Heather Sheldon: Candidate mistaken about school remodel

Thursday, November 01, 2018
Candidate mistaken about school remodel

Jacqueline Maidana, candidate for town council in District 4, in her Amherst Media Candidate Statement says, “The need to remodel Fort River and Wildwood seems inevitable. . .with today’s technology there are companies that have successfully remodeled this type of building. It will lower the cost instead of destroying the existing buildings. This is doable.”

As a trained architect who places great value on the embodied energy of existing buildings and also the need for a community’s sense of continuity of place, I appreciate the desire to keep what we can. However, her unequivocal assertion that “this is doable” for at least one of these two buildings is wrong, and I find it irresponsible for a Town Council Candidate to make this assertion.

The Wildwood Feasibility Study looked at renovation of the Wildwood building, taking into account “today’s technology,” and concluded that renovation wasn’t financially competitive with new construction, nor would renovation provide a sound learning environment.

Several architects in town, including the Director of Historic Preservation Initiatives at the University of Massachusetts, have publicly stated that renovation is not appropriate for either building. The town has invested $250,000 for a feasibility study of Fort River, the results of which are forthcoming.

I hope Ms. Maidana can correct her statement and work to educate the voters on facts as established by a completed study and let voters know we have additional information on this issue due next year. Our children and teachers are suffering in environments that are totally unacceptable, and Ms. Maidana, in her important role as Council candidate, owes them clarity about a real path forward to providing walls between classrooms, windows that provide daylight and views, roofs that keep out the rain, and reliable heating systems that don’t belch carbon.

Heather Sheldon