Friday, April 8, 2016

Mega School Update

New school footprint would shift to the rear of current Wildwood location

A couple dozen concerned parents/guardians showed up last night to the Regional Middle School for a public forum on the Wildwood School Building project, which of course now includes Fort River School under the same roof.

 30 people total at the forum, about one-third of them town officials

Although proponents are quick to point out the footprint of the new two story mega school will actually be smaller than the current footprint of Wildwood alone.
The Wildwood Building Committee had convened a couple hours earlier to hear the same presentation from the consultants, although only 12 of the 22 members were in attendance.  

Both newly elected School Committee members were in attendance, Laura Kent as a participating member of the Building Committee and Anastasia Ordonez in the audience.

Although when Ms. Ordonez tried to interact she was shushed by School Committee Chair Katherine Appy because her presence constituted a Committee quorum and it had not been posted as a public meeting.

The consultants confirmed the project was still on track for an Massachusetts School Building Authority September meeting to approve the schematic design and their May meeting for an overall approval which garners a 55% or so reimbursement rate on the $64.4 million overall costs.

 Wildwood Building current cost estimates

Amherst officials will then bring a Debt Exclusion Override to Town Meeting in November for approval of the $30.6 million town share of the costs.  That requires a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting, and then a majority of the Select Board must agree to place it on the local election ballot for town wide approval.

At Monday night's Select Board meeting Chair Alisa Brewer skewered Doug Slaughter over his final report of the Joint Capital Planning Committee to Town Meeting for showing a Debt Exclusion Override on the immediate horizon to fund Wildwood while also showing both Jones Library expansion and new DPW building, but not even mentioning the South Fire Station.

The town is looking at over $100 million in costs for the four major upcoming building projects -- Wildwood, Jones Library, DPW, and Fire Station -- and so far no BIG picture plan has been formulated to fund them.

If the Wildwood School Building project manages to negotiate the challenging funding gauntlet ahead the plan is to use decommissioned Fort River School property as a location for the new $30 million DPW building.   And the old decommissioned DPW on South Pleasant Street would become the location for the new South Fire Station.

Gray area in front of new building is current footprint of Wildwood.  Hawthorn on far left

The current plan for Wildwood construction is to build half the building behind Wildwood,  move students into it and then demolish the original building.  Phase 2 would be the second half of the new building, with students from Fort River moving in upon completion.

Playing areas for the children are a concern since the topography of Wildwood is hilly and a fair amount of pavement is required to handle the 23 buses needed for transportation.

The current schematic shows use of the Hawthorn property, although that too is hilly and will require expensive landscaping not currently in the $64.4 million school building budget.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Morris also said a "land use agreement" could be worked out with the Regional School District for use of the adjacent Middle School playing fields.

Two schools will share kitchen and gymnasium

117 comments:

Anonymous said...

Using the middle school playing fields is problematic, as they are not handicapped accessible from Wildwood.

Scrooge McDuck said...

So, the existing play areas will be eliminated with no plan to replace them.

Is this the work of insane people? If they are trying to drive away young families this will certainly do the trick.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for covering this Larry. The mega school also includes Crocker Farm under the same roof.
Any word on how much converting Crocker Farm into an early childhood center is going to cost us tax payers? It's not included in the $64m.
Regarding playing fields, I hope a "land use agreement" is worked out quickly, this seems to be a major oversight.
I feel sorry for all the Wildwood kids that are going to have to live through all the construction and disruption (and lose their playing fields).

Larry Kelley said...

No, Crocker Farm will not be part of the mega school which is only 2nd through 6th grades.

But Crocker will become a mega early childhood education center with all pre-school and 1st graders.

No estimates yet for what those infrastructure rehab costs will be.

Anonymous said...

It will include 2-6 students from crocker farm.

Nobody mentions the new mega early childhood center that replaces Crocker farm elementary school. That actually seems more troubling than the mega 2-6 school.

Anonymous said...

In case the record is not clear: Ms. Appy would be "shushing" Ms. Ordonez in order to keep the School Committee in compliance with the Open Meeting Law. Here are two people who are devoting their volunteer time beyond their own meetings to stay informed on the process.

Once again, Open Meeting Law is not holy writ. If it isn't working to enhance public discourse and a reasonably free exchange of thoughts and ideas, it should be changed. There is ample room for debate about how it works in practice....and there are frequently massive disconnects between the folks who write a state statute and those who have to comply with it.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

So pre-school and kindergarten age children that live all the way out in North Amherst near Cherry Hill will ride a bus every day all the way to Crocker Farm?

Larry Kelley said...

Yep.

(Drone technology is not quite there yet.)

Anonymous said...

Yep, and preK - grade 1 age children who live next door to wildwood will also be bussed to Crocker Farm (as from everywhere else in town)

Grade 2-6 children from all over town, including those who live south of Crocker Farm and Fort River, will be bussed to New mega school (at wildwood)

Makes perfect sense. Traffic is going to be so much fun. Hope that new roundabout gets built quickly!

Anonymous said...

So if you have a 1st grader and a 2nd grader you will have to drive to different places. That's a real problem. Isn't anyone thinking about the problems this will cause?

Anonymous said...

The DPW project should be shelved. It's a luxury.

Anonymous said...

Towns all across the Commonwealth are configured in this way and most parents really like it.

Anonymous said...


I am confused about the timeline for the approvals for this project.

You wrote:
Amherst officials will then bring a Debt Exclusion Override to Town Meeting in November for approval of the $30.6 million town share of the costs. That requires a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting, and then a majority of the Select Board must agree to place it on the local election ballot for town wide approval.
-----
Originally it sounded like the school district administrators wanted to bring the Debt Exclusion Override question to Amherst voters in the November 2016 election. If the project is going to Town Meeting in November, does this mean that the town-wide election vote on the project & the debt exclusion override won't take place until the following spring?

Larry Kelley said...

No, all the financing has to be in place this coming Fall.

Anonymous said...

Is the project going to be ready to go voters in November?
and is it then going to go to the voters before Town Meeting votes on it?

what happens if the project is put off another 6 months?

Anonymous said...

If Crocker Farm (CF) becomes a preK-1st grade school, there isn't going to be much room to expand the preK (as has now been proposed) unless there are building renovations and additions. If K and 1st grade each have 8 classes per grade, then that's 16 classrooms, just a few less than the total K-6 classrooms at CF now and CF doesn't have a community meeting room anymore due to space constraints & the room needing to be used for other purposes.

Assuming it is approved by Town Meeting and town voters, the new school building is proposed to open in Sept 2019. I hope that the district will look at some redistricting before that. Crocker Farm doesn't have much extra room these days; some new families in the CF area have been told that their kids can't attend CF because the CF class sizes are already too big. The largest class sizes at CF are in the grades with only two classes instead of three, and there is little room to add another class in those grades even if needed.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned that the ground footprint of the new school building will be smaller than the footprint that Wildwood currently is.

Question:
How does the total school, parking, and driveway footprint (in other words all the paved or built space except for the playground..) of the new school building compare to the current footprint?

Larry Kelley said...

Well it's bigger because where Wildwood currently sits will become mostly asphalt.

Anonymous said...

People hate change. And I'm no exception.

Anonymous said...

Twice the kids at Wildwood, twice the parking, half the playground space. Yeah, that makes sense.

The playground space is right up against Strong Street, on the hill. And the planners said the woods will be "passive play space". Please note, the kids are not allowed to play in those woods now, because it's unsupervised.

Or they can play on the roof, if it's green ...?

And apparently there will just be one busride through each neighborhood for all kids .... So, a north Amherst family with a kindergartener & a 2nd grader will ride on the same bus to one school, drop one kid off, and then ride to the next school. Which means that pickup will be really early and drop off will be really late (and kids will be waiting at the late pickup school). In South Amherst, I guess the little kids will get off the bus first, and the older kids will have a really long bus ride. But in North Amherst, the little kids will have a really long bus ride in the morning and the afternoons.

And at both schools, there will be, what, 15, 20 buses? Stacked up in double rows, so elementary age kids can dodge between them to get to and from their buses. That sounds like a good idea.

These fine administrators are the same people who didn't figure out the mismatched bell schedule between the middle & high school until it was pointed out to them by the assistant vice principal of the middle school. I'm not sure they're doing so well at "planning".

And their choices on curriculum haven't exactly been well-received, either. And teachers are widely reported to be very unhappy and feel censored. So we're paying them for curriculum and planning and management.

Let's see, what else. Oh yeah, in the supposed "double school" plan the School Committee was promised, we now have a combined 6th grade, a combined entry, combined bus loop, combined gym, etc., etc. Yeah, very separate. I feel sorry for the people who actually believed the School District when they bought that line about a "double school." "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it further."

Let's add the $70 million to the cost of renovating Crocker Farm, doing whatever land grading they have to do, getting rid of Fort River, and figure out the inevitable cost overruns. And subtract from the 55% reimbursement the cost of the kiln and makerspaces and other lavish goodies that MSBA isn't going to pay for. And see how many parents are shipping their kids out to Chinese Charter or other schools at a cost to Amherst.

Gotta say, I'm glad my kids will be out of this system.

Anonymous said...

Parents will no longer be able to drive their kids to school.
PVTA buses will replace school buses (just like in Burlington, VT - thanks, Bernie).
Teachers and staff will no longer get free parking, but can purchase a permit or use the new bike racks or walk.
The roof of the middle school will become a heliport to securely transept central administrators.

Anonymous said...

When a star of a sufficient mass burns through all its fuel, it almost surely explodes like a supernova or collapses into a black hole. Replace "star" with "school" and you begin to get the picture….

Dr. Ed said...

I always said that Maria G was going to crash & burn spectacularly.

And the other expense no one is talking about is the Pre-K staffing which is an ongoing expense. My guess would be a 10% increase in the budget -- likely more as I don't think there is state aid.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that there are those who continue to call this new building a mega-school. It is actually two very distinct schools as per school committee policy. And, even if it did become one elementary school 10 or 20 years from now, it would still not be considered a mega school. The fear and scare tactics of the Republican party are alive and well in Amherst. It is hard to imagine that this town would vote down this school and state funding to leave Wildwood and Fort River as they are for the next 20 years...cause the MSBA is not coming back to a town that doesn't want their money. Those that wont work to make this school possible are clearly not thinking of the students and the teachers who must work and learn in these buildings every day...

Laura Quilter said...

Hi anon 8:03. In fact the administration has already started effectively merging the "two separate distinct" schools, as per the public forum two nights ago.

But call it a mega-school or not, it is very expensive, and very unpopular. Luckily we don't have to choose between two bad options -- do nothing or get an unpopular expensive large school. Renovation of both schools is still on the table in the MSBA process. Although the School Administration has made the numbers look bad in comparison to new construction, digging in, you see that cost estimates for renovation are actually much more favorable than reported. Maria Kopicki, who brought a lot of clarity to the MSBA procedure in the fall, and I are bringing an article on the spring warrant to actually have a third party, neutral examination of the renovation costs.

People who are not happy with the option pushed by the District, or not satisfied with the District's explanations, you still have time to make your voices heard. Write to the MSBA directly, write to the Finance Committee, come to Town Meeting n support of our article, or in other ways please support the only good option left -- renovation of both Fort River and Wildwood.

Larry Kelley said...

Have you come with an appropriation amount for the renovation option?

Anonymous said...

I really wish that the district had given more consideration to the idea of reusing the Amherst Middle School for elementary school purposes. School administrators have said that doing so isn't feasible, because the Middle School is owned by the regional school district & not the town. This isn't an insurmountable obstacle. Plus administrators say there would be the cost of renovating the school for an elementary school.

Well, are those costs more than a brand new school?
and isn't the district and town already spending money to renovate the Middle School building for LSSE and other purposes.

The district now has plans to have other services in the Middle School building too, such as an expanded Family Center,the southeast campus, more GCC offerings, etc.....
all before the School Committee and the town, and the regional towns, have even approved moving the middle school students into the high school building.

As with the elementary school project, the administration seems to view public and school committee approvals almost as an afterthought -- full speed ahead on their plans regardless of the concerns that people express.

The school committee members and the voters actually have the right to say "No" and they very well might.

Laura Quilter said...

Hi Larry --

It's working its way through the system and we'll make information available as we can.

Laura

Larry Kelley said...

Okay thanks.

I wasn't sure what happened at the Finance Committee meeting Thursday as I was at the school building forum.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where the idea of the MSBA paying for both schools to be renovated came from. That is absolutely not true. The MSBA accepted the Wildwood school into the process. Not Fort River. They have offered no money for renovation of Fort River. The cost estimates of renovation of both schools has been done. Unless you want to accuse the independent companies that did the estimates of lying and fraud, the numbers are the numbers. The administration had nothing to do with it... People may not like the idea of two schools for 2-6, but that is the only realistic option available for both schools at this point. That or nothing. Amherst may choose nothing and that's up to the voters, but at least don't confuse the issue and say there is a third option available. Even if you say it repeatedly, it doesn't make it true. And to say the new building is very unpopular" is pure hyperbole. If that was true, Vince O Conner would have won the school committee election. Many, many community members have been supportive of the new school from the beginning.
The town of Amherst has 4 major projects that they want to complete over the next several years. It would be fiscally irresponsible to turn down state money and try to pay for the schools out of town coffers. Should we not build a new much needed fire station? or renovate and expand a Library that is a centerpiece of our town and is in physical disrepair?
I guess the worst thing you can say about the school administration is that they want a new building to support teaching and learning. Remember that this is a decision that will not effect the majority of students in the schools today, but it will impact future students. Are you willing to condemn those students to buildings that are badly deteriorating now? can you imagine what these buildings will look like in 5, 10 or 15 years?

Anonymous said...

No, see, it's NOT that or nothing. That's the false spin. Another option is minor (relatively) renovation of Wildwood with 50% state funds and then the same for fort river with all town money. Bet it will cost FAR less than the gold plated mega school. And it's what most parents want.

All this mega school planning is a waste of time and money because if town meeting doesn't vote it down, then the voters will. Guaranteed.

Laura Quilter said...

Anon 10:11am, nobody has said the MSBA would pay for both schools. (I call strawman.) The question is whether an MSBA-supported renovation of Wildwood (at an approximately 55% reimbursement rate), and a Town-supported renovation of Fort River, would be comparable in cost or less than the Town share of the current 2-6 school and all the attendant expenses.

A number of people (including me) have noticed problems and discrepancies with the Administration's bottom-line totals of the costs for "renovation" versus "new 2-6". Just briefly:

New Building Questions: The 2-6 building cost needs to include costs that will be borne wholly by the Town, including costs to (1) renovate Crocker Farm to K-1; (2) decommission/rehab FR; (3) site treatment options at WW; and (4) any needed renovation to the old schools that has to be done b/w now & when the new school comes online--for instance FR sick building issues or WW boiler issues. (Please note that one of our new School Committee members, Ms. Ordonez, has also referenced FR's sick building issues. It's unconscionable to permit our children and staff to be in a sick building for the next several years. We should test the air quality NOW, and fix any problems immediately. I hope everyone can agree with that.)

Renovation Questions: Renovation was costed out by the District as MORE expensive than new construction, which is likely due to a number of odd accounting choices. Some of the discrepancies include that the District's cost-per-square-foot of renovation estimates are much more than MSBA averages, and that using square footage includes spaces that would not in fact need to be renovated (like the gym), and that this over-estimated sf cost for WW was then doubled to stand in for FR--without taking into account renovations already completed at FR, such as the FR boiler which has already been replaced.

Because some of these inconsistencies are obvious when you spend a couple of hours reading through the documents, we as citizens are asking that the Town, in the interests of fiscal responsibility in dealing with a very expensive (and unpopular) project, take an independent look at the numbers. I and other concerned parents can produce all the numbers we want, but we need someone with credibility to look at it, independent of the vested interests of the School Administration, and with the authority and legitimacy we as private citizens lack.

(1 of 2) -- Laura Quilter

Laura Quilter said...

(2 of 2)

As to unpopular -- it's a fallacy to assume that voting for representatives means support for all their positions. Indeed, Ms. Ordonez and Ms. Kent are, apparently, supportive of the new building, but that wasn't obvious from their signs or websites--just in Q&A on facebook & in-person forums. It makes sense electorally to not make a platform out of supporting something unpopular, but then one can't reasonably claim the election as a mandate on that position. The new school building is manifestly unpopular according to the one survey done, and School Committee members acknowledged as much in their vote to move it forward.

People may not like the idea of two schools for 2-6, but that is the only realistic option available for both schools at this point. "The only realistic option" is not accurate to the MSBA process. In fact, renovation is still on the table in the MSBA process. I and many other parents have felt that it has never been given serious consideration. You see this repeatedly in the comments on the public survey, in letters to the editors, in comments on this blog, and in personal conversations--anybody who talks about this raises common sense questions about renovation.

The Administration hasn't been shy about their preference for K1/2-6. The problem is that it's always easy, when you have a desired outcome, to pick and choose the numbers that get you there.

Ideally the School Committee would ask hard questions and point out inconsistencies, and second-guess the process to get at better, stronger, more justified answers. Unfortunately, only a couple of members asked hard questions, and there was little follow-through on the answers. I could talk about this at length, but this comment is already too long. Suffice it to say that right now, basically, our School Committee as a whole views its responsibility as working WITH Administration to get work done efficiently, not scrutinizing them critically. I have a fundamentally different view of the role of an elected representative body and its relationship to the administrative bodies.

So here we are: Tens of millions of dollars are at stake, and some fairly major questions about the math have been repeatedly raised and not answered, and an unpopular choice that will affect generations of Amherst residents and children is being put forward as the "only realistic" option. Such a proposal deserves at least to have a neutral eye to make sure the numbers are right.

This is a big project, so it makes sense that a number of bodies have to approve it--School Committee, Finance Committee, Select Board, ultimately Town Meeting and the Town itself for the appropriate overrides. We are past the SC, but the other bodies still need to weigh in. I want these bodies to have all the information they need to make their decisions. I very much hope that we can come up with a solution that creates the best schooling environment for all our children, as cost-effectively as possible for their parents.

Laura Quilter

* I'm going offline for a while & if I don't respond, it doesn't mean I don't have a response! (-:

Laura Quilter said...

Larry, I posted two comments but got my anon time wrong I think -- should have been 10:11 am. Please feel free to fix for clarity of post this comment.

Laura Quilter

Larry Kelley said...

Comments are all or nothing.

I have no ability to edit them (which is probably a good thing).

Anonymous said...

Laura, thank you for your thoughtful analysis and comments. Especially the examination of the absurd renovation estimates for Wildwood. If the school department's plans really made sense, they should not have to gin up silly over-estimates for the renovation options to make the mega school look better in comparison....

Dr. Ed said...

Square foot of playground space per child now versus square foot per child in the megaschool.

Or the bifircated megaschool. Notice how no one is saying two playgrounds....

AND the one thing that big schools traditionally have are LARGE playgrounds, along with PE programs that are not possible on a scattered site basis.

And there is also Option 999 -- bulldozing Fort River and installing portable classrooms. THAT would be preferable to this disaster and likely cheaper.

Dr. Ed said...

Folks, when was the last time a construction project came in on budget?
The Amherst Woods sewers are what, twice what they were supposed to cost.
The new UM Steam Plant was how many $M over budget when finally done?
Likewise the new UMPD station.

And that's without deliberately under-estimating the costs of a massive construction project.

My guess is that you can DOUBLE the town contribution to the megaschool and still be looking at paying more...

Maria G will go down in flames....

Dr. Ed said...

And I mean square feet of "boots-on-the-ground" playground space where children are permitted to play during recess (which I hope we still have) and where PE activities can be conducted. Not the lawns and sidewalks nor parking lots nor adjacent backyards where they may trespass but actual playground.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how one gym (or cafeteria) could serve the twin school needs. Won't there be around 25-30 classes (g2-6) and around 5-6 periods/day, means about 1 class/gym period/week. Do we want our elementary kids to have gym offered only 1 time/week? One question among many....the cafeteria scheduling is equally challenging.

Anonymous said...

The district did not gin up anything. They hired an independent firm who did the analysis.

Anonymous said...

Our ES kids now have PE once a week.

Anonymous said...

Ed, you don't live here.

Anonymous said...

The renovation estimates were prepared by an independent outfit. These numbers were not developed by the administration. The administration had nothing to do with the renovation estimate of cost. Why should the town pay for another independent analysis when an independent analysis has already been done.

Anonymous said...

The state will NOT pay for a minor renovation of Wildwood.

Anonymous said...

The district had nothing to do with the estimates of the building project. The building committee, made up of community members, teachers, public officials and school and town staff, hired an Owner Project Manager firm. This firm, along with the architects hired two independent estimator firms. Both these firms looked at all the possible option costs, including a simple renovation to both schools to bring them up to code (as required by the MSBA process). However, the MSBA will not pay for Wildwood to simply be brought into compliance. They are giving Amherst money to build a school that meets the educational plan. As long as the building is simply brought to code and maintains the open classrooms, it does not meet the educational plan and therefore will not be eligible for state money. To renovate Wildwood and bring it in line with the educational plan would have required gutting the building. The two estimators firms did their estimates independent of one another and then came up with the numbers. It was the school building committee that chose the site and building option that is now before the town. The town now has to choose to pay for the new building with the the help of the MSBA reimbursement or do nothing.

Laura Quilter said...

Anon 3:55, the numbers were prepared by the OPM and the architect, which were hired by the District -- they are not independent. And as I already explained, the numbers are not adding up. So it seems reasonable to me for the Town to do a basic doublecheck of the numbers.

Laura Quilter

Anonymous said...

As an Amherst tax payer I do NOT want the town wasting my money on yet another analysis of the renovation option. The district had NO input on the 1st two analyses. The district did not even choose the two independent firms who did the work. These were both totally independently produced reports. I hope town meeting will vote this article down and not waste the town's money.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see how renovation would fix the open library and hallways much less the quad system (applies to both schools). Even with the new boiler the heating system at Fort River doesn't work well. Many classrooms are cold and many are tropical; this is indicative of many of the problems with renovation ie it won't fix the systemic problems in poorly designed mid-century buildings. Both buildings are sick, dumping more money in them doesn't seem like a reasonable solution.

To use the terms majority or unpopular based on the limited sample size seems misguided. This peer reviewer wouldn't accept your paper due to technically unsound research methods :)

Anonymous said...

Second the opinion on the questionable nature of another report on renovation. Hope it is voted down; total waste of money.

Lara, have you talked to any teachers about your plan? What do the people who work in the buidings think about the potential of renovation? The above insider seems to think it is absurd. Love to hear from more teachers on this......

Anonymous said...

Nothing would change in terms of number of times ES kids have PE. They only have it once a week now.

Laura Quilter said...

Anon at 6:51pm - Teachers, like parents and community members, have a variety of perspectives, but I have definitely talked to teachers at all of the schools (even at Fort River) who prefer K6, neighborhood schools, renovation, etc., over the proposed K1 / 2-6 "mega school" options. I have been told multiple times by people at Fort River that, due to the administration press for new construction, they don't feel comfortable speaking out in criticism much less opposition. This is obviously anecdotal and I can't speak to how widespread it is. Whether there's any effort on the part of Administration to chill expression or not, it's never comfortable for employees to come out against employers who have taken a strong position. So this is exactly why we pushed for anonymous surveying, and of teachers and staff in particular.

As to sample size of the survey, we weren't thrilled with the options presented in the survey -- numerous commenters observed that the survey seemed slanted in favor of reconfiguration -- but the survey firm deemed the sample to be statistically valid.

Anon 5:01, 6:19, 6:51 -- the Building Committee may have been independent in a sense, but was guided very clearly by the District, as numerous people on that Committee have confirmed. Its options were also ultimately constrained by the School Committee, which is also technically "independent", but works hand-in-hand cooperatively with the District. Ms. Appy ran on that platform, in fact. That's not my philosophy of governance, but I guess it appeals to some.

Some people will certainly just want everyone to "move on". However, the renovation option is still live in the MSBA process, and numerous bodies at Amherst have yet to weigh in. Since the process has NOT adequately answered many questions thus far, it seems to me that it would be in everyone's interests to adequately flesh out renovation costs. Your mileage may vary.

Laura Quilter

Anonymous said...

Again, the building committee did NOT, I repeat, did NOT do the renovation analysis. Two INDEPENDENT firms did the analysis and gave their report to the building committee. I cannot fathom why this is such a difficult concept to understand.

Laura Quilter said...

Anon 8:09 pm - I cannot fathom why this is such a difficult concept to understand. Maybe because you keep saying things like, "the school committee did not do the renovation analysis", which nobody has said. (Strawman again.)

I agree that it's not that hard: The Town allocated money at the request of the School Committee / School Administration (working together). The School Administration worked to select firms & numbers and worked iteratively with the firms. The School Committee and the School Administration reviewed the numbers and made choices. The SC, the SBC, and the Administration are proud of working together cooperatively, so credit where credit is due. The firms were "independent" in that they are businesses that were hired; of course, hiring creates an agency relationship. There's nothing sinister or complex.

Having someone outside this loop look at the numbers should not be so upsetting. Audits and third-party review catch errors and oversights, and I hope we can all agree that we should have accurate numbers and catch any errors and omissions.

Laura Quilter

Anonymous said...

I never said the School committee did the renovation analysis. I said the administration had nothing to do with it. They did not influence the report. The School Building Committee hired two independent firms to provide an analysis. They did not influence the analysis.
Under your reasoning any new report will also be flawed because of the people who commission it.
I repeat. I am very much opposed to my tax dollars being spent to do something a third time. All because a few people don't like the results of the first two reports.

Laura Quilter said...

anon 9:01, I'm unhappy with even more of my tax dollars being spent when there are so many unanswered questions and obvious flaws in the numbers. Issues parents have been raising for 6 months now. If the reports had been more independently and thoroughly vetted along the way, then maybe they wouldn't have so many readily discernible holes and unanswered questions. But since the guiding ethos is cooperation, it appears that we have had to wait until now to get the hard questions.

Anyway, on the question of influence and whether it is worth it to have a third opinion, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. In the immortal words of Randall Munroe / xkcd, at least we can both agree that someone is wrong on the Internet. (https://xkcd.com/386/)

Dr. Ed said...

I don't care if I reside on the Third Ring of Saturn, I think the parents (and taxpayers) are entitled to an answer about my question about square feet of playground space per child.

As to two rows of buses and children boarding -- CRINGE!!! And I say that as a former school bus driver.

Anonymous said...

This is a prime example of what is wrong, inefficient about our current Town Meeting form of government. As Laura states above, these are issues/concerns that citizens have been raising for 6 months. But... we have to wait to act on those issues/concerns until May/June, when our legislative branch is scheduled to meet. Any decisions that get made at that meeting won't get put into action until July. In this case, it would require sending out an RFP, reviewing proposals, choosing a firm, getting on with the study, reviewing the study, getting public feedback on the study, requesting and carrying out a reconsideration of the School Committee vote, etc., etc., all during the months of summer when boards, committees, school personnel and townspeople are not likely to be readily available for engaging in the process.

This circumstance makes the viability of voting in favor of more research into the renovation option not only impractical, but totally outside of the Town and State's timeline for action on the current proposal. We could end up losing the State money and be left with two sick, educationally sub-standard school buildings.

We need a more full time government.

Anonymous said...

Ed, you must be 100-years-old, because you claim to have been a building inspector, bus driver, and had just about any other job that gets mentioned. You've got a problem holding on to a job, apparently. Perhaps if you brought your focus to where you actually live rather than being a voyeur on our fair town you might have better luck.

Anonymous said...

Laura, just to be clear, neither the school committee nor the administration hired the OPM firm. The building committee was formed well before that hire. The interview committee for the OPM was comprised of a subset of the building committee and then there was an extensive interview process which included interviews with finalists in Boston. The group that made the final choice was made up primarily of MSBA members (about 11 people including employees of the MSBA as well as independent architects and others) with 3 members of the Amherst building committee. So in actual fact, even though the town and the building committee chose the finalists for the OPM role, the MSBA had the biggest say in the final choice.
The cost estimates were done completely independently as per MSBA guidelines. As you know by now, the MSBA guidelines are very strict. The administration has no access to the estimators. If these firms were able to be influenced by anyone outside their own work, they probably wouldn't be in business long. The MSBA watches and evaluates these things very carefully. They are investing millions of dollars in each of their projects. They too are very concerned with cost. They also have lots of knowledge of what it costs to renovate or build new school buildings. I highly doubt that they would be taken in by numbers that were grossly elevated or unrealistic. Once the estimates are in, the MSBA has their own method of assessing the costs. So talk about a strawman, the idea that the estimators, the OPMs and the MSBA are in cahoots with the district is just far fetched. This WAS and independent estimate. Why waste town money to do it again at full cost to the town? The town allocated money for the feasibility study ( which includes the estimates), which will be reimbursed at 68% by the MSBA. Just because you don't like the outcome, doesn't make the process and the numbers flawed.

Anonymous said...

But the estimates didn't show what they want so there must be some nefarious plot by the school. Lara didn't respond at all to anon 6:37 because the perspective doesn't fit into her narrative (anon 8:22 will be in the same boat). Her group wants what they want and there is no amount of evidence that will dissuade them. Adult version of take your ball and go home.

Laura Quilter said...

Anon 8:22 am, Thanks for your comments. I think we're at an impasse, because we just fundamentally disagree on the nature of this process. Although you're anonymous, it sounds very much like you've been embedded in the process. So your perspective is shaped by that. Mine is shaped by six months of trying to find out about the process, late in the game, asking questions & getting not getting answers, and hearing from many, many parents and community members disheartened by, outraged by, feeling shut out of, and otherwise disenfranchised by the process. I can't tell you how many people have said to me that although they don't have time to get involved, they feel they can't stand up to community pressure (Ft River), they think this is the wrong direction, they feel hopeless -- but they are really glad that at least some parents are trying to challenge the process. Folks in the process are going to be hearing from a different constituency.

As to the numbers, indeed, it was evident that many of the people in the process were quite satisfied with them. To what extent that has to do with the process, which you also feel was fine and I do not, is an interesting question that we are not going to be able to resolve here in this comments section.

As Mike Morris has said, the School Administration just brings forward the case they think best; I'm likewise bringing forward the case I think best, based on my analysis. We'll see what happens. If the Town feels persuaded to vote for all this, then the project will go forward and I, for one, will accept that that's what the Town wants. If the Town doesn't feel persuaded, then we can read that as either the project is bad or that the School Administration & School Committee failed to do their job to persuade the Town.

Laura Quilter

Rick Hood said...

There were pros and cons to all the options presented during this process. If one points to 1 or 2 cons as a reason not to do the proposed plan, which the SC voted for (4-1), that is not a balanced argument, laying out and weighing all pros and cons.

Below are pros and cons of the proposed plan (versus keeping the three K-6 schools):

Cons that have been mentioned:
A. Size of school (mitigated by the wings for the 2-6 school, and even if it were 1 wing, which it isn’t, 750 is simply not “mega”). We were presented with other schools that did this. One school said the 2 wings had actually become “too separate”.
B. Busing (mitigated by adding busses, the cost of which is less than the operational cost savings of 2 buildings versus 3).
C. Siblings not in same school as much
D. Loss of “neighborhood school” (a big issue, for a minority of people)
E. Transitions – 1 more transition than now (unless ARMS combines with ARHS)
F. Peer mentoring (example: 4th grade kids mentoring 1st grade kids)
G. Staff knowing kids all the way from K thru 6

Pros that have been mentioned:
H. Establishing an early learning center where resources in one building can focus on early education.
I. Better equal opportunity for accessing programs (for example, all 2-6 programs are in the same building, not at 3 buildings). It is less expensive to run a program in 1 building than in 3. And it is more equitable because programs vary from building to building.
J. Easier teacher collaboration between teachers in same grade
K. Somewhat better class size optimization - this would be better if grades 2-6 were not split into two wings – that was a compromise.
L. Somewhat better diversity – more likely to have peers of differing background in 2 buildings as opposed to 3.
M. No need to redistrict in the future (or at worst, shifting kids between wings of the new 2-6 school)

Rick Hood said...

Continued…

As an SC member I weighed these very carefully, and these two items were the major ones for me:
H. Establishing an early learning center where resources in one building can focus on early education.
I. Better equal opportunity for accessing programs (for example, all 2-6 program are in the same building, not at 3 buildings). It is less expensive to run a program in 1 building than in 3. And it is more equitable because programs vary from building to building.

We also heard agreements from Principals about how important H was, and while they certainly liked the current K-6, they were willing to give that up to get H.

As far as costs go:
The numbers presented to us showed that the option of renovating WW with MSBA money and renovating FR without it would be a cost to Amherst of $43-50 million, not including costs to relocate kids in some other building during both those projects. There is no “minor” renovation possible that fixes the problem. Because of the way the heating system is, and the temporary walls that were put in, you end up having to gut the interior because heating, plumbing and electrical are all affected when you put in the new walls. There is no cheap fix to fix the main problem with both buildings. Add to that exterior work that is needed (or will be soon) such as new roofs.

This process had a hiccup in the beginning, when despite it being mentioned in the paper very early on, people did not fully understand it. But that was corrected, and we have had more than enough discussion on it. I felt extremely informed when I voted for the plan. Some may not like my vote, but I at least explain the weighing of pros and cons and what I thought the two most important issued were (H and I above).

Spending $30 million on a new school is a LOT of money – no doubt. I understand the reluctance to add to an already high tax bill to do so. At least operational costs will be less, including maintenance, which will be close to zero for quite a few years, which will somewhat balance the cost of the debt service for the new building. Communities simply need to make these investments every so often if they want to be a town that puts education at the top of the list, which Amherst has always been – that is why I moved here.

Anonymous said...


Amherst Elementary students have PE once a week and presumably (hopefully!) this won't change with the new school building. Amherst middle school students have once a week PE for just part of the school year.

It's interesting to me that the Chinese charter school has PE twice a week for all students through middle school, and recess (movement break) for middle school students every day as well -- which is something not built into the ARMS schedule.

Students learn better when they get the opportunity to be more physically active, and the increased time for PE and recess is yet another reason that more parents are opting for the Chinese charter school and other education options outside of the Amherst schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if there has been talk about how to split up the Crocker Farm grades 2 to 6. They seem to be the ones most at risk of losing their school identity.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if there has been talk about how to split up the Crocker Farm grades 2 to 6. They seem to be the ones most at risk of losing their school identity.

Dr. Ed said...

Attacking me merely serves to concede that I am right.

Right on the lack of adequate playground space.
Right on the unsafe bus egress.
Right on the impossibility of this not becoming a megaschool.

There is no rebuttal to the above.

GMWIWAIGA notwithstanding, you are building a school that will suck and
I don't have a problem saying that.

Laura Quilter said...

Thanks for speaking non-anonymously, Rick. It's refreshing when people feel free to put their names to their opinions. I do appreciate your willingness to engage with the public, which I feel is really important for elected representatives.

As to the reasons you cite -- you made your decision. But that job is over, and now the MSBA and state law require the Select Board, Town Meeting, and ultimately the town to weigh in.

Many people in the community remain unpersuaded and balance the harms and benefits differently than you. Given the significant lack of public support for this project, and the really significant investment of money and time and children, having a third-party put eyes on the numbers and make sure they are solid seems only sensible. I would really hope that nobody feels persuaded one way or the other by the unsupported comments on this thread, mine and others, but that's what we're aiming to do: Elevate the discussion from citizens complaining & pointing out problems -- substantively and procedurally -- to get somebody neutral, with authority, to weigh in on the set of problems that seems quite appropriate for the Town to weigh in on: The money and the general contours of the capital plans.

As a librarian, I would hope that nobody would feel persuaded one way or the other by the unsupported comments on this thread -- both pro and con. The School Administration has put forward its proposals, and questions have been noted about it; we're asking the Town Meeting to take seriously its fiduciary duties toward the residents and doublecheck the numbers. Audits, project reviews, peer reviews, whatever you want to call it are a norm and best practice in all sorts of fields. If the numbers are good, it will be an opportunity to bring more people to support the program. If the numbers are bad, we should find that out before we vote.

As we say in First Amendment law (and librarianship), the remedy for bad information is more information.

Best,

Laura Quilter

Anonymous said...


From the Preferred Schematic Report (Feb 2016) for the project:
"The Amherst School Committee voted to have the 750 student school broken into two wings, each comprised of students in grades 2-6."

In the schematic drawings you shared in this post, I don't see any evidence of two wings, just all the classrooms in each of the grade clustered in the same part of the building.

Is the two wings idea still being pursued, and if not, should the project being going back to the Amherst SC for another vote?

having two schools within one larger school building (as the SC voted for) is very different than having one school for 750 students.

Anonymous said...

I'm not confident that anyone on the Building Committee, or anyone we've hired so far, has the ability to introduce design concepts that are intended to meet the needs of the kids who are not born yet and whose parents are still in high school, all the concepts seem based on very current needs and abilities.

The lack of freedom to get up and move around when you want to or need to is the bain of the public schools; you must be here and remain seated and quiet, at the risk of exclusion, punishment, and humiliation. I went absolutely CRAZY at a job like that once.

We teach kids that physical activities are rewards for working at more important things, a role you must earn for being good at it, rather than being as integral to daily life as thinking and feeling. Maybe that's a vestige of a society with different needs and technologies, and maybe we should attempt to integrate some design that will meet future kids' needs (but not become an example of a novel and short-sighted ideals, like "open classrooms" has to the previous parents and planners.

The "worker space" is a nice idea, but the question is really, will a "worker space" be viewed as a novel and short-sighted concept in 20 years? Will our children's children be lamenting over our "worker spaces" like we do our parents "open classrooms"? Is there a plan to convert these spaces, in specific ways based on lifestyle and technological projections, in a certain amount of time?

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me the sports opportunities at the Amherst charter school? How about music? Instrumental music? Art? Other electives?
I for one want my child to get a more well rounded education than what the Amherst charter school offers.

Anonymous said...

The proposed project costs of building the twin school has been projected. But other major costs have NOT. How much will it cost to transform CF into a preK-1? What is the plan for preK? Is it to be expanded? How and to whom? How much will that increase the yearly budget? One gets the impression that the 'plan' of the administration is that once (and if) the twin K school is accepted, THEN the other costs will be provided and since the $ for the twin K got the go ahead, then the other HUGE costs will have to be born as a fait compli. The administration has a track record of not being transparent. As a town we have a right to know these costs and plans for the school (ie preK).

Laura Quilter said...

Anon 7:48 pm, The problems with getting to this point have had nothing to do with Town Meeting, and everything to do with the administration of this process by School Administration & School Committee (Rick's "hiccup").

Going forward, I'll be interested to see how it all works. It's not our intention to disrupt the MSBA timeline -- just to add more information for the Town portions of it.

I'm open to hearing criticisms of Town Meeting, which is in fact a large part of why I ran for Town Meeting -- to see what it was all about and how valid the criticisms were, and what I personally thought would be appropriate ways to address criticisms. My main observation thus far has been that it is already so difficult to get a Citizen Petition for an Article on the Warrant that the intellectual and time burdens are pretty high for anyone who's not part of the process so far. Moving to Mayor / Council or similar seems unlikely to alleviate that burden and reduce burdens for citizen participation. Wouldn't the summer problem be the same no matter what? How much "fulltime government" could we get or would we want? It seems to me that some of our problem in the schools is that a lot of money is spent out of administration on admin & consultant salaries, rather than on teachers and staff working directly with students. If that's what "fulltime government" in the Town would tend toward -- more admin salaries -- then, on the evidence of the Schools, I'm unpersuaded.

Laura (not Lara) Quilter

Larry Kelley said...

Actually it only takes ten signatures to get anything on the annual Town Meeting warrant. Which is why we have so very many this time around.

Laura Quilter said...

That part was easy. But there's a lot more to the process -- motions, deadlines, meeting with relevant groups, etc. I imagine the more symbolic warrants are easy. (Which explains why Congress is mostly able only to pass things naming post offices and declaring Day of XYZ.)

Larry Kelley said...

I suppose, but you don't need Finance Committee or Select Board approval.

You get your (five minute) say in front of Town Meeting one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when a community member makes a hobby out of opposing decisions, I question their motives when, after a resounding vote by elected officials, they offer up more opposing opinions and tell me "and a lot of us feel this way." I don't believe it, and I think by "a lot of us" they mean the people who publicly supported Vince for SC.

Laura Quilter said...

Anon 11:19am, If you haven't heard concerns from other townspeople, and are not persuaded by the surveys or letters to the media, then nothing I say can persuade you. I like the idea that I've "ma[d]e a hobby out of opposing decisions", though. If only.

Laura Quilter

Anonymous said...

The school administration- which oversees three school districts- lost two full time people in the most recent budget cuts. Central office is down to a very small staff. Again this myth that money is being wasted in administration is not true. Budgets that have been passed have worked hard to keep cuts away from the classroom. Check out what other secondary schools offer their students and then take a look at ARHS. The range of offerings is amazing given flat chapter 70 money and the gouging of public schools by the charter school formula. If you really want to do something to improve schools in Amherst and the region,go to the State House and work against Gov. Baker's push to lift the cap on charter schools.

Dr. Ed said...

Rick, Maintenance expenditures may be zero, but costs never are. Any cost "saving" becomes depreciation -- "penny wise and dollar foolish."

As to Social Justice, I think the megaschool will exacerbate inequity -- there will be those who have to get up early and be out in the rain waiting for a bus -- and those whose parents drive them to school. I don't think people understand how long some of these bus rides will have to be and/or how far children will have to walk to the bus stop. Its going to be a real equity issue.

I don't think anyone quite realizes the extent to which society has shifted to POV transport of children -- a lot of mothers with professional positions find it easier to put their kids into the car & drop them off on the way to work. In many cases it is logistically impossible for the parent to wait for the bus, and they don't want to leave the kid waiting for the bus. Traffic around schools has grown exponentially from what it was 30 years ago. And it is also a Social Justice issue to tell the mothers not to have jobs....

What is the daily vehicle count at each of the three schools? (Does anyone even know?) All those cars are going to try to access the megaschool at the same time -- and it ain't gonna work. There isn't enough land there to pave.

Nor are the adjacent streets able to handle this additional traffic load -- particularly with an ever-increasing number of students commuting to UMass.

And has anyone calculated all the additional air pollution???

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:30 am, is Central office really "down to a very small staff?" I don't think so. There is the Family Center personnel, the Media and Climate Communications coordinator, and a number of other positions that weren't there five years ago.

From the recently passed Amherst school budget, here's the list of key central office personnel. This list doesn't include the staff under each of these positions. In total between the positions below and staff working under each of them, there are at least 25+ people working in the central office (CO) even with the CO cuts.

Superintendent
Assistant Superintendent
Director of Student Services
Director of Student & Family Engagement
Director of Equity & Professional Development
Director of Human Resources & Operations
Director of Finance
Director of Information Services
Director of Facilities & Transportation

Anonymous said...

The Jones Library expansion should be shelved.
It is a luxury.

I'm all for repairing and updating the existing building, but expanding it: not so much.

Anonymous said...

What a s exist comment. You again show you don't know what you are talking about. Many dad's drive their kids to school. Also, I can leave my house and head to work at 810 if my child takes the bus. I need to wait until about 825 to leave of my child misses the bus and I have to drive him because otherwise he gets there too early and would have to wait by himself outside. You again show you don't know what you are talking about.

Dr. Ed said...

Enough!

CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE *N*O*T* "GOUGING" THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you have fewer children in the school, then you have less Chapter 70 money. How complicated is this?

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura:
I am an architect, with zero involvement in the school building project (although I have followed the discussion).
The architects have no reason to misrepresent any of the costs--renovation, addition, new building, whatever. They are licensed professionals, who have the fiduciary duty to put the public's interest before their client's.
If there was a backroom scheme to inflate (or deflate) the numbers, they could lose their license to practice architecture.
In any case, "estimates" are exactly that: estimates. Estimates are a little bit of science and a little bit of art. You can get 10 more estimates, and they will still be estimates.
There is no smoking gun.

For what its worth, the 4th Amherst elementary school--Marks Meadow--was recently completely renovated (and repurposed). That project cost $22 million, including some work in Furcolo.

Larry Kelley said...

Did UMass get a price for simply tearing it down and starting over with new construction?

Laura Quilter said...

12:21 pm - I'm not accusing the architects of any malfeasance, nor am I alleging conspiracies. Those are not the only reasons to have audits and project reviews.

Dr. Ed said...

It wasn't "some work in Furcolo", it was a renovation of Furcolo.
http://www.umass.edu/education/about/renovation

This had to include an elevator as there are faculty offices on the floor under the front part of the building, and elevators aren't cheap. There was major work done as this was a complete repurposing of what had been Mark's Meadow.

It looks nice, yes, but I think they spent way too much money.

Rick Hood said...

One note about central office admin: there are only 6 people in the finance department now. When the auditor (Stanley Kulas) reviewed the audit report with us for the regional schools (amherst is handled by town), he expressed concern that is not enough people to deal with this size of operation and it was one of his comments in his audit report. Finance Director Sean Mangano is doing a great job with such a small staff we are lucky to have people like him.

Anonymous said...

Since last June, I raised the option of using the middle school for a K-8 school, as have other parents who have offered options for the poorly named Wildwood renovation project and the 7-12 consolidation. My idea is to add a wing to the Middle School for lower elementary classrooms. This new wing could be on the current wet baseball field (or one of the parking lots). I thinkn it would be inexpensive to build and all kids could use the large auditorium, band practice rooms, caferteria, gym, pool, greenhouse, etc. It's a really nice building. I have been repeatedly told that it was not possible for younger students to use the middle school under the current 7-12 Regional Agreement. This is simply untrue but has been repeated over and over throughout the year, on websites, the facebook pages of the Wildwood rebuilding projects, Frequently Asked Questions posted on the district's website, at the Revisioning summit last Fall and on and on.

There is no language in the Regional Agreement that prevents students younger than 7th grade or older than 12th grade from using the middle school or high school buildings. Older GCC stuents use the middle school now. 6th graders used the MS before. So this option of using the middle school for a K-6 or K-8 school HAS NEVER BEEN SERIOUSLY EVALUATED by the Wildwood Rebuidling Committee, the Amherst Elementary School Committee, the Central Adminstration, the Regional School Committee, etc.

It's well-known secret that the Wildwood Rebuilding committee was heavily populated by people who worked for the district and many, many parents did not know that all three K-6 elementary schools would end. I'd guess that no one who participated in the pasted together "public process" last fall felt any other option has been on the table other than the so-called Mega School. At "listening" sessions, adminstrator vigorously argued against keeping the K-6 elementary schools, a K-8, etc. I wouldn't call this poor process wasn't a hiccup. How can anyone in the adminstration or school committee justify informing parents that their K-6 schools could be closed by a Gazette article? I don't get the Gazette but I do get robo calls from the district often, some important to me and other which seem less important, like a maker space meeting, a parent cafe, GCC classes on Spanish, etc. This isn't a hiccup or poor communication. This is business as usual for the administration. And it's sad. It creates anger and disaffection and parents stop trying to participate. How many times can the administration push through unpopular proposals unsupported by parents and teachers?

But there is time to take a careful, hard look at other options now. As a taxpayer, parent, town meeting member and citizen I want to know that all options were carefully examined. I want to know that the budget estimates are good. I want people to question the numbers and to get answers to those questions.

Janet McGowan

Anonymous said...

When Marks Meadow was closing, one of the options being considered was moving all 6th graders in the Amherst schools to the regional Middle School.

Yes, doing so would have required approval by the Regional School Committee, but that didn't seem like an insurmountable obstacle at the time.

If having elementary students (Amherst 6th graders) in the building was a possibility then, why is having elementary students (K-6th grade) considered an impossibility now? Only because the administration wants a new school 750-student school instead.

This option deserves further consideration, & the administration should hold off of on continuing to increase the other uses for the middle school building until after the School Committee has voted on the MS-HS consolidation.

Anonymous said...

How many districts have paid 100% to build/renovate their own elementary schools in the last 25 years? Zero
How many districts have paid to have another independent evaluation of the costs of renovation? Zero


Only in Amherst are these ideas discussed seriously.

Anonymous said...

Anon@711 aand all the other cheer-leaders: before voting yes to support the twin new 2-6 school (and the reconfiguring of grades that goes along), I need to know what the other costs will be, which we have never been provided. A part of the plan proposed by the Admin is CF will become a preK-1 school. How much will that renovation cost (all borne by Amherst tax payers)? How much more will the yearly running costs to the district be with the change (ie added increased staff at CF)? I know there are hidden costs to the proposed plan that have NOT been offered. $30 million to the Amherst tax-payer is only part of the cost (we have no idea how much the rest will cost). The tax payer MUST know how much more will be requested/needed before making a choice. I don't think that is too much to ask or expect.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I understand this:

Because the state will only help pay for one school, and because we don't want to pay to renovate Fort River w/o state $$$, we are going to instead renovate Crocker Farms WITHOUT state $$$....

So, in other words, we are going to spend lots more money to avoid spending lots more money THAT WE ARE GOING TO SPEND ANYWAY, albeit in a different part of town.

This makes sense, HOW?

Anonymous said...

speaking of costs, in addition to the costs for the changes at Crocker Farm,
I'd also like to know about the added busing costs since with the reconfiguration all schools have buses serving routes throughout town.

Anonymous said...

Bus stuff on the website and at the presentations. Do some research.

Crocker Farm renovation quite a bit different from Wildwood and Fort River. Changing around the height of some sinks and urinals....nothing major. I'd also like to know the numbers but they won't be even in the ballpark of the other buildings.

As Rick pointed out above, Wildwood and Fort River would be gut rehabs. Plumbing on the exterior walls has to go, heating system also there; all sorts of problems with the old buildings that cannot be easily corrected no matter who does the estimate.

Laura Quilter said...

The architects said at public forums that reno for early childhood is actually expensive because of code requirements & plumbing. I would have thought "not major" either, but it was "major" enough to be an obstacle in conversations about other parent proposals & suggestions. So rather than simply hearing, "major" when they don't want to entertain a suggestion, and "not a big deal" when they don't want us to worry our pretty little heads about it, let's actually just get the numbers and see what they are. This is exactly why we're putting our Article in the Warrant: To get numbers and not just talk.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:12 pm, there actually isn't that much bus/transportation info on the web site that I can see.

Busing isn't mentioned in the PSR, the Education Plan, or the FAQs on the project.
Parents have asked about busing, yes, repeatedly in fact, but few answers have been provided.

With both CF & the new schools on the WW being full-town, all the elementary schools will need to have bus routes throughout town. There isn't much room for this at Crocker Farm & people have already talked in the comments on this post about the two rows of buses at the new school.

and there are still questions about how long the bus rides will be for students (North Amherst students going to Crocker Farm, for example or students who live off Bay Road/Route 116 near the notch going to school downtown? With the bus schedules/school schedules need to be staggered (CF maybe starting earlier & getting out earlier) and how does the continuing discussions about later start times for the HS & MS factor in here.

If you've "done some research" on these issues or seen answers provided on these questions by the ARPS administration & consultants, I'm sure we'd all love to see what you've found.

Rick Hood said...

From [October 30th Elementary Building Project FAQ’s] October 30, 2015 on bussing costs:

This report* shows a model where two runs are added to the consolidated model; the maximum ride would be reduced to 36 minutes, a minute less than our current model. However, the average run length would still be several minutes higher than the current model, so we would recommend adding three or four runs, which would result in a reduced maximum run time and similar average run time as compared to the current model. The cost of adding these runs (3 runs would be $165,000; 4 runs would be $220,000) is still substantially lower than the operational savings of consolidation ($695,000). Even if we added four runs, the annual savings of consolidation would still be approximately $475,000.

* report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By0mz4P0v3bWNktBVXE2WmtvWDA/view?usp=sharing

On renovations of CF:
I was under the same impression as anon 2:12 that smaller/lower urinals and sinks were the main thing and not “major”. But I was not at the last forum so did not hear what the architect said then. Regardless, it is true we do not have numbers on CF reno, but certainly will before TM and town-wide vote.

Dr. Ed said...

It's one thing for an architect to specify lower sinks & urinals, and it isn't overly difficult to bolt them to the wall, but if you want them to work......

I highly doubt that you are going to find new fixtures with connections that line up with the old ones, not at the lowered height. The cold & hot water feeding them is under pressure so this isn't that big a problem, but having drain pipes (inside the wall) that are higher than the drain connections on your lowered toilets & sinks very much will be.

These pipes have to be lowered to connect to your lower sinks & urinals, and then be lowered even more along the run so that they still slope downhill until they eventually connect to a pipe that runs down/out to the sewer (and up through the roof), my guess is this will be near the toilets. Hence you are ripping out a lot of wall and, depending on how far you have to go in order to have the required downward slope, you may (and likely will) have to go all the way to where it connects to the larger pipe connecting the toilets to the sewer. That's in the floor, and if the building is on a slab without a basement or crawl space (i.e. pipes set in the concrete) then you're taking a jackhammer to the floor. And even if it isn't on slab, you're still likely looking at having to replace your toilet drains (or wishing you had) -- I'm not a plumber but I do know what happens if plumbing isn't done the way it is supposed to be done....

Bottom line: Look at where the sink drains go into the wall. Look at where the bottoms of the urinals are. If you want to lower these fixtures below where they drain now, you also are going to have to lower the pipes they drain into and that ain't gonna be cheap.

Dr. Ed said...

One other thing: I'm not even sure DESE "allows" you to have Pre-K kids on the same bus as 6th Graders -- but it definitely is not a good idea!!!

I don't even think you should have K on the same bus, but you definitely shouldn't have Pre-K on it. 4-year-olds & 13-year-olds -- what could possibly go wrong???

Yes, some 6th Graders are responsible enough to "look out for" the younger children, but a lot more aren't. Some of them are sexually active and everything else, do I really have to say more???

Anonymous said...

The K kids sit at the front of the bus and the 6th graders sit at the back of the bus. There is nothing going on on the bus Ed except in your sick mind.

Anonymous said...

In the consolidated model, if you are a 5 year old in the fall of 2019 living in what is now the Wildwood district, that year you would go to the part of the large school that has been built. Then the next year you would go to Crocker Farm as a first grader. Then the next year you would go back to one of the wings in the large school as a second grader. Is that right?

Dr. Ed said...

My "sick mind" was thinking of the term "developmentally appropriate", you schmuck. Some of us, with degrees in Education, tend to think of/in such terms.

I hadn't even thought of what you seem to be implying, although the question I ask is before/after the children are on the bus. It's because of that is why I suspect a lot of parents are going to want to drive, and I can't see how you are going to handle the vehicular traffic.

Anonymous said...

Of course you had the sick thought. You were talking about sexually active.

Dr. Ed said...

Of course you had the sick thought. You were talking about sexually active.

I've had pregnant students in my classes....

I kinda don't think "immaculate conception" was involved, I kinda had/have a pretty good idea how these girls came to become pregnant...

Of course, to paraphrase the late Sam Kinnison, maybe it was because she was sitting on a toilet, but I kinda don't think so.

And for the record, it was the PDA that I was thinking about, and if you don't know what those three letters stand for, you've never had to chaperon a dance...

Anonymous said...

When was the last time you had a pregnant kindergartner at a dance you were chaperoning Ed? Remember that's where this conversation started. Worried about kindergarteners and 6th graders riding on the same bus.

Anonymous said...

What is the soonest (year) that children would be starting at the new schools?

Who is in charge of redistricting? Has there been any work on it yet? It sounds like people are expecting FR students to go to the FR side and WW students to go to that new building . But what about 2-6 graders who live in current CF zone?

Dr. Ed said...

It was more the Pre-K 4-year-olds going home and asking "Mommy, why does Suzie put her hands into Jonny's pants?"

Or "What's a 'blow job'?" -- I'm sure parents will love having to explain that to a 5-year-old...

That's what I mean by "developmentally appropriate."

Anonymous said...

Ed, it was already pointed out to you that the younger kids sit up in front. And pre-k don't even ride the bus as they have different hours. Stop creating dramatic scenarios to get attention.

Dr. Ed said...

"Ed, it was already pointed out to you that the younger kids sit up in front."

Blindfolded?

They don't see the older children walking by them, don't hear what they say? What planet do you live on?

"And pre-k don't even ride the bus as they have different hours.'

Then how the hell are they going to ride the same bus, as is being proposed?

"Stop creating dramatic scenarios to get attention.'

OK, post your home phone number for parents to call when something along these "dramatic scenarios" actually happens to their children....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
What is the soonest (year) that children would be starting at the new schools?

Who is in charge of redistricting? Has there been any work on it yet? It sounds like people are expecting FR students to go to the FR side and WW students to go to that new building . But what about 2-6 graders who live in current CF zone?

Anonymous said...

Ed,
Where, exactly, does it say the pre-k kids will be bussed with 6th graders? I must have missed that. And I also must have missed that pre-k will even be bussed at all since they aren't now. Who's picking up the tab for that?

Dr. Ed said...

An 10:01 --- see above about stopping at both schools, QED kids on same bus.

If all pre-K attend same school, state law mandates most be bussed. Memory is beyond 1.5 Mile radius for middle school, suspect much lower distance for pre-K.

Who pays -- you do.

Anonymous said...

CF renovation ?? Requires more consideration than simply lowering sinks and urinals if there is any possibility for expanding PreK program. The state has a mandated per child square foot allowance/regulation for programs housing children ages 0-5. It is possible the current spaces could accommodate this but not clear. There are also many other requirements of preK classrooms/programs (under MA Dept of Early Educ & Care and the Nat. Assoc. of the Educ of Young Children)that need to be addressed. Also of note, not all pre k age children are proficient in using the bathroom. A fair amount of students who use diapers require access to changing stations. The current K classrooms share 2 bathroom stalls through an adjoining space. I guess it works for those experienced independent K kiddos. However, having potentially 30 Prek students to share 2 stalls when many are in the early stages of gaining independence and making it there on time is nothing short of problematic!! In reference to bussing Prek students, transportation for prek students is provided by families.

Anonymous said...

All pre k attend the same school now, Ed. They aren't bussed.
"Facts matter."