Article 38 : Full Text

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Text of Article 38

ARTICLE 38. General Petition – Feasibility Study for Repair of Wildwood and Fort River (Kopicki et al)

Description: To see if the Town of Amherst will raise and appropriate, transfer from available funds, and/or borrow a sum of money for the purpose of preparing a detailed assessment of the feasibility and estimated cost of renovating the Wildwood Elementary School and the Fort River Elementary School, with such funds to be expended under the direction of the Town Manager, or take any other action relative thereto.

The School Administration’s “Wildwood Building Project” proposes to close Fort River Elementary School, convert Crocker Farm Elementary School to a Pre-K-1 school, and build a large new elementary school to house all Amherst 2-6 graders.

Since becoming aware of the project in Fall 2015, numerous elementary school parents and Amherst residents have asked the School District to carefully examine other options to maintain the existing small, neighborhood K-6 school. A 2016 School Committee survey shows that educators, parents and guardians in the Town strongly prefer keeping the K-6 configuration of grades rather than building a large 750-student, grades 2-6 elementary school building at an estimated cost of $67.2 million (approximately half the cost of which would be subsidized by the Massachusetts School Building Authority).

Although the District and consultants hired to guide the MSBA process have examined options for renovating Wildwood Elementary School to rectify the various infrastructure problems, we believe these efforts have been cursory and insufficient. Moreover, renovation of Fort River Elementary School has not been separately evaluated for this process.

Amherst is strongly committed to utilizing existing resources, sustainable development, and the re-use of buildings – practices that result in a lower carbon footprint than new construction. Before Amherst undertakes an extremely expensive and unpopular new school construction project with significant environmental impact, we believe an independent exploration of renovation options should be pursued.

To that end, this petition respectfully requests that the Town Manager authorize an impartial assessment and estimation of costs associated with renovating Wildwood and Fort River Elementary Schools, with an eye toward fiscal and environmental responsibility and providing a level of detail that permits line item analysis for major issues cited by the District as problems at each school.