Vote against school project again
Sigurd Nilsen, Letter to the Editor, Amherst Bulletin, Jan. 19, 2017
Amherst residents agree that both the Wildwood and Fort River elementary schools are outdated, have numerous issues and need to be fully renovated or replaced. The question is how best to accomplish this agreed-upon goal.
As a Town Meeting member, I believe the current compromise proposal for a “mega-school” was wisely voted down by a majority of Town Meeting members who recognized this proposal is highly problematic as residents want to retain neighborhood schools and data on mega-schools suggests it would just create a different set of problems. For example, the footprint of the proposed mega-school on the Wildwood site would not leave enough space for playing fields.
Trends in education come and go, as evidenced by a recent Canadian movement to bring back “open concept classrooms as a model of 21st century learning for the digital workplace” (educhatter.wordpress.com). So the open-classroom design of the two Amherst elementary schools in question should not be the basis for dismissing potential renovation to retain them as neighborhood schools. If renovating the two buildings is too costly, then rebuild at their current locations.
There is a solution that still allows seeking state grant funds. Interim school superintendent Michael Morris stated that according to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), if Amherst formally withdraws the current proposal before Feb. 2, in time for the Feb. 15 MSBA board meeting, the school district could then, by April 7, submit statements of interest for funding both Fort River and Wildwood schools.
As the vote comes before Town Meeting again Jan. 30, I urge members to again reject the mega-school proposal so steps can be taken to renovate or rebuild two sustainable neighborhood schools.
The writer is a Town Meeting member from Precinct 8.