Templeton: Considering Other Schools Due to Reconfiguration

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From: Ariel Templeton
Date: Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 9:02 AM
Subject: Wildwood project
To: Mike Morris, schoolcommittee@arps.org
Cc: REDACTED

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the “Wildwood Building Project.” I am a parent and a public school teacher, and my children are 2 and 4. I had been planning on sending them to the Amherst Schools as we live in South Amherst, but after hearing of the proposed plan to reconfigure the schools I feel that I might need to consider other options, as are many other families that I’ve spoken to.

As a parent I am concerned about the school size, the added transition of changing schools between grades 1 and 2, the lack of community in such a large school setting, potentially longer bus rides, and much more. As a teacher I worry about what I have seen from neighboring districts that use this model and talking to teachers who work within these districts. Specialists are spread thin between schools, and teachers have to deal with the many issues that come with a larger school, such as larger class sizes and more students on a grade. I have worked both in small schools and large schools, and there’s a very noticeable difference. There’s no way to recreate that small school feeling in a larger setting. In a small school teachers know all the students, not only their own. Students also know most of all the other student, if not all the other students. This builds a strong sense of community which is vital to a successful school.

From what I have read this decision to restructure the district seems to stem from financial reasons and is not based on research. The research shows that larger schools, and changing schools midway through the elementary years, is not what’s best for students. In this model students get used to being in one school, only to have to change to a very large school, at a very young age. For many children these transitions are very difficult.

I feel particularly frustrated as part of the incentive to stay in Amherst to raise our kids was the school system. Our tax dollars (which are much more than surrounding towns) were going towards their education, I saw it as investment. I also feel that many families in Amherst don’t even know this is potentially happening, especially as the project is labeled the “Wildwood Building Project” which makes it sound as if it’s only something that would only effect Wildwood School families, which is what I thought at first glance. Many families are only finding out about this now, if at all, and a vote is just weeks away. From my understanding we don’t even get a say in it as residents, which is also concerning.

I would rather have my children go to a smaller school in an outdated building such as Fort River than go to a massive school and have to switch schools an extra time between grades 1 and 2, and I know several other families who feel the same.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Ariel Templeton