Amherst School Building Project Update

March 30, 2017

To:       The Amherst Public School District staff and administration and the Amherst community,

From:  Phoebe Hazzard, Amherst School Committee Vice-Chair and Dr. Michael Morris, Interim Superintendent

While the proposed new schools building project failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in Tuesday’s referendum vote, our district will continue to move forward and plan for ways to ensure that our schools remain the best teaching and learning environments possible for our students and staff. There is no question that there was a wide range of opinions and feelings about the project in our small community. But the rigorous and passionate debate leading up to the vote reinforced how deeply our community cares about our elementary schools. And, the activity around the referendum has sparked an upswell in civic involvement, with many district parents now engaging as elected participants in our local democratic system.

Though provocative, the conversation around the proposed building project has also made our community increasingly aware of persistent issues that educators, administrators, and school committees have been grappling with for years, particularly the challenging physical environment of the Fort River and Wildwood buildings, uneven socio-economic distribution of our families, lack of affordable preschool, and fiscal challenges. Our educators work every day to provide our children with outstanding educational experiences despite a challenging teaching environment. These problems remain unresolved, and as we move forward we must be committed to continuing to consider how to address them in the most fiscally responsible and timely manner possible.

The Amherst School Committee will hold its next public meeting on April 25th at 6:00 p.m., at which we will likely discuss next steps. Interim Superintendent Dr. Morris will move forward with requests for the town to fund the outstanding capital repairs needed at Fort River and Wildwood, beginning with $500,000 to replace the Wildwood boiler. The district will also request $115,000 to conduct a site and building assessment at the Fort River School to inform discussion about the future potential of that site.

As we begin this next chapter, we’d like to express a sincere thank you to the members of the School Building Committee for their hundreds of hours of work on the proposed school buildings project.