Julie Zuckman: Regarding a new elementary school for Amherst


Thursday, January 31, 2019

I worked for two years as an instructional paraprofessional at Fort River School in Amherst.

The building was already in an unpleasant state of deterioration. I regularly encountered mouse droppings, mold and dampness. I constantly sniffled and had sinus headaches, and was often on the edge of an asthma attack, even though my asthma is well-controlled (many children’s asthma is not). Once when picking up a carton of materials used for social studies projects, the soggy bottom came off and mildewed magazines fell out. This was caused by water leaking up through the slab and the tile floor.

The open classroom layout was also difficult. The classrooms closer to the corridors had minimal natural light. You could hear everything in adjacent rooms in the “quads.” As I worked with students with special needs, many of whom were easily distracted, this was quite a challenge to manage, and sometimes we couldn’t.

Another year I worked at Crocker Farm School. Dry, sunny, well-ventilated and quiet classrooms! No sniffles, no headaches, no moldy supplies and a setting appropriate to children’s needs.

Amherst parents, please consider that the physical plant does make a major difference in the teaching/learning experience. It’s been more than a decade since I worked at Fort River, so the situation has to be even worse now.

Julie Zuckman