Nancy Goff: Call special Town Meeting on school vote

Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Calls for special Town Meeting on school vote

I watched with dismay last month as Amherst Town Meeting, defying the will of the voters, defeated the plan for replacing two dilapidated and poorly designed elementary schools.

I hope that the town will call a special Town Meeting to reconsider this decision and vote to move the project forward for state funding.

Fort River and Wildwood are 50 years old, long in need of replacement because of their open-classroom design and poor air quality. The youngest of my kids graduated from Amherst schools a decade ago and these problems existed then; it is our responsibility as citizens to ensure the next generation has modern and safe learning spaces.

Our overwhelmingly residential tax base cannot alone support a project of this magnitude. The state will pay half the cost if we build the plan as submitted.

The plan makes elementary education more equitable across the town and provides opportunities for more students to connect with each other. Educating the younger kids at Crocker Farm allows more opportunities for the poorest among us to send their kids to quality, affordable preschool.

If we do nothing the costs are high – $500,000 for critical roof and heating system repairs paid by Amherst taxpayers. We can reapply for state funding in 2018 for new buildings, but with no assurance of approval. Construction costs will be higher and we will have thrown away the planning and design fees already paid.

So my plea is for the town to schedule a special Town Meeting to allow a new vote on funding the elementary schools in time for the state’s application process. The current plan is fiscally prudent and educationally sound. Let’s not wait another decade to fix these schools.

Nancy Goff