Janet McGowan : We need schools big enough for the next 50 years

We Need Schools Big Enough For The Next 50 Years.
Janet McGowan
Another “NO” letter the Amherst Bulletin did not publish. 

While the cost of renovating both Wildwood and Fort River schools is similar to the cost of the new project with ‘co-located’ schools, right now both Wildwood and Fort River have more gyms, playgrounds and fields for kids to run and play in, and space for preschool classrooms. And room for more students.

It is doubtful enrollments will decline over the next 50 years, the building life span required by MSBA. New housing is being built in Amherst and the University is adding more students. Renovated Wildwood and Fort River schools will have room if enrollments increase in the next 50 years. But the new $67 million school will need an addition.

Renovating Wildwood was estimated at $34.7 million, roughly half the cost of the proposed $67 new co-located elementary school. (Construction cost consultants A.M. Fogarty & Assoc. Jan. 6, 2014). If Amherst reapplied and got 50% MSBA reimbursement, Amherst taxpayers would pay $17.4 million for a lovely K-6, renovated Wildwood–with its own gym, cafeteria, library/media area, large playground and fields. The Middle School and Fort River could be used as swing space, similar to what was done in the past. Fort River could go next. Total ballpark for taxpayers: around $35 million for 164,000 sq. ft. of renovated space–with room for increased enrollments.

Or, for about the same money, Amherst taxpayers can pay for a building that cannot handle many more students. At 122,714 sq. ft., it is 25% smaller than Wildwood and Fort River combined. Its 750 students, in separate wings, will share one gym, one cafeteria, one library and two small playgrounds with little on-site field space. If enrollments increase, the new $67 million school will need an addition. How much more will that cost?

It’s worth waiting to do the right school project that will last.

Janet McGowan


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