Monday, June 22, 2015

Update on the Wildwood School Building Project

June 17, 2015

Dear Amherst Parents/Guardians, Staff Members, and Community Members,

We would like to share information about the Wildwood School Building Project in advance of Community Forums that will be occurring on this topic when we return in the fall.

In November, 2013, the MSBA (Massachusetts School Building Authority) approved Wildwood Elementary School to enter into an “improvement building project” process.  The MSBA is a state agency that supports the design, construction and financing of public school improvement projects. The Wildwood School Building Committee has been appointed to oversee the process of this project. Parents/guardians and teachers from all three Amherst elementary schools, community members, and town and school officials sit on the committee. For the Wildwood School Building Project, the MSBA determined that it will reimburse the Town for approximately 68% of eligible costs.  For more information regarding the MSBA and entire school building process, please see this video from Amherst Media’s Voices From Our Schools, which shares many details about this project.

The committee has been hard at work since its formation exploring options for the project as well as selecting an Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) firm, who are experts in supporting towns and districts in the building process and in working with the MSBA.  An architect for the project will be selected next month by the MSBA Designer Selection Panel, which includes three local members. The Building Committee has emphasized needing a designer who places a priority on community input and has a proven track record of facilitating sessions to engage the broader public into the process.

The Wildwood School Building Committee wishes to express its excitement for the opportunity the MSBA has provided, and would like to thank families, staff members, and community members who have offered their comments and opinions regarding this project thus far at initial PGO meetings, staff meetings, and School Council meetings. In the fall of 2015, Community Forums will be held to gather input on the best option for this project. This will be a thorough process with many opportunities for public input. The fall forums will have detailed information about the implications of each option, as the designer and the OPM will spend the next few months analyzing the educational benefits, short- and long-term financial implications, and required infrastructure for all options. The Building Committee will be making a recommendation of a preferred option for MSBA approval on January 27, 2016.

There are three current options under consideration for the Wildwood School Building Project. The first is an Addition/Renovation, where new sections would be added to the current building while many parts of the existing structure will be updated. This option is similar to the Crocker Farm project that was completed about thirteen years ago. The second option is to build a new K-6 Wildwood facility that will completely replace the current building. The third option is a grade reconfiguration, which entails building a new school for all Amherst elementary school students in grades 2-6, and educating all grades PreK-1 students at Crocker Farm School. If this option is determined to be the best one for our community, the current Wildwood and Fort River buildings would be closed, thus maintaining two elementary schools for the students of Amherst. Regardless of which option is chosen, the earliest date that a project could be completed would be in the fall of 2019.

For more information regarding the Wildwood School Building Project, Wildwood School Building Committee, and the MSBA, please visit this link which can be found on the main page of arps website.  

Michael Morris, Assistant Superintendent & Chair of the Wildwood School Building Committee

Wildwood School Building Committee Members:
Katherine Appy, Amherst School Committee Chair
Anna Bartolini, Teacher at Crocker Farm Elementary
Ron Bohonowicz, Director of Facilities for the Amherst Public Schools & the Town of Amherst
Holly Bowser, Assistant Comptroller for the Town of Amherst
Sasha Figueroa, Administrative Assistant to the Assistant Superintendent
Maria Geryk, Superintendent of Schools
Miki Gromacki, Wildwood Parent and Assistant Principal of the Amherst Regional High School
Monica Hall, Director of Diversity and Equity for the Amherst Public Schools
Sean Mangano, Director of Finance for the Amherst Public Schools
Guilford Mooring, Director of Public Works
John Musante, Amherst Town Manager
Ludmilla Pavlova, Wildwood Parent & Senior Facilities Planner & Adjunct Professor at UMass
Sandy Pooler, Director of Finance for the Town of Amherst
Irv Rhodes, Community Member & Former Amherst School Committee Member
Narayan Sampath, Crocker Farm Parent

Timothy Sheehan, Teacher at Fort River Elementary School
Nancy Stewart, Fort River Parent

Sherril Willis, Teacher at Wildwood Elementary School
Nick Yaffe, Principal of Wildwood Elementary School
David Ziomek, Assistant Town Manager for Amherst