Axelson-Berry: Young families will not want large schools

Urges vote against Amherst school project
Kitty Axelson-Berry
Daily Hampshire Gazette, Mon. Oct. 24, 2016

Amherst’s neighborhood schools don’t need to be destroyed to bring our town into the 21st century. Rather, let’s align our thinking with modern educational theories that favor sustainable local institutions.

Amherst’s educational planners could be “local heroes,” but not if their best proposal is to replace treasured neighborhood schools with a consolidated mega-school. That’s backwards. Does anyone really think young families prefer large, distant institutions over small neighborhood schools?

I’m a strong believer in public education, but if I had young children I’d send them to a private, charter, or choice school rather than a distant mega-school. My 7-year-old grandson goes to a consolidated school of about 450. With insufficient bus supervisors, his parents drive him both ways. I provide the service weekly, and cars are so backed-up that it takes 1/2 hour of inching and idling to pick up little “Number 19.”

Four blocks from his home is the razed site of a beloved old neighborhood school, demolished for the sake of pseudo-efficiency. Sadly, the hoped-for efficiencies haven’t come to pass and the consolidated administrators are overwhelmed and stressed out. The kids don’t even know who lives in their neighborhood.

It’s a disaster, a theory gone wrong, and it would be a disaster for Amherst. Amherst was once respected for our high-quality local schools. People bought here with children in mind.

Based on the upset among young families faced with the megaschool proposal, I am certain that significant numbers will flee, buy elsewhere, choice-out, or choose private schools if the proposed mega-school is approved and built.

For these and other reasons, I will vote “No” on Question 5 on Nov. 8., and urge other Amherst residents to join me in rejecting school consolidation.

Kitty Axelson-Berry

Amherst

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