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Posted on: December 11, 2019

Massachusetts School Building Authority Admits Town of Amherst Into Grant Program

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The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Board voted unanimously this morning to invite the Town of Amherst into the Eligibility Period of its Core to address building deficiencies in one of our district schools. Amherst was among 11 school districts selected this year out of a total of 61 core project applications to partner with the MSBA. We look forward to working with State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, Chair of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, and MSBA Executive Director/Deputy CEO John K. McCarthy and the entire MSBA staff as we move forward.

The proposed project would address the documented need for a significant new learning environment for elementary students in Amherst. The District reported in its Statements of Interest that the current Wildwood and Fort River Elementary School buildings do not meet the educational needs of their students due to their open classroom design; aging mechanical systems that are beyond the expected life span; inefficient energy systems ill-aligned with the Town’s values on consumption; documented accessibility issues; and an unsafe, outdated design. In these Statements of Interest, the District outlined a consensus plan developed with input from the community that would address the problems of both schools in one MSBA project so there would be no delay for either school. Additionally, the consensus plan identified one warm, child-centered building for 600 students that would be no bigger than either current building; a K-5 or K-6 grade configuration; and, a survey to solicit community feedback during the MSBA feasibility study process before binding decisions are made.

“I am pleased the MSBA understood the significant challenges Amherst’s educators and students face on a daily basis,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Morris.

Amherst School Committee Chair Anastasia Ordonez expressed appreciation to the MSBA, adding, “We are grateful that the MSBA has seen the incredible amount of work the District, the Town and our community have put into building public understanding and support for our application since the last project.”

Town Council President Lynn Griesemer noted, “I am very optimistic. This is a major, first step in our efforts to address the Town’s long-overdue capital needs. The listening sessions we held during the last week on capital investments have demonstrated that educating our children is a top priority for all members of the community.”

Town Manager Paul Bockelman added, “This is the start of a 5-7 year process for financing and building a new school. We intend to have extensive community engagement and participation as we move forward. The process we follow, which started with the School Committee’s Listening Sessions earlier this year, will result in a better learning environment for our children as we navigate into the 21st century.”

Mindy Domb, State Representative of 3rd Hampshire, said “I’m excited that Amherst is back in the pipeline for possible MSBA funding for a new, safe, healthy school. I am looking forward to the upcoming process and the significant community conversation and involvement that it will entail. I’m hopeful it will result in the building our students and teachers deserve.”

 “This helps us move forward on our goal that students born today in the Town of Amherst will have a beautiful new space which will undoubtedly enhance and improve their ability to excel in the classroom when they are ready to start kindergarten,” concluded Superintendent Morris.

The date chosen by the MSBA for Amherst to enter the MSBA process will be in Spring or Summer of 2020.  The MSBA advised the district and Town that between now and May, the process to identify a building committee can begin; funding for the feasibility study can be allocated; and information from prior studies can be gathered to share with future consultants for their review.


For more information: Superintendent Michael Morris (morrism@arps.org) | Town Manager Paul Bockelman (bockelmanp@amherstma.gov) | Communications Manager Brianna Sunryd (sunrydb@amherstma.gov)

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