Frequently Unanswered Questions

BUILDINGS

What will happen to Fort River?

We don’t know. The Town of Amherst owns the building, and may use it for a new DPW site. However, it is probably too large for DPW’s needs, and if it has (as alleged) “sick building syndrome”, then testing needs to be done and problems addressed.

 

 

What has to be done to Crocker Farm to turn it into a K-1?

We don’t know.  Apparently, bathroom changes, plus counters etc; furniture; and playground changes.

How much will the Crocker Farm renovations cost?

We don’t know.  In the winter, the project architects said it was “very expensive” to convert older kid classrooms to K / pre-K, because of code requirements for plumbing that would sometimes require significant movement of walls.  (That was in response to requests about the possibility of expanding pre-K at Fort River or Wildwood or the high school.)  However, when asked later in the spring about the apparently “very expensive” costs of this renovation at Crocker Farm (converting 2nd through 6th grade classrooms to pre-K / kindergarten), Assistant Superintendent Mike Morris said it would be “not much.”

Do we know how many people will leave the District because of school size, school configuration, transportation, or other issues?

We don’t know.  (Beginning in at least October, parents asked for a survey of community members and all parents in Amherst, but the School District has chosen not to do so. When asked directly, they said, parents come and go, nothing they can do about it.)

KIDS PLAYING (or not)

What will happen to Fort River’s playgrounds?

We don’t know. Maybe DPW will use them?  Maybe they will still be available to play?

Where will Wildwood’s older kids play while the construction is happening, on top of the big kid “metal” playground?

We don’t know.  Maybe on the asphalt parking lot?

In the proposed big school, how will kids with disabilities get down the steep hill to the proposed play space in the far back of the middle school lot?

We don’t know.  According to an accessibility expert, it will likely require a lengthy ramp, which could be well over a million dollars, and will need maintenance.

What will happen to Wildwood’s beautiful wooden structure that PGO parents fund-raised for?  It’s still in good shape, right?

We don’t know.  Probably demolition.

What will happen to Crocker Farm’s big-kid play space (zipline, etc.)?

We don’t know.  Probably demolition, or walling it off to keep the approximately 300 K-1st graders safely away from it.  They will need new K-1 play space for those kids.

Will there be any playground with both little kid and big kid playspace?

We don’t know, but it’s hard to see how.  There probably won’t be room at Wildwood for little kid playspace, since there’s already less playground space allocated for 750 kids than for the current 420 kids.  Crocker’s playground space will need to be renovated too, to provide adequate playspace for 300 K-1st graders (and an additional 60 – 100 preschoolers).

Sorry, families with kids of multiple ages!  (Maybe the DPW facility at Fort River will let kids play on the playstructures and DPW equipment there.)

HEALTH AND SAFETY

In the May 2016 architect’s presentation, there were balconies on the second floor of the elementary school. How will these be secured against children playing or running?

We don’t know, but they sure look pretty on architect drawings.  Probably the balconies will either be excised from the drawing, or locked and inaccessible (i.e., “just for show”).

In the May 2016 architect’s presentation, there were high ceilings with exposed ductwork, like at an airport. Janitorial staff at a similar new elementary school complained. How will these be cleaned to protect children with asthma and dust allergies?

We don’t know, but don’t they look pretty on architect drawings?

Isn’t Fort River a “sick building”?

We don’t know. There were numerous allegations of that in the fall, until one School Committee member suggested that it was opening the District to litigation. Since then, the “sick building” argument fell out of favor, until newly elected School Committee member Anastasia Ordonez resurrected it after her election.

Obviously, whenever there are allegations of sick building syndrome, there should be immediate testing and remediation. If there is a black mold problem, it should be addressed immediately, without waiting until kids move out of the building (scheduled in 2020).  Four years is too long to be in a building with mold, especially since unaddressed mold issues will only get worse.  (And the Town will have to remedy these problems eventually anyway.)

MONEY

How much will it cost the Town to convert the Fort River building into another space, or maintain it empty, or decommission it?

We don’t know.

Will the MSBA pay for the extra-large “maker space” and the kiln?

We don’t know, but probably not.

Why do the projected cost savings have one vice-principal salary?  Will the schools each have their own principal, but share a vice-principal?

We don’t know.  The administrative configuration is a mystery.  If we add back in a vice-principal, that’s one salary less that’s saved.

What happens to things we repair at the schools between now and the new building?

They will be demolished with Wildwood, and may or may not be demolished at Fort River.

LIBRARY

How will the library at the K-1 Crocker address the needs of advanced readers, since all the older kid books will be at the 2-6 Wildwood?

We don’t know. Buy more books?

How long will it take to merge the collections and what’s the process?

We don’t know, but it can take quite a while to merge collections and catalog records.

GYM

How will the gym be shared across 750 kids?

We don’t know. There will be a “curtain” between the spaces.  (People who have experienced these curtains in gyms say they are extremely noisy and do not give the sense of two gyms.)

KIDS

Where will the Wildwood kindergarteners and first graders go, when the new building is built and the old one is being torn down?

We don’t know.  Since kindergarteners need special code bathrooms, and we were told that the new building would be 2-6, it’s hard to imagine.  Maybe Crocker Farm, but it’s already over crowded.  Maybe Fort River, but, like Wildwood, it would also have to be renovated to accommodate more kindergarteners.   Maybe temporary classrooms?

If I have a kid entering 1st grade when the new Wildwood opens, where will she go?

We don’t know.  Maybe Wildwood for kindergarten, and Fort River for 1st, and Wildwood for 2nd through 6th?

Unless she starts out at Crocker Farm for preschool, in which case she would go to Crocker Farm for preschool, Wildwood for kindergarten, Fort River for first, and Wildwood for 2nd.

How many other schools in the K-1 and 2-6 configuration have grade cohorts of 140 to 150 students?  How will that many kids get to know each other?

We don’t know.

If kids are split into districts (“catchments”) for continuity and “small school feels”, then what happens when one of those “catchments” has a boom in growth relative to the other, or has a large influx of ELL or special ed kids?

We don’t know.

Well, doesn’t that mean that we would have to re-district?

Probably?

Well, wasn’t one of the points of the “all kids in one grade at a single school” proposal to make it easier to equalize class sizes and groups?

Yes.  (We can answer that question!  Because the District said that the Districting is hard and Maria Geryk said that having all kids in one grade is the only way to ensure equity.)

But doesn’t it defeat the point, then, if we have to re-district?

Umm.

Moving on ….

BUSES

Okay, imagine a family in the center of town with an older kid and a younger kid.  What will the commute be like?

We don’t know exactly, but the current proposal is to have 23 buses, making “both stops” (i.e., at Crocker Farm K-1 AND at the Wildwood 2-6).

Will kids zig-zag?

We don’t know, but the map from downtown certainly suggests that if one bus in a neighborhood picks up two kids for two stops … then, yes, it will have to go to one school first, and then zig-zag back through town to go to the other school.

How much more time will kids have to wait for buses at school while they’re waiting for the “second stop” buses to get to school?

We don’t know.

Well, how much more time will kids be on the bus while they wait for the bus to go to the second stop?

We don’t know.

How are they going to fit 23 buses at the K-1 Crocker Farm?

We don’t know.  Maybe they will stagger the buses?  Or expand the parking lot?

How are they going to fit 23 buses at the 2-5 Wildwood?

We don’t know.  Well, there is a lot of asphalt, but there’s still only room for one row of about a dozen buses. If they double-park the buses (so kids walk between buses to get to their own bus), then they can fit another 9 or so.  Maybe they will stagger: 1/2 of the kids will get on buses at Wildwood (and 1/2 will wait for more buses) and 1/2 will get on buses at Crocker Farm (and 1/2 will wait for more buses).  That’s a lot of waiting for buses!  Unless you’re the lucky kid who gets to ride on the bus during that time.

PARENTING

How am I supposed to pick up my little kid and my big kid at the same time?

We don’t know. Maybe one of them can wait around with the other kids waiting for their bus.  (15-20 minutes probably.)