State to interview designers for new Amherst school

  • Children board buses Tuesday at Wildwood School in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2021

AMHERST — Three finalists being considered to work as the designer for a new or renovated Amherst elementary school are being interviewed Tuesday morning.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority Designer Selection Panel meets virtually, starting at 8:30 a.m., to speak with representatives from JCJ Architecture, PC of Boston, in association with Moody Nolan, Inc. of Hartford; Lamoureux Pagano Associates | Architects (LPAA) of Worcester; and DiNisco Design, Inc. of Boston.

Following the interviews, a designer will be selected and a contract negotiated.

The designer will be responsible for a 575-student building that would house children from kindergarten through fifth grade. By the end of February, the building committee will choose a site where the project would be built, likely either at Fort River School on South East Street or Wildwood School on Strong Street. The plan is to take both schools offline once the project is complete.

The three companies became finalists earlier this month when the 16-member panel, including three representatives from the Elementary School Building Committee, ranked them at the top of the eight companies that sought the work. Those not selected included Drummey Rosanne of Waltham, Jonathan Levi of Boston, Tecton of Hartford, TSKP of Hartford and Boston and Turowski2 Architecture, Inc. of Marion.

The committee representatives included Cathy Schoen, a member of the Town Council representing District 1 and the committee chairwoman, School Committee member Ben Herrington and Superintendent Michael Morris.

Schoen told the committee at a recent meeting that each finalist could do good work as designer. DiNisco, for instance, has worked on three net-zero-energy schools.

Morris added that there was significant favorable feedback on DiNisco as a “tried and true” designer that has worked on several MSBA projects

LPAA’s school buildings are also well designed, Schoen said. “All the comments were really positive on them,” Schoen said.

JCJ’s partnership was a question for the panel. “There was a lot of excitement and there were a lot of questions,” Morris said.

The timeline for the project is for a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion vote next November, with an approved project to break ground Aug. 1, 2024, and a completed building to replace Fort River and Wildwood elementary schools for fall 2026.