Town of Amherst votes in favor of new elementary school building

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 10:10 PM EDT
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AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The town of Amherst held a town-wide special election Tuesday to authorize to levy additional property taxes beyond the limits of Proposition 2 ½ to pay for the annual debt service costs of a new elementary school building.

According to Assistant Town Clerk Amber Martin and Amherst Director of Communication and Civic Innovation Brianna Sunryd, 81% voted ‘yes’ to fund the brand new elementary school, whereas 19% opted for ‘no.’

They added that over 4,000 Amherst residents showed up to the polls.

The proposed new Fort River Elementary School will replace both the Wildwood and Fort River Elementary Schools with one new school at the Fort River site. The school district plans to move the 6th grade to the middle school.

The new three-story school will serve 575 children in grades kindergarten through 5th grade and will be highly insulated and use all-electric and renewable energy systems. The net-zero building will use ground source heat pumps for heating, air, and ventilation, as well as an on-site photovoltaic system for renewable energy.

The school will also boast 21st century learning environments that have flexible teaching spaces, including daylight-filled classrooms and shared spaces. The new building will be a home to Special Needs and Caminantes dual language programs.

Other features include a cafeteria, stage, music rooms, outdoor learning spaces, and fully accessible entrances and exits. The project also has plans to drain Fort River’s community fields for recreational use by students and the community as a whole.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Morris weighed in on the vote, saying:

“I am overjoyed at the level of support for this building project because of the enormous impact it will have on the education of the children of Amherst.”

Town Manager Paul Bockelman also issued a statement, saying:

“The voters have again stated their unambiguous support for this important project. The Town will now take advantage of the $40 million grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority and will move immediately to the final design of the building and surrounding grounds. This is going to be an incredible, net-zero energy school that will be a valuable resource to the entire community for decades to come.”

From this point, the Elementary School Building Committee will work throughout the summer to review designs and engage members of the elementary schools and the broader community in the process.

You can find additional information regarding the project HERE.