108,000 square foot, Wildwood Elementary School, built 1970, enrollment 412
For many parents with children in the Amherst public schools the "Wildwood School Study" only appeared on their radar recently. Mainly because the name implies only the Wildwood Elementary School would be impacted and a lack of effective outreach from school officials.
But now of course everybody is aware that the "Reconfiguration" model is the preferred plan by administrators which means the new construction of a Mega-School that is really two schools in one. Thus ailing Fort River is also impacted in the most major way possible.
As is Crocker Farm, which will go from preK-6 to only preK & 1st grade while the new Mega-School will handle all students grades 2-6.
The reason the administration wants to maximize the number of students in the new Mega-School is funding, as the state MSBA program will cover 58% of the cost (even though many people thought it would be as high as 68%).
Assistant Superintendent Mike Morris (rt) presenting to Wildwood Building Committee 10/15
At the most recent 10/15 Wildwood School Building Committee meeting Assistant Superintendent Mike Morris went through pretty much the same Powerpoint presentation he gave to the School Committee on 10/20.
All except the most important slide with the recommendation for the new Mega-School rather than simply renovating or replacing Wildwood at 40% less cost.
Since the construction of a Mega-School is twice as tricky as constructing a regular sized school to replace Wildwood (or renovate it) I'm surprised the Wildwood Building Committee was not given a heads up at that 10/15 meeting.
Since it was less than a week away from the School Committee presentation obviously school administrators had by then made their major decision.
In other words, why not put the Mega-School plan on the table and let the Wildwood Building Committee vote on it before presentation to the School Committee?
Timeline for Mega School
Which is of course a LOT more expensive than simply replacing/renovating Wildwood alone at $12 million vs $20 million. School officials have certainly failed to learn from history.
The original 6/14/94 Debt Exclusion Override to renovate the Amherst Regional High School passed Town Meeting and Select Board muster with ease, but failed at the ballot box by 73 votes the first time around, 1979 to 1907.
Less than six months later, after extensive public outreach, Town & School officials brought the Debt Exclusion Override back and it passed 2,786 to 2,161.
Interestingly we are still paying for the $26 million ARHS renovation from all those years ago as well as the $4 million Crocker Farm school renovations.
And the town is facing three other major building projects in the very near future: new South Fire Station & DPW building and the Jones Library expansion.
Current Town Debt
Thus there's an advantage for a project to come first, before sticker shock can set in. The problem comes for the project that goes 4th after the other three have been approved and town officials do the math on how much that's going to cost.
My biggest fear is the desperately needed new South Fire Station goes dead last.