Saturday, February 27, 2016

A peaceful 4 Town Meeting

Maria Geryk, ARPS Superintendent

Representatives of all fours towns in the Amherst Regional Public School District met this beautiful Saturday morning for not much more than an hour to hear from the administration about the FY17 budget, up 2.6% over last year, and to hear updates about expanding Regionalization all the way down to preK-6th, and consolidating Regional Middle School students into the Regional High School.

 Amherst Assistant and Temp Town Manager Dave Ziomek, Peter Hechenbleikner attended

There was not much to update on those last two items since the Regional School Committee voted on Thursday to delay for a year the expanded Regionalization and last month voted to delay school consolidations.

Mainly because Amherst has so much on their plate at the moment, with the new $65+ million 2-in-1 mega school currently on the fast track.

 Always colorful Trevor Baptiste, Chair of the Regional School Committee (standing)

But Kathy Mazur did give a brief presentation pointing out the previous high water mark for enrollment at the Middle and High schools was 2,000 total, and September's projected total occupancy is only 1300.  The High School has a capacity of 1,700 or way more room for all the current students in the Region.

Spectators included State Rep & School Committee candidates and that rarest of breeds, a print reporter

Mazur estimated the savings to the Region after consolidation comes to $800,000.

Administrators wish to form working groups from all four towns to discuss the assessment method, merging the Middle School into High School, and what to do with the Middle School after it becomes surplus to the Region's academic needs, plus the enormous capital costs coming up in the not so distant future.

Ms. Mazur pointed out there's great interest in repurposing the Middle School building for the arts as well as space for Amherst Media, Greenfield Community College and the Amherst Boys & Girls Club.

Amherst's recreation department (LSSE) is already moving in to a 3,500 square foot space next month in the rear of the Middle School.

Regional Middle School (bottom center) Amherst Wildwood Elementary (top)

Of course Amherst taxpayers may wonder why they are financing essentially two new elementary schools to replace both Wildwood and Fort River when this building is a Frisbee throw away from Wildwood.

After an hour of mostly cordial discussion Superintendent Maria Geryk came to the key sales closing asking each town, "Will you pay your assessment?"

They all said yes.  Of course now all four Town Meetings also have to approve.


Anonymous said...

The middle school can easily be converted to an elementary school with a simple addition of classrooms for Pk-2 graders and adjustments much less than $65K.

Anonymous said...

The first two of two committee townships, Amherst and Shutesbury, should anticipate opening as grades 6-8 middle schools in the 2018-19 school year and the other three will follow within the next four years. The Middle School Instructional Task Force is a district-wide advisory group to consider curriculum and instruction models; Site Construction Committees will separately convene to address physical space and facilities design. The two committees will share some members to make sure that information flow is cohesive and that they're working in concert with one another.

Anonymous said...

I know that it's strictly verboten on this blog to say anything nice about the Superintendent, but here goes anyway:

As I was in attendance on Saturday in no official capacity, I noticed that Ms. Geryk made absolutely sure that all of us spectating in the peanut gallery got the same printed handouts that all the committee members from the various towns got, so we could follow along.

Does that degree of openness happen everywhere in America? I doubt it.

Rich Morse