Educational plans unveiled for new elementary school in Amherst

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AMHERST – A new elementary school to replace schools in Fort River and Wildwood would have 30 classrooms and significant space for special education and arts and music programs, and well over 100,000 square feet in total , based on a draft educational plan submitted to the Amherst School Committee this week.

The plan, which identifies school programs and defines space requirements through formulas provided by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, will be submitted to the state in mid-March.

Donna DiNisco of DiNisco Design told the committee that the education plan is an important first step in the process that could have a new, expanded or renovated elementary school ready for occupancy by fall 2026.

The draft education plan shows a 113,765 square foot building, well above the 85,052 square feet that would be required by state guidelines. This is due, in part, to the main academic area, or 30 classrooms, or 36,650 square feet, or 10,700 square feet more than the guidelines require, and 12,950 square feet for the special education space, more than double the 6,040 square feet required in the guidelines.

The new building would serve up to 575 children from kindergarten through fifth grade. Up to 21 students could be in each kindergarten and first grade class, up to 23 students would be in each second and third grade class, and up to 24 students would be in the fifth grade class. There should be five classrooms at each grade level.

DiNisco said his calculations were made by taking state guidelines and applying them to the unique requirements set by the Amherst School District. If programs currently exist, the MSBA and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education want to ensure that appropriate spaces for them are in the project, she said.

The plan does not yet have an estimate of associated costs, with DiNisco likely to present them at the school board meeting on March 8. Without a price tag, committee member Jennifer Shiao said it was difficult to react to the plan.

“I feel a bit uncomfortable that I don’t have enough information,” Shiao said.

Committee member Peter Demling said that while costs were becoming a concern, there was little room left to drastically reduce the size of the project.

DiNisco said she was also considering the possibility of a replacement building for Fort River that would be a school for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, but would only have room for 165 students in 12 classrooms. class. In this scenario, Wildwood would remain intact.

Both plans call for sixth graders, who are also educated at Crocker Farm School, to move to Amherst Regional Middle School in the fall of 2023.

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