Dear Ms. Appy, Mr. Hood, Ms. Hazzard, Ms. Douangmany Cage, Ms. Traphagen, Ms. Geryk and Mr. Morris,
January 14, 2016
This letter is a follow-on to one I wrote in early November, in which I argued strongly that we should find a way to protect Amherst’s three small K-6 neighborhood schools. I was gratified that the district slowed the decision timeline a bit and all of you and the MSBA opened up the possibility of building a new larger building with two K-6 wings.
Yet even with this two-month extension and broadened discussion, too many issues and considerations have still been left out of the center of discussions. Many of these relate to the profound advantages of the current system of three small K-6 neighborhood schools – and the many viable ways to retain them.
This letter highlights the most important points left out in the discussions or framed overly narrowly. It parallels an attached chart in which I expand upon the summary of “Implications of school options” that has been offered in district materials.
The information in both the letter and the chart is based on my experience of many schools in multiple cities and towns and countries, many conversations with children and parents, and a review of the literature.1
I believe that when we bring all considerations together, the case is overwhelming that Amherst should maintain three neighborhood K-6 schools, instead of two schools with smaller grade spans and much larger grade cohorts. The question of what to do with the building project is more complex, and depends upon details we have yet to see, but there are clearly multiple options. I will come back to this point in a third, follow-up letter – I hope to have that to you by early next week.
Not everyone everywhere loves their public schools the way parents of children in Amherst’s elementary schools do. As you proceed toward deciding about the future of the Town’s elementary schools, I ask you not to take this for granted – nor to assume it can be replicated in other configurations.
Parent of Ari Vogel, Wildwood Class of 2017
135 Harlow Drive, Amherst, MA 01002
(In Cambridge, MA for the 2015-16 academic year)
1 The full set of original literature that I tapped can be found in a running annotated bibliography I have posted on google drive: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1VulgrMQQK8DPDleEKlUTmBBjgm6MXxHAWUHoqmV7kFw.
See attached “KEY POINTS FORGOTTEN OR ADDRESSED TOO NARROWLY IN THE DELIBERATION OVER THE FUTURE OF AMHERST’S ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS” (10 page report in PDF).