The proposed plan calls for a fleet of 23 buses to transport more than 1000 elementary school students from their neighborhoods to one school, through downtown, and then to the other school. This is 4 more buses than what we currently use at an additional cost of $220,00 every year and an untold environmental cost in diesel fumes and carbon emissions. Every student will go to a school that is distant from their home for multiple years during their elementary school career.
Kindergarteners and 1st graders in northern Amherst will ride in a bus for almost 30 minutes just to get to Wildwood and then wait for buses to line up and disembark the 2nd-6th graders, continue on through downtown to Crocker Farm where buses will line up again and finally drop them off for school.
Kids in southern Amherst would do the same thing in the opposite direction but for 5 of their 7 elementary school years. Kids in the east will take a route that brings them either north then south or vice versa. No matter how you look at it, little kids will be logging a lot more miles and spending a lot more time on buses rather than with their families or out playing.
Throwing buses at the problem seems to be a theme for this plan. In a feeble attempt to duplicate the peer mentoring that is integral to a K-6 school but will be lost through their plan, the administration has suggested bringing together kids from the new 2-6 school and the converted Crocker Farm. So, their solution to a problem that they create is to use even more busing. Maybe they should just staff the buses with adults who can facilitate younger and older kids reading together during their long bus rides.
Travel time and distance are just part of this problem. Only about half the student body will arrive or depart each school at a time, leaving the rest of the kids to wait around while their bus-mates travel between schools. They’ll need staff around during these times so there goes more of the projected annual savings.
In order to get all 23 buses to queue at one time for dismissal, they will have to double park them so kids would have to walk in between buses during what will likely be a chaotic time. See the image below from the Schematic Design.
They have conceded that they needed more parking – so now they are above the minimum zoning requirements and lost another potential LEEDs certification point. They also 1) added a roundabout on site to divert traffic away from kids playing in the middle of the bus loop, 2) added an extra lane for traffic to exit, and 3) acknowledged that the intersection of Strong and Pleasant will have to be redesigned and rebuilt because it will be unable to handle the increased traffic expected with the larger school. There has been no word yet on on how much that’s going to cost but it will NOT be covered by the $67 million – that’s just for the new building.
There is a strong chance that those families who can drive their kids to avoid this mess will do so. That’s more cars, producing more emissions, and creating more traffic. This change in traffic patterns was not taken into account by the traffic study done for this project. These same families who would likely do parent drop-off/pick-up may very well join so many others and pull their kids from public education to send them to one of the small, K-6 schools available in the area. So, not only will families with fewer resources be stuck in a school system that is worse for their education, their kids will also be the ones stuck on long bus rides while their parents struggle to get to not one but two schools located at opposite sides of downtown.
This plan has significant ramifications based on class that the administration has either not considered or has chosen not to acknowledge.
For more information about
or asphalt vs green space, see https://saveamherstssmallschools.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/it-might-not-be-paradise-but-it-doesnt-have-to-become-a-parking-lot/.