-person and if people are going to send their kids.”

The “assurances” do require a lot of attention to detail and the district is doing its due diligence in addressing them, he said.

“Some of them, when you start talking about your schedules, your instructional plans and the health and safety is so large,” he said. “Even though we have a lot of the work done, there’s still more to do. Those are the ones that are still more detailed. … We want all of that information before we put a finalized plan out. We want to provide for every family as best we can to make sure that we get the best educational opportunities for every student. That takes time.”

Pine Valley Central School is one of the schools planning to adopt a hybrid approach, according to its superintendent, Bryna Moritz Booth. Students will be in the classroom from Monday through Thursday. On Friday, the district will do a deep clean of the building.

“We had at least 12 stakeholder groups based around different topics and surveyed communities, staff and teachers,” she said. “We met with administrative group and met with the board of education.”

Of larger concern to her district is the fact that 31% of the student population is unable to get internet.

“It’s not a question of if they can afford it, it’s a question of if they have access,” she said. “There are parts of the district that there’s no access to Verizon or AT&T or Windstream.”

To address that during the remote learning that took place from March to June in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the district gave each student two jump drives.

“We already have a one-to-one device ratio,” Booth said. “Teachers loaded videos and assignments and lessons onto a folder and delivered them by bus so students could have assignments to work on. Then the students would turn in assignments that way.”

This year the district will provide three jump drives per student.

“It’s been quite a process,” she said. “Right now, we’re working on coming up with a better plan in case we have to close for this year. For our four days on, print-based materials will be available for students on that Friday off and then teachers will have office hours where they can call teachers. We just want to give students enough guidance and keep them safe.”

Booth was also grateful to the stakeholders that worked with the district to help them come up with this plan.

“They’ve had a student-first focus and so supportive and the board has been wonderful and brainstormed ideas and asked a lot of questions,” she said. “Everyone came together and rallied and been very supportive. We’re excited about this coming school year and to hopefully have students in-person again.”

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Jobless rate tumbles as Mass. employers add jobs in August – News – The Taunton Daily Gazette, Taunton, MA

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BOSTON — Massachusetts employers reported adding 51,600 jobs in August, while the statewide unemployment rate dropped nearly 5 percentage points, bucking a two-month trend of the Bay State bearing the highest jobless rate in the country.

New preliminary jobs data released Friday by federal and state officials showed month-over-month improvement through the late summer amid the economic chaos wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate dropped from a revised rate of 16.2 percent in July to 11.3 percent in August, officials said. That 4.9 percentage point change was the largest decrease in the country.

Despite the improvement, Massachusetts still lagged behind the national unemployment rate of 8.4 percent last month. After reporting the highest unemployment rate nationwide in both June and July, Massachusetts tied with New Mexico in August for the sixth-highest rate among all states and the District of Columbia.

Almost all of the 51,600 positions added in August came in the private sector, according to data from the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The largest gains occurred in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and trade, transportation and utilities, while only one of the industry groups tracked, financial activities, reported losses in August.

Monthly unemployment and jobs data are based on two separate surveys. The unemployment rate comes from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics survey of households, which also produces an estimate of total employment, total unemployment and the size of the labor force. Jobs gained and industry-specific figures come from a survey of employers known as the Current Employment Statistics program.

The labor force household survey estimated total employment in Massachusetts to be 3.14 million in August, with 65,500 more people employed than in July. According to that series, the state has added back about 290,000 jobs of the more than 870,000 jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the employer survey estimated Massachusetts had 3.29 million nonfarm employees in August, 51,600 more than last month. Under that data series, the Bay State has gained back 272,000 of about 690,000 jobs lost.

Officials used figures from both programs in Friday’s release. The state labor office cited 51,600 jobs gained based on the employer survey and also said that total August employment was 3.14 million based on the household survey.

Through July, the economic damage from the pandemic had been felt more acutely in cities and in communities of color. Eight of the 10 communities with the highest unemployment rates in July have majority nonwhite populations.

August job gains, which are critical to the tens of thousands of workers affected and to the state’s overall recovery, come as Beacon Hill tries to figure out how to address key budget uncertainties. Lawmakers may need to make tough decisions on whether to impose tax hikes or scale back state services amid the economic jolt.

Tax collections have fared better than projected at the beginning of the crisis, but Sen. Michael Rodrigues — his chamber’s top budget official — said this week that he expects revenues to drop $5 billion below last year. The state will likely need to dip “deeply” into its $3.5 billion emergency savings fund without additional federal aid, Rodrigues said.

Senate President Karen Spilka, meanwhile, said Friday that she is optimistic another federal relief package will come from Congress.

Another key question the Legislature will need to answer is whether to step in and relieve businesses from an impending hike in the taxes they pay toward unemployment insurance.

Due to the unprecedented surge in joblessness, the Baker administration projects that the unemployment insurance trust fund will end 2020 nearly $2.5 billion in the red, triggering an increase of almost 60 percent in the per-employee contribution employers pay.

Sen. Patricia Jehlen, who co-chairs the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, said last month that she believes the Legislature will seek a rate freeze but needs federal assistance to make such a move possible.

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Mary Theresa D’Elia | News, Sports, Jobs

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MUNISING, MI / WOBURN, MA – Mary Theresa D’Elia, age 92, of Munising and longtime Woburn, Massachusetts resident was called Home on Thursday morning, September 17, 2020. She was born the only child of Joseph and Theresa (Doherty) Corcoran on July 25, 1928 in Woburn. Mary graduated from Woburn High School and worked at home before she married Ralph Vincent D’Elia in 1955. Together they raised their six children in Woburn. Mary was a devout Irish Catholic who was active in the church and activities of St. Anthony Parish in Woburn. She was a wonderful baker and her chocolate chip cookies were legendary in the neighborhood. Mary and Ralph love square dancing together and spent their weekends with friends dancing with the Woburn Apple Squares. They loved to dance and during their retirement enjoyed week long activities and even cruises where they “do-si-doed” over the seas. They were great partners in life and on the dance floor. Ralph preceded Mary in death in October of 2009. Nine years ago, she moved to the Upper Peninsula and enjoyed her family time in Munising. Mary was a faithful member of Sacred Heart Church. Her Catholic faith was integral to her life and even when her memory faded, she was able to say her prayers.

Mary is survived by five children – Michael (Lee) D’Elia of Munising, Claire Lambert of Chelmsford, MA, and Paul (Sharon) D’Elia, John (Wendy) D’Elia and Ralph D’Elia all of Woburn, MA; eleven grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Ralph, and daughter Mary Ann D’Elia in February of 2020.

There will be services in Munising on Monday, September 21, 2020 at the Bowerman Funeral Home. Due to Michigan’s executive orders, masks will be required, and the funeral home staff will assist with the social distance and compliance during the visitation which will be from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Father Michael Ocran will lead a Parish Vigil Service at 4 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at St. Anthony Parish in Woburn and she will be buried at the Calvary Cemetery in Woburn, MA.

Mary’s obituary and online guestbook may be signed at bowermanfuneralhome.net



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Adult-use marijuana retailer opens in Houghton | News, Sports, Jobs

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HOUGHTON — The Copper Country’s first recreational marijuana retailer opened for business this week.

Northern Specialty Health in Houghton began recreational sales this week after receiving state approval earlier this month. It had previously only sold medical marijuana.

“It feels amazing to say ‘yes’ when people ask if we offer adult-use cannabis sales, aka recreational,” co-owner Penny Milkey said in an email interview. “We’ve been turning people away for months so everyone is really happy to serve customers 21+.”

The adult-use and medical sides of NSH keep different inventories, and many items are specific to the license type, Milkey said.

For now, recreational inventory is mostly limited to flower, prerolls, concentrates and Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), an extract cannabis oil. The business plans to add edibles next week, and vape cartridges in the near future, Milkey said.

Due to COVID-19, the lobby is closed, but NSH offers curbside pickup. Customers can order online; the menu indicates whether a product is adult-use or medical.

Milkey said NSH is trying to keep its phone line open for medical patients needing assistance.

The Houghton City Council voted to allow recreational marijuana sales within the city in May, and approved a special-use permit for NSH the next month. There is no limit on the number of retailers that can operate in the city, though they are restricted geographically to a corridor along Razorback Drive.

At least two other retailers are looking to follow in Northern Specialty Health’s footsteps, both of whom operate other shops in the Upper Peninsula. The council approved a special use permit for Lume Cannabis Co. in August. On Tuesday, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on a special use permit request by the Fire Station.

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