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Parents, teachers push for prompt transition to elected Boston school committee

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Parents, teachers push for prompt transition to elected Boston school committee

Boston Public School parents, teachers and graduates called on city councilors to shift the mayor-appointed school committee to an elected body in a public hearing Monday, demanding follow-through on the resounding 79% memorandum voters passed on the identical ballot question in November’s election.

“With this appointed school system, I feel that my voice goes unheard,” said BPS parent Suleika Soto, summarizing what many petitioners highlighted: a lack of both accountability and communication from the current structure of the committee.

“We, the students, families, and educators are not the constituents of the Boston School Committee,” said BPS teacher Neema Avashia. “We find ourselves begging to be heard.”

The Boston School Committee is responsible for managing Boston Pubic Schools’ annual operating budget, hiring and overseeing the superintendent, and regulating policies and practices within city schools. Members of the 13-person council had been elected by city residents from 1982 until 1989, when voters decided to transition the council to a mayor-appointed body.

Question 3 on November’s ballot to restore the group back to an elected body got overwhelming support from voters, with more than 99,000 votes cast in favor of the change.

“What we have to do now is listen to what people have said and how loud they’ve said it,” said John Nucci, who served four years as the president of the Boston School Committee during its most recent era as an elected body.

The City Council provided an early draft of what the transition back to an elected body could look like. The first step, in January 2022, would maintain eight appointed members and add one member elected through the BPS student population. By January 2024, the body would become a hybrid mix of seven appointed members, one student-elected member and three at-large elected members. Finally, by 2026, the entire 13-person committee would consist of elected members.

But the question of how those members are elected is one of many details councilors will try to hammer out through future hearings and meetings. One topic of debate is whether the majority of committee members should represent specific districts, or act as at-large officials, representing the city as a whole.

Newly elected city councilor and former BPS teacher Erin Murphy suggested at least nine of the members should represent specific districts, fearing “many voices would be left out” if they don’t have specific representation.

Pam Kocher, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau — a neutral party on the issue — cautioned that an elected governing body is not a guarantee for a representative body.

“Elections can reward the loudest voices and those with the most resources,” she said.

Councilors assured attendees this meeting will be the first of several on the issue before action.

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Amid rising customer complaints, The Denver Post wants to hear about your experience at Vail Resorts this season

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Vail opens Pete’s Express in Blue Sky Basin

Several months into the 2021-22 ski season, Vail Resorts is facing increasing customer complaints at several of its ski resorts across the country.

A change.org petition to “Hold Vail Resorts accountable” for alleged ski area mismanagement this season reached 40,000 signatures on Sunday, with some calling for Epic Pass holders not to renew.

The Denver Post wants to hear what your experience has been at Vail Resorts locations so far this season. Fill out the form below if you’re interested in sharing your story to be used in a future story.

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Blues fans find their car windshield smashed as they leave game Monday

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Blues fans find their car windshield smashed as they leave game Monday

JEFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt doubled-down on his efforts to bring Missouri school districts to court for continuing to enforce mask mandates.

“Last month, I informed a number of school districts that their decision to continue to enforce mask mandates is illegal and must be stopped immediately,” Schmitt said. “Some school districts dropped their mask mandates and quarantine orders, but others continue to defy the law, despite the fact that COVID-19 poses very little risk to children.”

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US faces wave of omicron deaths in coming weeks, models say

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US faces wave of omicron deaths in coming weeks, models say

By CARLA K. JOHNSON

The fast-moving omicron variant may cause less severe disease on average, but COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are climbing and modelers forecast 50,000 to 300,000 more Americans could die by the time the wave subsides in mid-March.

The seven-day rolling average for daily new COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has been trending upward since mid-November, reaching nearly 1,700 on Jan. 17 — still below the peak of 3,300 in January 2021. COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents started rising slightly two weeks ago, although still at a rate 10 times less than last year before most residents were vaccinated.

Despite signs omicron causes milder disease on average, the unprecedented level of infection spreading through the country, with cases still soaring in many states, means many vulnerable people will become severely sick. If the higher end of projections comes to pass, that would push total U.S. deaths from COVID-19 over 1 million by early spring.

“A lot of people are still going to die because of how transmissible omicron has been,” said University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi. “It unfortunately is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Morgues are starting to run out of space in Johnson County, Kansas, said Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the health department. More than 30 residents have died in the county this year, the vast majority of them unvaccinated.

But the notion that a generally less severe variant could still take the lives of thousands of people has been difficult for health experts to convey. The math of it — that a small percentage of a very high number of infections can yield a very high number of deaths — is difficult to visualize.

“Overall, you’re going to see more sick people even if you as an individual have a lower chance of being sick,” said Katriona Shea of Pennsylvania State University, who co-leads a team that pulls together several pandemic models and shares the combined projections with the White House.

The wave of deaths heading for the United States will crest in late January or early February, Shea said. In early February, weekly deaths could equal or exceed the delta peak, and possibly even surpass the previous U.S. peak in deaths last year.

Some unknown portion of these deaths are among people infected with the delta variant, but experts say omicron is also claiming lives.

“This is omicron driven,” Shea said of the coming wave of deaths. The combined models project 1.5 million Americans will be hospitalized and 191,000 will die from mid-December through mid-March. Taking into account the uncertainty in the models, U.S. deaths during the omicron wave could range from 58,000 to 305,000.

Yet, it’s become increasingly clear that the risk from omicron is lower than from previous variants. New evidence from nearly 70,000 patients in Southern California suggests omicron is causing milder illness than delta.

A study, posted online and cited during a recent White House briefing, found patients with omicron had a 53% lower risk of hospitalization with respiratory symptoms, a 74% lower risk of ICU admission, and a 91% lower risk of death. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, comes from researchers at Kaiser Permanente and University of California, Berkeley.

“It’s hard for me to say straight out it’s good news,” said study co-author Sara Y. Tartof, a Kaiser Permanente research scientist. “Maybe there’s good news in the sense that if you are infected your chance of becoming severely ill are decreased, but from a societal perspective it’s a very heavy burden for us. It remains a serious situation, and we need to maintain practices and behaviors we know protect us.”

Overburdened hospitals could also contribute to more deaths, said Marc Lipsitch of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and scientific director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s forecasting center.

“In places with extremely short staffing and overloads of patients, as the medical professionals have been telling us, the quality of care begins to suffer,” Lipsitch said. “That may also lead to higher death rates, but that’s not in any of the models that I’m aware of.”

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Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas, contributed.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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