Around Amherst: Website will track progress in building new Amherst elementary school

Staff Writer
Monday, December 20, 2021

AMHERST — A new website that will offer regular updates on getting a new elementary school built in Amherst is now live.

The Amherst public schools and town recently launched the project website at amherst-school-project.com. There, information about the new school building, including timelines related to funding and construction, will be shared.

DiNisco Design of Boston has been hired to handle the plans for what could be a 575-student building for children from kindergarten through fifth grade, with both Wildwood and Fort River schools to be taken offline. The site for the new building has not yet been selected, and a likely Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion override to cover the town’s share of the cost is not anticipated until sometime in 2023.

As the school project continues, the Jones Library Building Committee held its first meeting Tuesday, after the Town Council this week appointed Christine Gray-Mullen, former chairwoman of the Planning Board, to the panel. Also on the committee are representatives from the library, library trustees, the town and Town Council.

Other committees continue to need volunteers, including the Community Safety and Social Justice Committee, a successor committee to the Community Safety Working Group that will work to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and community safety in Amherst.

Vacancies also exist on the African Heritage Reparation Assembly, charged with developing a municipal reparations plan and a community-wide process of reconciliation and repair for harms against Black people; and the Human Rights Commission, which promotes the town’s human rights policy.

Anyone interested in serving can contact a community participation officer via email at getinvolved@amherstma.gov or by phone at 259-3002.

Library trustees farewell

At his last meeting serving as a trustee for the Jones Library after 13 years this week, Chris Hoffmann won praise from his colleagues and Library Director Sharon Sharry for keeping the library going during an era of turmoil.

“You absolutely saved the library 10 years ago,” Sharry said, referencing the controversial eight-month evaluation process of her predecessor, Bonnie Isman, in 2010.

Sharry, who was hired in August 2011, added that she and the staff will miss Hoffmann. “We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” she said.

Trustees President Austin Sarat called Hoffmann calm, judicious and insightful. He compared the trustees on the evaluation subcommittee in 2010, who appeared to undermine Isman's ability to lead the library, to an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean.

“But for Chris Hoffmann, the Jones Library board of trustees would have followed the Titanic to the bottom of the sea,” Sarat said.

Live pageant

A live nativity pageant, with children, adults and animals acting out the Christmas story, is being held at South Congregational Church on Sunday.

The pageant will run from 1 to 3 p.m. at the 1066 South East St. church.

All-American student

A University of Massachusetts student is a finalist for the Navy Federal Credit Union ROTC All-American Scholarship Program.

Army Cadet Zachary Glanz is a double major in Middle Eastern studies and Chinese language, with a double minor in Arabic and military science. He started the university’s ROTC Military Leadership and History Book Club.

New hire for W.D. Cowls

W.D. Cowls Inc. recently brought on Arthur Haskins as director of Real Estate and Community Development, following his tenure as manager of the 130-unit North Square at the Mill District residential development for Beacon Communities.

“We’ve worked with Arthur for years and were thrilled when he expressed interest in joining our team,” W.D. Cowls President Cinda Jones said in a statement. “His background, outlook and his engaging personality are just what we need to take our family business to the next level.”

Haskins has overseen the completion of a number of mixed-use, commercial and residential developments in New England. In Amherst, his initial efforts related to Hampshire College’s Veridian Village, a senior housing project that was never built.


MONDAY: Town Council, 6:30 p.m., virtual via Zoom.