News Briefs: Mass. Senate passes genocide education bill; Shared Streets & Spaces funding

The Shared Streets & Spaces program will continue to make awards on a rolling basis for projects that can be implemented and used this summer and fall.

Mass. Senate passes genocide education bill

Boston — The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday passed “An Act concerning genocide education” to educate middle- and high-school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues.

“I cannot overstate the importance of this bill,” said Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield. “With the passage of this legislation, we take the critical step to ensure that all students in our Commonwealth receive an education on the Holocaust and begin to become leaders of the future ready to combat human rights violations.”

According to a 2018 article in the New York Times, 31% of Americans and 41% of millennials believe 2 million Jews or fewer were murdered in the Holocaust while 41% of Americans and 66% of millennials do not know what Auschwitz is. This bill would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to promote and educate middle- and high-school students on the history of genocide. Funds in this trust would be used to encourage the instruction of middle- and high-school students on the history of genocide and ensure the development of curricular materials as well as to provide professional development training to assist educators in the teaching of genocide.

“Students must learn history to ensure it is never repeated,” said Hinds. “By passing this legislation, Massachusetts is leading with the power of education to teach students about these horrific events so that when they are in positions of leadership they are better equipped to recognize injustice and stop it.”

The bill requires each school district to annually file a description of its lesson plan and programs related to genocide education with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The bill also establishes a competitive grant program that schools and districts can apply to for additional programming support.

“An Act concerning genocide education” now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.

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MassDOT announces $1.3 million in Shared Streets & Spaces program funding awards

Boston — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has announced the award of more than $1.3 million for the fourth round of funding in the Baker-Polito administration’s Shared Streets & Spaces program. The program, which was launched on June 10, provides technical and funding assistance to help Massachusetts cities and towns conceive, design, and implement tactical changes to curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce. This new round will provide $1.3 million to projects in 17 municipalities, of which 64% are Environmental Justice communities.

The Berkshire-area communities receiving Shared Streets & Spaces Program funding in the fourth round are listed below.

  • Adams received $22,500 to fund the installation of tables, chairs, umbrellas, dividers and hand-sanitizer stations at two central locations: Armory Court, recently renovated as an open plaza; and near the Adams Visitors Center, which is located adjacent to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail. All tables will be open for use by anyone, and the town will provide historic and tourist information.
  • Dalton received $70,441 to install solar-powered flashing safety beacons and new crosswalk markings on Main Street to improve pedestrian safety at the two pedestrian crossings at River Street and Depot Street, proximate to a school, senior housing, low-income housing, recreational fields and a bus stop.
  • Great Barrington received $69,955 to erect temporary barriers and signage to create a shared street on Railroad Street in downtown Great Barrington. The project will eliminate all on-street parking in favor of space for outdoor dining and entertainment in the street, which will, in turn, allow room on the sidewalks for retail racks and additional dining.
  • Lenox received $29,989 to convert on- and off-street parking into outdoor dining areas, which includes the pilot of traffic-calming measures such as speed humps and new signage.

The Shared Streets & Spaces program will continue to make awards on a rolling basis for projects that can be implemented and used this summer and fall. MassDOT has allocated a total of $5 million for this 100-day program. Applications are being accepted through Tuesday, Sept. 29, and projects must be mostly or completely implemented by Friday, Oct. 9. Preference will be given to projects that can be operational within 15-30 days of the award, projects in designated Environmental Justice areas and projects that show potential to be made permanent.