Jeff Lee : Decentralized elementary schools are the norm

Jeff Lee, Letter to Amherst Bulletin, Wed. Dec. 7, 2016

Decentralized elementary schools are the norm

Rick Hood is a friend and few people have worked harder than he has to try to better the Amherst Public Schools. But I have to take issue with his Nov. 18 letter to the Bulletin condemning Town Meeting and accusing members who voted down the Wildwood centralized elementary school plan of “not doing their homework.”

Of the 36 Massachusetts cities and towns with a population between 25,000 and 40,000 (Amherst’s is about 37,000), all have at least three elementary school locations. Northampton has four. West Springfield has five.

Multiple, distributed primary schools are the norm, and most communities the size of Amherst value this configuration enough to maintain it. For all its merits, the Wildwood plan sought to get rid of a model that many people are comfortable with, while at the same time raising taxes.

Town Meeting should not be called irrational or irresponsible because two-thirds of its members could not be convinced to buy into school consolidation.

Democracy requires patience and delivers occasional stinging defeats, but that’s no reason to jettison the form of government. And developers of the school building plan that was voted down should not feel disheartened.

I believe that the interest they have stimulated in upgrading Amherst’s elementary schools is at an all-time high. Let’s build on what we’ve learned, craft a better-informed school modernization plan, keep our eyes on the prize, and get it done.

Jeff Lee
Amherst
The writer is an Amherst Town Meeting member from Precinct 7.

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