Amherst School Committee Update

January 18, 2019

The Amherst School Committee met last night to hear Dr. Morris’s proposal for getting to consensus on a Statement Of Interest (SOI) application to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for aid in either replacing or renovating our aging elementary schools. The presentation reviewed our history of applying to the MSBA over the past ten years, ongoing significant challenges with existing buildings, and several values that the community has continuously expressed as being important.

Dr. Morris’s presentation can be found here, and a video of the meeting presentation is here.

Committee members and members of the public listened intently as Dr. Morris explained how our current buildings need significant financial investment in order to continue to be used as school buildings; how they do not meet current safety standards; and how an open classroom design and accessibility problems for those with mobility impairments are creating barriers to education. Following the presentation, the Committee heard from members of the public and district educators who expressed the need for urgency to address the many problems of the buildings, and support for the path to consensus that the Superintendent described.

The Committee also spoke positively about Dr. Morris’s proposal, expressing agreement for a solution that will address both buildings at once so as to not leave one school community behind, and for getting MSBA funding for a project. Committee members also commented favorably on the proposed ideas that any future school building must be child-centered in design, roughly 600 students in size, K-5 or K-6, and environmentally conscious. Overall, the Committee expressed excitement about the community’s willingness to move towards consensus so that our chances for consideration by the state are improved.

Dr. Morris has outlined a plan for community engagement that includes nine listening sessions (three for district educators and staff, three for parents and caregivers, three community-wide) led by a neutral facilitator, as well as an email blast to the broader community that includes the PowerPoint presentation, a video link, and a feedback form to capture individuals’ responses to the idea plus additional comments. The Committee has expressed support for this plan, and for ensuring wide community feedback is incorporated into a future feasibility study– the next step after an SOI application is accepted and a community organizes a Feasibility Study building committee to move forward with a project.

The next meeting of the Amherst School Committee is on Tuesday, January 22, 6pm at the Amherst Town Hall.

Questions or comments for the Amherst School Committee can always be emailed to schoolcommittee@arps.org. For posted meeting dates, past and upcoming agendas, and meeting minutes, please visit www.arps.org.

View the Meeting the MCBA Challenge Video.

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