Gail Abbott: Town should plan ahead on school capital needs

  • Amherst-Pelham Regional High School. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Friday, April 12, 2019

Amherst is not the only town in Massachusetts that faces the problem of deteriorating school buildings. It is not the only town that waits until problems reach a crisis level before it responds. While some problems seem not to get solved, others are solved only too quickly. Thus the “solution” brings on a series of worse dilemmas.

An example of a decision rushed into and poorly thought out, is that of the decision to move Summit Academy into the classrooms near the side parking lot of Amherst Regional High School. In order to execute this move, two extremely successful programs were exorcised from the high school.

With hardly any notice, the Culinary Arts Program, run so expertly by David Jean, was discontinued. There are many students who benefited from this hands-on program. One of the students was accepted into the culinary arts program at Johnson Wales. Because of Jean’s guidance, this student is now on a successful career track.

The other program that was discontinued was the Child Care Study program. Here, another excellent teacher suddenly had to search for a new job. Students were robbed of the chance to be guided how to properly care for little children.

Prior to the loss of these two programs, we lost our Wood Tech program. The skills learned in drafting and measuring, designing, and in the use of tools, adapted students to many future careers.

And what about the program where students learned to design and sew clothing: No longer necessary you say? Well, recall that a woman from Springfield was awarded a Grammy for her design of costumes for “Black Panther.”

It is only by having a variety of programs that students can find their true calling and joy. Thank goodness we still have our dance and theatre programs. Here we get to see the amazing abilities of our students that might not have otherwise come to light.

Above all, considering how stretched our psychologists and counselors are, and how the need for classrooms attending to our students’ emotional needs is expanding, I predict that Summit Academy will be taking on more and more students within the next year and beyond. It will outgrow its current space and once again, we will be asking: Where will we put these students?

There must be a way to plan ahead and examine more closely the needs of our teenagers in Amherst. We must plan ahead or again shift into crisis mode.

Gail Abbott


The writer is a paraprofessional at Amherst Pelham Regional High School.