Wildwood Elementary School, Amherst
Considering the school disarray just over the past two months -- black on white racial bullying, endless "lockdowns," and racist graffiti left in rest rooms -- it's probably not the best of times for Amherst Town Meeting to discuss a BIG ticket item like elementary school renovation/expansion.
Occasionally Town Meeting can put aside emotion, but it still may be a tough sell considering the declining school age population in Amherst, where high property tax rates and recent problems in the schools could be causing a bit of an exodus of families with school aged children.
APD @ ARHS school lockdown April 2nd
Article #17, although it doesn't give a dollar amount, would authorize the expenditure of $1 million for a Wildwood "school feasibility study"-- 60% of which would be covered by a state grant courtesy of the Massachusetts School Building Authority (who gets their funding via 1% of the state sales tax).
The comprehensive study will analyze the costs for a major renovation of the aging, circa 1970, school -- but could also conclude demolition is in order. The study would also look at whether Amherst will even need three elementary schools in the future.
The $400,000 town portion of the project is already funded so to speak. Last year Town Meeting approved that amount via borrowing to replace the original boilers at Wildwood, which have had a hard time producing hot water. The boilers have not yet been replaced but if the school is to be renovated at mostly state expense it makes sense to roll that replacement into the major renovation.
Article #18 would redirect that previous $400,000 appropriation to funding the feasibility study.
East Street School. Just front ramp to entryway will cost $100K
Town Meeting will also vote under article #16 to spend $700,000 to rehab the East Street School which has been abandoned for a few years. Facilities Director Ron Bohonowitcz told the Joint Capital Planning Committee that just to make it handicapped accessible will cost $100,000.
The plan is to move Leisure Services and Supplemental Education (Rec Dept) out of the Bangs Community Center into the newly renovated brick building, although LSSE does not seem overly enthused about the idea.
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