Mayfield: Vote NO to take your keys and leave

Submitted to the Amherst Bulletin by Jake Mayfield.

When my car’s alternator failed, the closest mechanic replaced the alternator, then presented a list of things I needed to have immediately repaired costing an additional $1200 and including services such as steam-cleaning the undercarriage. When I said, “no thanks, just the alternator,” the mechanic told me he couldn’t let me drive away with a car in such disrepair. I demanded my keys and left.

I needed an alternator, just as Wildwood and Fort River need repairs and replacements for their open classrooms. But when a school consistently earning top ratings that my daughter gleefully attends is compared to a prison camp and I’m told that the only option is blindly turning over my checkbook, I suspect my undercarriage is about to be steam cleaned.

If question five fails, the worst-case scenario is that our children attend highly rated, K-6 neighborhood schools with siblings kept together. However, students and teachers deserve improved access for disabled students and better classroom environments. Fortunately, the much more likely outcome is that one of the three more popular, more educationally sound, and less expensive options already vetted by the MSBA would quickly receive MSBA funding.

In contrast, if question five passes, problems from a huge tax hike that will raise in-town rents to tripling fossil-fuel consumption plague even the best-case scenario. The new building worsens or fails to solve some of the largest issues; for example, consolidation relocates all K-1 students to Crocker Farm, actually moving the students most likely to suffer from lead poisoning in an older building with legacy plumbing. Most likely, once the new building smell wears off, educational research strongly predicts worsening performance, especially for economically disadvantaged children.

The negotiation free, no-compromise process that brought reconfiguration to the ballot forces Amherst to choose a new building sooner or better schools in the long term. A central administration with a years-long consolidation agenda, first for middle/high school, now for elementary schools, is telling us that anything less than total consolidation with reconfiguration is irresponsible. We are not given the option to fix what’s broken and leave the working parts alone. Vote NO on question five to take your keys and leave.

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