The Town of Amherst Elementary School Building project continues to make progress. On June 9, 2021 the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) formally approved Amherst’s selection of Anser Advisory, LLC as the Owner’s Project Manager for the Town’s Elementary School Building project. The approval of the Anser team, led by Margaret Wood, marks the beginning of the Feasibility Phase of the school building project. Anser’s proposal can be found here.
The thirteen-member Building Committee, with Town Councilor Cathy Schoen serving as chair and Town Councilor Steve Schreiber serving as vice-chair, collaborated with Anser to draft a request for services for a design team to work with the Town during the Feasibility Phase of the project. Pending MSBA review of the draft and timing for advertising and selection of the design firm, the expectation is for design work to commence in October once all approvals are received from the MSBA.
Amherst was invited to the Feasibility Phase by MSBA with a choice of one of two potential study projects. One would move the Amherst 6th Grade to the Regional Middle School and consolidate Wildwood and Fort River Elementary Schools into a single school with kindergarten-5th grade housing approximately 575 students. The other would be a single kindergarten-6th grade school with 320 students renovating or replacing one school and retaining the other.
In the presentation to the MSBA panel on June 7th for approval of the project manager, Wood provided a possible one-year project design timeline for the project that would result in a vote by Amherst residents at the November, 2022 election. A debt exclusion override vote by residents will be required to fund the Town’s share of the school project costs.
Key milestones and decisions during the pre-construction/funding phase include:
- Decision about 6th Grade. The School Committee plans a series of public forums and meetings with the community, including teachers, staff, and families to decide whether to move the 6th grade to the Middle School. As discussed by the School Committee, this move would resolve current pressing space challenges in our elementary schools as well as provide educational gains for students. The target is for the School Committees to make this decision in the Fall of 2021.
- Grade Configuration and School Size: The MSBA has provide Amherst with two choices of grade configuration: a consolidated school grades K-5 or a school grade K-6. The decision on 6th Grade and middle school will guide this decision.
- Location decision: The design team, working with the Town, will assess locations within the Town to inform a decision about the location of the building project, as determined by the grade configuration decided by the School Committee.
- Schematic design: The schematic design phase will focus on the design of the new or renovated school building. The design will include a requirement that the building meet the Town’s net-zero energy bylaw. The school design will be also be guided by Amherst educational program including providing space for Amherst’s bilingual program known as Caminantes. The design request for designer serves specified the preference for daylight-filled classrooms, a warm-child centered layout, flexible space for potential community and performance events, and outdoor spaces for creative plan and environmental learning.
Emphasizing the importance of ensuring ample opportunities for public input, Elementary School Building Chair Cathy Schoen said, “Working with the design and project teams, and School Committee, we will work to engage teachers and staff, parents and guardians, and residents throughout the process through forums and other outreach efforts to inform our decision-making.”
A new website for the Elementary School Building project will provide timelines, documents, and pictures to enable the public to find information and alerts.
Town Manager Paul Bockelman said, “I am pleased that the MSBA has endorsed our project, the selection of our OPM, and enthusiastically supported the Town as we take the next steps toward making a new school a reality.”
Superintendent of School Dr. Michael Morris added, “The MSBA’s decision and the hiring of an OPM is a significant step forward in our mission to address one of the major building needs in the District.”
Members of the Elementary School Building Committee are:
- Paul Bockelman Town Manager
- Diane Chamberlain Fort River Principal
- Dwayne Chamble Resident Member
- Anthony Delaney Procurement Officer
- Allison Estes Wildwood Elementary Assistant Principal
- Benjamin Herrington School Committee Member
- Sean Mangano Town Finance Director
- Phoebe Merriam Resident Member
- Dr. Michael Morris Superintendent of Schools
- Rupert Roy-Clark School Director of Facilities
- Jonathan Salvon Resident Member
- Cathy Schoen Town Councilor
- Stephen Schreiber Town Councilor
For further information contact: Dr. Michael Morris, Superintendent of Schools, email@example.com or 413.362.1810