Feedback on Grade Reconfiguration

Submit Comments to School Committee

Public Comments Filed Oct. 26 – Oct. 31:

46 public comments were filed via the online form at https://wildwoodpgo.com/reconfiguration-feedback-form/ (as of Nov. 1, 3:30pm). Read in one PDF or online below.

46 Comentarios del Público presentó a través del formulario en línea a https://wildwoodpgo.com/reconfiguration-feedback-form/  (a partir del 1 de noviembre, 15:30). Leer en un solo PDF o abajo.


Michele Spirko

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::

I SUPPORT the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! Optional but highly encouraged):

The School Committee heard my public comments last week. I am vehemently opposed to any building plan that excludes fully one third of Amherst’s current and future young students. It would be completely demoralizing to the incredibly talented and hard working staff at Fort River to move ahead with a building plan that only addresses the Wildwood building when money from the state is available to improve the educational environment FOR EVERY CURRENT AMHERST STUDENT AGE 7 AND UNDER AND EVERY FUTURE AMHERST STUDENT FOR THE NEXT HALF CENTURY.

This is an extremely challenging decision for the School Committee but the only ethical option under consideration is the choice involving reconfiguration. This would allow our children for the first time in nearly a century to attend “community” schools, because every Amherst student would attend the same schools. Neighborhoods will not be divided, car pools will remain intact, and additionally students will see their teammates from LSSE basketball, Amherst Hockey, Amherst Youth Soccer in school as well as on the courts, ice, and fields. Likewise children participating in dance, theatre, arts, and nature programs throughout town will be more likely to see friends from those settings at school as well. This is an opportunity to be a real community in every sense, a town wide community with families supporting children throughout town and in ALL schools, without the arbitrary and divisive lines currently drawn on our town map.

Perhaps families and the community at large were caught off guard because the state (MTSB) accepted Wildwood into the Feasibility phase of the building process, and yet now the conversation has shifted to a much broader proposal involving all elementary schools. Prior to June, I was certainly unaware that despite not being chosen there was still some way to address the serious issues at Fort River. (Those issues have been elaborated upon elsewhere but my 9 year old confirms that among other problems she has had a large trash bucket in the hallway near her cubby at times every year that she can recall to collect dripping water from the ceiling.) There has not been much public discussion of the incredible opportunities presented by this reconfiguration. A cursory glance at recent building projects done by the firm involved in our Feasibility Study reveals the possibility of science labs for upper elementary students, breakout spaces to facilitate differentiation, and functional multipurpose community spaces, e.g., a cafetorium. The professional advantages of schools configured by grade include collaboration, mentoring, curricular planning, and more cohesive content delivery. New programs such as foreign language become possible, and district wide programs such as instrumental music benefit from decreased transportation times and the likelihood of designated lesson and performance space.

I wish the community was more engaged in a conversation about the possibilities presented by this financial support available from the state. There are innumerable benefits that all students will enjoy if reconfiguration earns support from the School Committee and subsequently from the town at large via approval for financing at Town Meeting.  Instead the conversation is focused on property values and the inability of a few families to walk to school.

Please note that I have students at ARHS, ARMS, and Fort River, none of whom will be affected by the proposal. My concerns are that maintaining the current grade K – 6 structure with a remodeled or rebuilt Wildwood will dramatically worsen the inequities that already exists within the district. This is unjust.

Please do not delay the vote to reconfigure the elementary schools. There is ample information available to those interested, and data exists to support the rationale for the proposed changes. As elected officials charged with serving the best interests of ALL Amherst elementary students, I feel that it is imperative that you vote to approve the proposed reconfiguration of schools. Thank you.
Fort River parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes
Name: Michele Spirko
Email: michelespirko@me.com
Address: 53 Concord Way

Time: October 25, 2015 at 11:44 pm


Irene Dujovne

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::

I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! Optional but highly encouraged):

Redacted per request of commenter.

Wildwood parent: Yes

Name: Irene Dujovne
Email: dujovne@gmail.com

Time: October 26, 2015 at 8:56 am


Kurt Wise

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::

I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! Optional but highly encouraged):

The District has failed to make the case in terms of pedagogy or cost. We need to renovate/rebuild BOTH WW and FR, but the District’s recommendation is a radical solution to the specific problems we face. Let’s not eliminate a core element of our town that has served our children and our community so well for decades, namely our small, neighborhood-situated, K-6 school structure. We do not need to and there is little apparent gain (and many obvious costs) to doing so. There are other far less radical solutions and we should pursue those.

Wildwood parent: Yes

Name: Kurt Wise
Email: kurt.wise@gmail.com
Address: 31 Maplewood Dr.

Time: October 26, 2015 at 9:14 am


Joya Misra

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I believe in the value of smaller, community-based walkable schools. I believe that much of the success of Amherst schools lies in its neighborhood school structure.

It appears to me that the reason the district is considering such a radical option — creating a mega-school — is because state funding has not come through to remodel/build a new Fort River School. Yet, I believe that it is within Amherst’s means to commit to rebuilding both schools, given the state support for the Wildwood project. If Amherst does make this commitment, it will allay many concerns, and lead to a much more pedagogically sound decision.

It appears that at some point, a decision was made that in order to avoid unfairly providing Wildwood staff and families with a better building than Fort River, it made more sense to create a new mega-school. But there are tremendous downsides to this decision — downsides that will affect the quality of education and community in Amherst for decades to come.

From what I can tell given the costs of other school building projects in Massachusetts for schools of similar enrollments, we could rebuild both Fort River and Wildwood, with the Wildwood state subsidy making these projects feasible.  I also have serious concerns about whether this problematic proposal may not be turned down by the MSBA, who did not approve funding to replace Fort River, and recognizes the serious pedagogical drawbacks of very large schools.

At times, when an idea gets rollling, it seems impossible to call halt to it. But it is important to do so when the decision has been made based on poor evidence (for example, the out-of-line cost-estimates), and a lack of community buy-in.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Joya Misra
Email: misra@soc.umass.edu
Address: 147 Red Gate Lane, Amherst

Time: October 26, 2015 at 11:18 am


Emily Boutilier

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

No one seems to be arguing that this reconfiguration is better for students educationally. Instead, it is being done for purely financial reasons, and with absolutely no indication that this will be the financially superior option in the long term. The school committee and administration needs to think long term when deciding on something as important as a new building. I understand and appreciate the short term financial benefits, but there are absolutely no long term educational or financial benefits.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Emily Boutilier
Email: egboutilier@yahoo.com
Address:

Time: October 26, 2015 at 11:37 am


Mary Dunn

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I NEED MORE INFORMATION about the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

parent who choices OUT of the District: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Mary Dunn
Email: mdquilts@hotmail.com
Address:

Time: October 26, 2015 at 2:13 pm


Carolyn Walker

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I recently moved back to Amherst and was excited to have my daughter attend the elementary school which I attended as a child.  Some wonderful reasons to keep schools K-6 are that a child has 7 years in one building, relationship building with the same staff, a range of grade levels for use of reading buddies that the younger children can look up to etc, and less transitioning because of the 7 years in one location.

Fort River parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Carolyn Walker
Email: carolyn.a.walker@gmail.com
Address:

Time: October 26, 2015 at 2:48 pm


John Kowaleski

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I don’t believe this plan is good for our kids:
1. Another transition after 1st grade is not healthy for kids but stressful.
2. Neighborhood community especially in the K-1st school will be weak, just like Middle School, there is less connection and continuity for parents, kids, teachers.
3. Save money by combining 7-12 in the HS, and use the Middle School as a temporary elementary school while Wildwood and Fort River get fixed or replaced.
4. A large Mega School will be intimidating for a number of kids and parents making smaller Charter Schools even more appealing.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes
Other: Yes

Name: John Kowaleski
Email: kowaleskij@yahoo.com
Address: 5 Morrow Lane

Time: October 26, 2015 at 4:49 pm


Prof. David Mednicoff

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I am somewhere between needing more information, and opposing. The idea of small neighborhood schools seems to me very much worth preserving; if there is any conceivable way therefore of rebuilding Wildwood, and seeking additional funding to later rebuild Fort River, this seems far preferable to configuring an entirely new school set-up with a very large school. I would be particularly opposed to moving the school site away from the current Wildwood site. It is a very good, central site for a school. As a parent, my children have benefited a great deal from the geographical proximity of Wildwood, the Middle School and the High School. Thanks in advance for taking time to see how town residents feel about the change before moving forward; the proposed consolidation is very dramatic, and quite different from what many of us have appreciated about our relatively small school.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Prof. David Mednicoff
Email: dmednic@gmail.com
Address: 147 Red Gate Lane


Jay Boice

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I SUPPORT the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Several current or former Fort River parents and students have told me they’re unhappy with the open-classroom configuration and generally poor conditions at Fort River. As the parent of two pre-schoolers in the Fort River district, I’d welcome a brand new school that my kids can attend.

preschool parent districted to Fort River: Yes

Name: Jay Boice
Email: jboice@gmail.com
Address: 623 Station Road

Time: October 26, 2015 at 5:47 pm


Erin Baker

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

The single worst thing that can be done to a child’s education is to add a transition. in this case, we would be adding  a transition between 1st grade and 2nd grade. If we must close a school, then have two K-6 schools. This will save the same amount of money, but avoid an extra transition for children. If the two schools are different sizes, this is of secondary concern.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes
Other: Yes

Name: Erin Baker
Email: edbaker@ecs.umass.edu
Address: 5 Morrow Lane


Anna Kogan

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Anna Kogan
Email: akoganlicsw@yahoo.com
Address:

Time: October 26, 2015 at 7:53 pm


Arsen Bagdasarov

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Arsen Bagdasarov
Email: bagdasarovdmd@gmail.com

Time: October 26, 2015 at 7:55 pm


Michele Markstein

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Dear School Committee:

After listening to the District present its case tonight, on October 26, 2015, it is clear that they only ever considered one option: building a megaschool to replace Wildwood and Fort River. The Superintendent stated at the end of the meeting that the only way to achieve equity anywhere is for all the students to be under the same roof.

I am not a supporter of achieving equity at the expense of quality education. I think we can have both. The District failed to show us convincingly that they would be able to provide quality education in the proposed megaschool K-1 and 2-6 institutions. I believe that they failed to show this because the evidence simply does not exist to support it.

I suggested that they could win over many of us in the community by showing that the teachers of Crocker Farm, Fort River, and Wildwood, support the proposal of teaching and learning in a megaschool.

I urge you, the School Committee of Amherst, to likewise request more data from the District. Please delay your vote until the teachers and the community have an opportunity to be heard. If our teachers are behind the megaschool option, then many in the community, including myself, will rally to support the teachers. It would be a win-win. Without teacher support, this proposal is doomed to fail on multiple levels, and sadly, the ones most hurt will be our children.

Sincerely,
Michele Markstein

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Michele Markstein
Email: mmarkstein@gmail.com
Address:

Time: October 26, 2015 at 11:23 pm


jasper lieber

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I NEED MORE INFORMATION about the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I’m leaning towards support but am concerned about location of a new school and loss of advantages of small schools.

If we could build two smaller schools at approx same price as one larger school, that would sway my opinion.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: jasper lieber
Email: wildwood.wishlist@gmail.com
Address:

Time: October 27, 2015 at 6:29 am


Erinn Knyt

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

  1. Although facilities can facilitate learning, that is only one factor. More important are the teachers and the learning community. My son has been to both Fort River and Wildwood (same basic floor plan and facility issues). He never complained about noise levels or facility issues, but was very unhappy at Fort River because of a lack of community/friends (he had a great teacher there). He found that community he needed at Wildwood. It is doubtful that most kids would be able to find that sense of community after being shunted from Crocker Farm for two years to another larger school. Why not just renovate/remodel, and keep both communities intact? After all, these buildings are not very old (most of us live in homes from the 1970s or older). It might also be more cost effective.
  2. Siblings benefit from going to the same school.
  3. The only people I have heard in support of this plan seem to be Fort River Parents who don’t want to be left out–again–why not renovate both buildings for a fraction of the cost of rebuilding?
  4. It seems like the board is going to go head with what they want regardless of all the concerns expressed by the parents. This is very frustrating. Why even bother asking for our opinions and concerns then?

Wildwood parent: Yes

Name: Erinn Knyt
Email: eknyt@yahoo.com
Address:

Time: October 27, 2015 at 7:17 am


Victor 

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

It will disrupt each schools unique culture which can be detrimental to our community as a whole.  I believe that by cramming 750-800 student s into one school will create an environment similar to our jail system.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Victor
Email: vanunezortiz@gmail.com
Address: 5 Blackberry Lane

Time: October 27, 2015 at 8:22 am


Ariel Templeton 

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

 

I am a public school teacher and pre-school parent and I strongly disagree with the reconfiguration.  I feel the 2-6 school will be too large and impersonal, and that the transition of switching schools between 1st and 2nd grade would be very difficult for many children, especially switching into such a large school.  I have taught in both small and large schools and there’s a huge difference between the quality of education.  I know there are issues with Wildwood and Fort River that have to be addressed to make healthier and better learning environments, but I believe there are other options than the “mega-school”.  I chose Amherst for my family because of the school system and the smaller neighborhood schools.  If this change goes through I  will likely be seeking out other school/district options for my children who are now 2 and 4 years old.

preschool parent districted to Fort River: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Ariel Templeton
Email: aritem1@gpsk12.org
Address: 767 S. East St Amherst MA

Time: October 27, 2015 at 8:54 am


ANONYMOUS [Crocker Farm parent / preschool parent]

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I SUPPORT the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I generally support the creation of townwide elementary schools in Amherst because I think it would help with equity & that it may help with differentiation for all students, not just the students who are currently best served in our elementary schools.

I do have concerns about the decision to split the schools between the 1st & 2nd grade.  There are other splits, such as between 2nd & 3rd grade, that seem more natural to me from a developmental, social, & educational standpoint.  It feels as though the split between 1st & 2nd grade is based primarily on the current building capacity at Crocker Farm & finances.  I wish it had a stronger educational & developmental basis.   Also, even though in the proposal, Crocker Farm is being described as a preK through 1st grade school, it is actually only a preschool for a relatively small number of students.  For most students, it will be a K & 1st grade school only.

Crocker Farm parent: Yes
preschool parent districted to Crocker Farm: Yes

Name:
Email:
Address:

Time: October 27, 2015 at 8:56 am


ANONYMOUS [Preschool Wildwood Parent]

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I NEED MORE INFORMATION about the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged): It seems impossible to make this decision without determining whether renovating Fort River with town and/or other fund sources AND WW within the MSBA process would be similar cost-wise to building one large 2-6 within the MSBA process.

preschool parent districted to Wildwood: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name:
Email:
Address:

Time: October 27, 2015 at 10:04 am


Stephen Frasier

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

 

I am not at all convinced that abandoning two (flawed) buildings and building a mega-school is either cheaper or better than proceeding with the originally proposed (and accepted) plan, even if it meant Amherst foot more of the bill to renovate FR in addition to WW.
Smaller schools are more desirable, and the charter schools which are indeed drawing district students away do not do so because of their superior facilities.

Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Stephen Frasier
Email: s.j.frasier@gmail.com
Address: 34 Canton Ave

Time: October 27, 2015 at 4:12 pm


Paris Boice

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I NEED MORE INFORMATION about the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

preschool parent districted to Fort River: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Paris Boice
Email: parisybil@gmail.com
Address: 623 Station Rd

Time: October 27, 2015 at 4:36 pm


Eliza Summers

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Smaller neighborhood schools allow more individualized attention and a sense of community for students, families, and educators.  I recently moved from Belchertown where all elementary grades are organized town-wide, and my experience was that education was more regimented and less flexible to meet needs of a diverse group of children.

The rationale for this decision to reconfigure schools appears driven solely by cost, and the costs are unclear.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Eliza Summers
Email: elizasummers@gmail.com
Address: 34 Canton Ave, Amherst

Time: October 27, 2015 at 9:20 pm


Joanna Morse

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I oppose the grade-reconfiguration proposal based on the lack of research-based evidence that reconfiguration is good for kids.  I don’t believe we should disconnect kids from the adults they know, and the opportunity for inter-age connection through their elementary years, on account of what is most financially expedient right now. I strongly believe that we do in fact have neighborhood schools in many senses of the word and this is an invaluable aspect to our kids’ education.  I am not interested in keeping my children in the Amherst schools if grade configuration goes through–and that could mean at least one more family’s town tuition money taken somewhere else.

I urge the School Committee to vote to either 1) take more time to investigate options, or 2) vote for a WW building renovation and commit to a Fort River building renovation funded without MSBA.  The district has not presented research-based reasons for why this reconfiguration is educationally sound.  And the research available online points to reconfiguration and larger schools having negative impacts on student achievement, sense of belonging, confidence, etc.  If the district really stands behind research-based educational practices, then we have an obligation to make some our biggest educational choices (like how we configure out schools) based on research as well.

Crocker Farm parent: Yes
preschool parent districted to Crocker Farm: Yes

Name: Joanna Morse
Email: morsejoanna@gmail.com

Time: October 27, 2015 at 10:31 pm


Vivian Liu

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I SUPPORT the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

1) This is a one-time opportunity to receive a large amount of state $$ to rebuild/renovate our schools.  Not likely to happen again soon (with another grant if this one fails at the Town Meeting level or with Fort River.)

2) FR and WW both need major renovation or a rehaul. But there is only money for one school (and there is also NOT a limit on how much the state will give us) – so we may as well use the money to take care of the problems at both schools (by building a new mega-school).

3) Having enough of any one group of kids (ELL, high learners, special ed, intensive needs, etc) in one building may make it easier for staff to really address the issues of each sub-group.

4) Everyone eventually goes to the middle school and high school, all located next to Wildwood.  I don’t see a problem with having all the kids in town just start going to school in that area earlier (starting in 2nd grade).  Many many towns around us use this model of having all the kids of a certain grade in one school.

5) People are concerned about not having neighborhood schools. Amherst is small enough that everyone is still close to all the schools.  Also, what really forms the heart of the Wildwood school community is Principal Nick and the sense of community he creates at the school.  He was able to bring together the Marks Meadow and Wildwood communities years ago after the redistricting, and I know he can do so again with any new configurations that are proposed.

I am checking off “Wildwood Parent” but am actually a parent of former Wildwood kids (last one graduated just this spring).

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes
Other: Yes

Name: Vivian Liu
Email: vivianfliu@comcast.net
Address:

Time: October 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm


Sara Eddy

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Students develop longterm relationships with teachers in a K-6 school.  Younger kids also learn from older ones, and older ones learn from modeling behavior for younger ones.

I also think that lots of parents will see this as a severe reduction in education soundness in Amherst, and will choose charter schools or private schools–and we’ll end up losing that revenue source, thus further damaging our public schools.

Crocker Farm parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Sara Eddy
Email: seddy66@gmail.com
Address: 480 Middle Street, Amherst

Time: October 27, 2015 at 10:52 pm


Prashant Shenoy

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I am strongly opposed that this process. It has not outlined details of the transition period, not to mention why a larger school is a better option than renovating existing schools to address the problems identified from the surveys. Yes, there are infrastructure issues with current schools.
But why are improvements to current schools not considered more seriously?

Further, will Wildwood be torn down to build a new school at that site?
where will current students be housed during this transition period? Won’t the transition be disruptive to the current wildwood students?

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Prashant Shenoy
Email: prashant_shenoy@hotmail.com
Address: 34 Kingman Rd

Time: October 28, 2015 at 6:57 am


e ankie byl

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I think smaller (and Wildwood wasn’t even small!) independently run schools are better for the community. Despite a crumbling building, Wildwood School is a special place, as I am sure other school parents and students feel about their schools.  Merging them together and losing the younger grades cuts families in half so that younger siblings don’t go to school with their older siblings anymore, and students across the grades don’t enjoy the benefits of learning from each other.   Quite regularly I watch afterschool children on the playground while I let my children play.  5th and 6th graders play with children as young as kindergarteners!  It keeps 5th and 6th graders young and helps the younger children feel empowered!  I would be so sad to see Wildwood be blended and diluted and changed. It means my littlest would never be in school with her brother, something we were all looking forward to!

Wildwood parent: Yes

Name: e ankje byl
Email: meadowsweet.school@gmail.com
Address: 68 West Chestnut Hill Road

Time: October 28, 2015 at 7:46 am


Aviva Ben-Ur

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Wildwood is a great school. Why change it?

Wildwood parent: Yes
parent who choices OUT of the District: Yes

Name: Aviva Ben-Ur
Email: aben-ur@judnea.umass.edu
Address:

Time: October 28, 2015 at 8:08 am


Ericka Alschuler

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I SUPPORT the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I am interested in my child and others attending more healthy schools-my child had a serious, negative allergic reaction upon Wildwood that lasted for months (physical symptoms).  I have taught at FR and I do NOT like the set up of having to walk through other classrooms to get into the hall or go to the bathroom.  Also, the classrooms are too loud.  While I think 750 is a very large school, It might bring Amherst more of a community feel-right now there is definitely a different feel to all of the elementary schools and perceptions about which are better, etc.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Ericka Alschuler
Email: ericka.alschuler@gmail.com
Address: 315 Lincoln Ave

Time: October 28, 2015 at 8:34 am


Jay Mankita

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

My work involves traveling to schools throughout the Northeast. In the hundreds of schools that I’ve visited over the past several decades, I have witnessed a growing push to consolidate small schools into bigger buildings, with bigger student populations. Concurrently, I have also seen a decline of neighborhood businesses and character, more growth of strip malls along connecting roads to support this regionalization, and a loss of interpersonal connectedness between the families, and the faculty and staff of the schools themselves. Schools are webs that stretch across many facets of neighborhood lives. Keeping schools smaller, and in local neighborhoods is essential.

parent who choices OUT of the District: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Jay Mankita
Email: jay@jaymankita.com
Address: 310 Montague Rd

Time: October 28, 2015 at 9:08 am


Paige Warren

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I SUPPORT the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I have not been able to attend any of the meetings. My opinion has been formed by my reading of the materials and from conversations with other parents who have attended. I wish that we did not have to lose the current arrangement, but I do understand the need to improve the facilities and the cost constraints that entails. I am in favor of the reconfiguration in order to provide all students, teachers, and staff with the best facilities possible.

Wildwood parent: Yes
preschool parent districted to Wildwood: Yes

Name: Paige Warren
Email: warren.paige@gmail.com
Address: 36 Harris St

Time: October 28, 2015 at 10:55 am


Lissa Pierce Bonifaz

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I feel strongly that neighborhood schools have been disrupted, 1st with the re-districting plan that changed the landscape of our schools in 2006. Now another reconfiguration which I don’t agree with either. We are living the consequences of a Wildwood that is over crowded, why would we want to make the school up to 800 students, even with new facilities. Children don’t feel special when they are in such a large group and are told to keep quiet. It is hard to create a feeling of a community without feeling overwhelmed by the numbers.

Wildwood parent: Yes
parent who choices OUT of the District:
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Lissa Pierce Bonifaz
Email: lissapiercebonifaz@gmail.com
Address: 30 Harris Street Amherst MA

Time: October 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm


Meg Robertson

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Dear School Committee Members,

I am opposed to the grade reconfiguration that is being proposed. I have a child who is currently in the 4th grade, and another who is now in 8th grade. Both children benefitted greatly from a school community that included k-6th graders.  The inter-grade activities (reading buddies, invitations to attend shows of upper grade work, etc) have been an important part of their academic and social development. It was very important to them as siblings who are 4 grades apart to share the same school community, especially for my younger child who mainstreamed in the 1st grade after 2.5 years at Clarke School in Northampton.

I also believe in the importance of smaller schools – in which true community can be fostered, in which each child is truly known, by only by teachers, but by older and younger students.

I feel that this town is being rushed into a decision that is a false choice between doing nothing for Fort River, or reconfiguring.  I believe we can find a solution to renovating or replacing Wildwood and Fort River Schools that will not necessitate building a 700-plus student school and separating the youngest children from the older ones.

I hope you will reject the recommendation to reconfigure the schools in this way.

Sincerely,
Meg Robertson

Crocker Farm parent: Yes

Name: Meg Robertson
Email: robertsonsf@yahoo.com
Address: 58a Woodside Ave, Amherst, MA

Time: October 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm


Sibyl Jayne

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

As a parent who joined Wildwood just last year, I do agree that the building does not compliment the wonderful and inspiring people in our school. However, as much as I would like to see a new building and resources for the children and teachers, the idea of a large elementary school is unappealing.

There is value in siblings attending the same school along with neighbors and friends. Splitting kids up makes it difficult for parents and children. Siblings will not have the shared expereinces of the first day welcome ceremony, all school meetings or riding the bus together. A large school would be overwhelming and move away from the small community feel, which seems to be a theme repeated in many of the parent communications. Building community is not going to be easy in a school of 750!  From the enourmous elementary school, the 6th graders will leave and join the High School as 7th graders?! This does not sound like a small-town school expereince at all. What happened to keeping neighborhood schools where kids can walk and use the school grounds for play? After school and evening events are more easily attended when the comminuty lives close to their school.

My other concerns have to do with logistics. What would happen to the students during the construction of this big school? Where would it be located? How long would it take to build? Would valuable teachers and administartors lose their jobs as a result of this consolidation? What about our class size? Right now it seems most classes have 18-20 students with 1-2 teachers. I would not like to see these numbers inrease.

I want to support A building project, but I hesitate to support THIS plan when I’m not convinced it is the right fit for the families of Amherst.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Sibyl Jayne
Email: sibyljayne@gmail.com
Address: 18 Taylor Street

Time: October 28, 2015 at 7:37 pm


Becky Gahan

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::

I NEED MORE INFORMATION about the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

From an equity perspective no one wants to leave fort river out. I have seen a proposal that rents ams for an elementary school until it is time to build another. Pedagogically and community wise it makes sense to keep three neighborhood schools. I have also heard the mega school can be essentially two schools next to each other in design. But what about Crocker kids? Big schools are less of a good idea but if designed as three small schools in one location – it could be ok for some families

Wildwood parent: Yes

Name: Becky Gahan
Email:
Address:

Time: October 29, 2015 at 7:29 am


Leticia Davies

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I understand the budget concerns but I feel that this is short term thinking.  Once you give away schools, you never get them back.  One big building benefits Higher Income students as studies show that Lower Income students tend to get lost and have less outside resources to take up the slack.  Lost opportunities for higher grades to mentor lower grade students (reading buddies), Modeling good behavior, Older student helpers, teacher collaboration across grades within the school, and a sense of community are all good reasons to reconsider the plan.  I was bussed to a larger school in the late 70’s outside my neighborhood and I felt like a ghost.  It was overwhelming.

Crocker Farm parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes
Other: Yes

Name: Leticia Davies
Email: leticiadavies@comcast.net
Address: 41 Blue Hills Road

Time: October 29, 2015 at 8:44 am


Maria Kopicki

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Recently, I spoke on the phone with the MSBA to get clarification about the process in which we are engaged and I would like to share this information with the larger community.  It was both an enlightening and encouraging conversation.

The deadlines as laid out in the project schedule (put together by the OPM and architects) must indeed be adhered to, otherwise the MSBA may look unfavorably upon our project.  The 30 month deadline that has been described begins from the date of the Feasibility Study Agreement offered by the MSBA, October 2014 accordingly to Mr. Murphy, the Owner’s Project Manager.  At the end of this 30 month period (April 2017), the project will have been designed and priced and all key decisions confirmed.  However, the documents that are due imminently (the Educational Program and Preliminary Design Program) are not exactly what has been presented by the administration.  The MSBA official explained to me that they are essentially a business plan, not only providing information on how we are currently doing business but also discussing options on how we can do business in the future.

It can and should contain our wishes for changes or preservation in terms of things like class size, curriculum, and, yes, grade configuration.  However, and more important to our current state of debate, the Preliminary Design Program does not choose the project and the Educational Plan is not the final word about whether we choose grade reconfiguration, simply that we are considering it as a possibility.  The alternatives of renovating, addition, and new construction, and the many ways to accomplish each, remain on the table.  Narrowing down to one option is NOT where we are in the process; it is getting ahead of ourselves and something that the MSBA specifically and pointedly warns against.  The MSBA, for their part, understands that there are usually a variety of opinions on the subject and are careful to seek out and understand local actions and approvals/disapproval.  They read the minutes of committee meetings, local news coverage, and communications sent to town and school officials.  If there is resistance to the suggestions of the administration and school committee, local action is expected and encouraged so that by the end of the 30 months, a project that has gained the approval of the town can move forward.  Let’s make the Educational Plan the living document that it is meant to be, preserving our options, spawning a productive dialogue, and helping us to arrive at a place where we can say that democracy has been allowed to do its work.  The SC doesn’t have to have the false choice of 1) either rubberstamping the district’s plan to prevent the process from derailing or 2) doing due diligence, asking and getting answers to all the questions that remain, reaching their own conclusions, and adding modifications or alternatives to the administration’s proposal.  Fortunately, it can, in fact, do the latter based on the MSBA’s own guidelines.

Specifically regarding the option I favor at this point: I believe that there is an alternative that can satisfy all of our concerns and I was extremely disappointed that it was not addressed at all at the SC meeting last week.  In my opinion, the best option available is renovation of both Wildwood (with MSBA support) and Fort River (on our own, if necessary).  Using MSBA estimates of similar projects, the total cost to the town would be on the same scale as that of a single, large school as proposed in grade configuration.  It maintains a grade structure that is supported by the community, pedagogical evidence, and the experience of other districts.  Transportation costs, ride times, and environmental impact are not increased.  All Amherst elementary school students would attend updated, safe, ADA-compliant buildings.

Crocker Farm parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Maria Kopicki
Email: kopickim@yahoo.com
Address: 65 Country Corners Rd, Amherst, MA 01002
Time: October 29, 2015 at 9:01 am


Lisa Berry

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

(Although I am on a sabbatical out of the country, our family returns in the summer of 2016 and we pay taxes in the Wildwood district.)

Such a large elementary school as that which is proposed would be physically and emotionally daunting for such young residents.
The busing schedules and cafeteria schedules have already been problematic issues in our community, these could only get worse.

Finally, I would not want to live in a community without neighborhood schools.
As someone in the Wildwood district I say if we can’t have Wildwood improvements without Fort River’s OK, give the dough to Fort River and we will come up with another plan for Wildwood. Let’s not disrupt our quaint sense of community over this.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Lisa Berry
Email: lisaberrymsw@gmail.com
Address: 55 Sheeman Lane

Time: October 30, 2015 at 3:44 am


Michelle Borkhuis

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I SUPPORT the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I support it because we need the infrastructure and the funding is mostly in place to revamp our elementary school.  It makes a lot of financial and logistical sense.

My hesitancy is one that many share but haven’t been articulating well – we live in a small town and neighborhood schools are both treasured and generally the norm.  Making a “superschool” is a shift away from that and it makes Amherst loose some of the local community that is inherent in small town living.  I think most people have been saying that they are uncomfortable with the large school concept and I believe this is why (and isn’t solved by making smaller communities in the “superschool”).

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes
Other: Yes

Name: Michelle Borkhuis
Email: michelle.borkhuis@gmail.com
Address: 23 Valley Ln

Time: October 30, 2015 at 9:59 am


ANONYMOUS [Fort River parent]

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Fort River parent: Yes

Name:
Email:
Address:

Time: October 30, 2015 at 12:51 pm


Sue Kelly

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

I do not support the reconfiguration because it would sacrifice the essential community feel that can happen with a small scale neighborhood school and is so important to to help families feel welcome. This is really not realistic with a school of 800 students. Research shows that when school staff know their students, these students are less likely to fall through the cracks. The families who need the most encouragement and care to feel welcome in a school setting will be even more challenged by a large school environment. I understand this is probably an important financial move but it would the children would pay the price. Please don’t vite to reconfigure the schools.

Crocker Farm parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Sue Kelly
Email: spahrkellys@gmail.com
Address: 142 Columbis drive

Time: October 30, 2015 at 6:53 pm


Sheilah P. Jones

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I NEED MORE INFORMATION about the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Why is the school committee even considering a vote for this option when we don’t have the cost estimates for renovating our existing schools? Didn’t we just pay for a feasibility report? Why is this information missing?

Has the administration really explored all the options? What about replacing Wildwood (or Fort River) and renovating Fort River (or Wildwood) until it too can be replaced? Or renting the Middle School space from the Region to house Fort River or Wildwood students until a new building can be funded?

While outreach to parents about this project has been fair, the real impact will be not on children currently in the system but on future students; has outreach to future parents and the community as a whole been adequate? It  seems not.

A recent guest column in the bulletin raises many questions about the proposal guidelines required by the MSBA. Are the facts being misrepresented by our school administration? If so, why?

Consider this a zero confidence vote.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Sheilah P. Jones
Email: sheilahpjones@gmail.com
Address: 273 Amity St.

Time: October 31, 2015 at 10:46 am


Senay Solak 

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):
Many members of the community that I have talked to are opposed to the new school proposal by the District. It is damaging to the great way of life and education our kids enjoy in the town of Amherst. This “mega-school” project should be better discussed in the community, and should not move forward as it is.

As a long-time resident of Amherst, I would like to express my strong opposition to the current idea, and urge the School Committee vote against it on November 3rd. This shouldn’t be how our future kids will be educated. The opportunity for deeper discussions on the issue should be provided to the residents of Amherst.

Wildwood parent: Yes
Amherst resident: Yes

Name: Senay Solak
Email: senaysolak@hotmail.com
Address: Amherst, MA01002

Time: October 31, 2015 at 12:15 pm


ANONYMOUS [teacher/staff]

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Community schools are important.  Even with “wings” of a larger school, the transitions for elementary students would be large.  Having second graders, and second grade teachers, separated from the rest of primary school learning is not pedagogically sound.

Other options should be explored to make healthy learning environments for both Wildwood and Fort River students and staff.

Wildwood staff or teacher: Yes

Time: October 31, 2015 at 6:04 pm


[ANONYMOUS Amherst Resident]

 

Regarding the Grade Reconfiguration plan, I (check one)::
I OPPOSE the recommendation for Grade Reconfiguration.

Share your reasons, concerns, questions, and values! (Optional but highly encouraged):

Amherst resident: Yes

Name:
Email:
Address:

Time: October 31, 2015 at 6:06 pm