Survey : A Selection of Parent Comments

Selection of STAFF comments (PDF, HTML) and PARENT comments (PDF, HTML)

ARTICLE 38 Save Amherst’s Small Schools

Parent Comments Opposing Grade Reconfiguration and/or a Mega-School

Given the option (as part of the January 2016 parent/staff survey) to offer more complete comments, 224 parents provided the School Committee with 49 pages of responses. Overwhelmingly, these responses express frustration, concern, doubt, and a great deal of outright opposition to the District’s reconfiguration and consolidation plan. The following are just short experts from a few such parent responses. (Fifty-two staff members provided another 10 pages of responses.) We strongly encourage people to read the full set of parent AND staff responses, which can be accessed here: 2016/

“Please keep our 3 elementary schools. Fort River is a wonderful school with a wonderful community. We would prefer you fix any building issues here, but the main thing is to keep it!” (Comment # 3)

“As both and educator and a parent, small schools are best. We picked our current home because we wanted our kids to attend Marks Meadow, and will likely leave the district if one huge school is built. In this survey there was no option to pick renovation, with Wildwood receiving some state funds and town funds, and Fort River receiving town funds exclusively.” (Comment #4)

“Our kindergarten-age daughter’s favorite time of the week – the time she looks forward to more than any other time of the week – is Book Buddy time, when the 3rd graders come to her classroom to read with her.” (Comment #7)

“…I have been quite concerned with the way everything has been handled regarding the reconfiguration. As a preschool parent I have received no information, except for what I have pursued myself. I have concerns as both a parent and a teacher, especially regarding (the large, grade-reconfigured school), as it creates a big transition for children at a time where developmentally it won’t serve them well.” (Comment #9)

“Do you really want kindergarten kids on buses for 45 minutes or more going from N. Amherst to Crocker Farm? It is additional “seat time” for kids who need more time for learning through play NOT more time sitting down.” (Comment #12)

“I received this survey very last minute. I am disappointed with the process, the way the public discussion has been organized.” (Comment # 14)

“We strongly disagree with anything that is NOT a k-6 or PreK-6 school” (Comment #15)

“I deeply oppose the proposed grade reconfiguration. There is no pedagogical evidence that it is a good option, certainly none that it is superior to K-6. Having every student attend the same school is not the same thing as equity.” (Comment # 16)

“I prefer community schools, k-6 for consistency and neighborhood feel.” (Comment # 17)

“While I understand the need to cut costs and I am familiar with all three buildings and know the difficulties of the “quad” (open classroom layout”, I absolutely do not think going to a “bigger is better” system is the answer.” (Comment #20)

“I hope you will strongly consider the option of simply renovating both Wildwood and Fort River in an affordable fashion. I believe that there is much that works about the current neighborhood schools system and although we need to invest in our infrastructure and our teachers and staff, I do not feel that my kids need to go to a fancy architect-driven expensive project mega-school. That will not improve educational outcomes!” (Comment #21)

“While I do not doubt that finance and sustainability factor greatly in the District’s decision, know that the benefits of a small school greatly outweigh savings.” (Comment # 27)

“I don’t want my elementary age child to go to a huge school. Educationally I value neighborhood schools.” (Comment # 28)

“…The most important issue remains unaddressed: how will reducing the diversity of ages in a school building affect learning? How will greatly increasing school size affect learning? Finally, with only 4 days between being told of the survey until it closes, you’ve left me no time to do any kind of additional research. The district proposed renovation of Wildwood and the state approved a grant for its renovation. I am having a hard time understanding the motivation for any option other than (this).” (Comment #29)

“I believe you should have included an option to renovate/rebuild Fort River and Wildwood, possibly with MSBA funding only for Wildwood….Therefore, when I said my first preference is for rebuilding Wildwood and keeping Fort River and Crocker Farm K-6, I would like to see the needed building changes made at Fort River as well, even without MSBA funding.” (Comment # 38)

“Keep as many small schools open as possible. Be patient. We’ll fix Fort River next.” (Comment #42) “I dislike the idea of eliminating community schools.” (Comment # 43)

“All the research suggests that small schools where students are known and loved, and where the school is embedded in its community and (is) nimble enough to respond to its community serve children far better than mega schools. Small schools are far better for children with special needs and from disadvantaged backgrounds, so don’t bamboozled by spurious arguments about equity…Rebuild Wildwood now; in a few years, apply for a new grant to rebuild, or renovate, Fort River. I say this as a Fort River parent who can be patient about our physical plan to keep the school community we want.” (Comment #44)

“I’ve been an instructional coach and school teacher for over 15 years in multiple districts and I’ve been through two MSBA school building projects. SMALLER SCHOOLS are the best option. I’ve witnessed multiple “school- within-a-school” attempts that have COMPLETELY FAILED to replicate the benefits that come with a smaller learning environment…We’ve already let Marks Meadow go. Please don’t let us lose another school.” (Comment # 45)

“The focus need to be maintained on the students. The whole child needs to be considered with attention to both academics and social development…Our students need safe and healthy schools that foster strong learning combined with a sense of belonging. This is why I believe we need a model that allows kids to grow within smaller K-6 communities with fewer transitions.” (Comment #52)

“We are a Crocker Farm family, and we absolutely love the school just the way it is…(It) is a gem for many, many reasons, including the collaborations between grade levels. If it were to be dismantled and redistributed it would be…a great loss to the community. PLEASE leave Crocker Farm just the way it is. Thank you.” (Comm # 74)

“…I have attended many of the forums that have been offered. My child attends Fort River and I have another one in private pre-K. I simply do not want them (or any of OUR kids) to have to make even more transitions than they already do. They need the stability and security of remaining in the same place for their entire elementary education. A large, two-wing 2-6 school is extremely undesirable.” (Comment # 80)

“We believe the current model, of three small elementary schools, is ideal and that every effort should be made to preserve it…We think the District would be better served by researching, in depth, cost-effective ways to improve the Fort River and Wildwood buildings.” (Comment #84)