AMHERST — Amherst’s plans for a new three-story elementary school for K-5 students at the current Fort River School site may proceed, based on a vote Aug. 31 by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
The state board, chaired by Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, authorized the city and public schools, through its elementary school construction committee, to proceed toward a preferred schematic design for the consolidated school. which would replace aging schools in Fort River and Wildwood in the fall. of 2026.
This design is expected to make the school a net zero building that will use geothermal heat and photovoltaics, as well as heavy use of natural light and outdoor learning spaces.
“Through our collaborative work with local authorities, we are working to build a 21st century educational facility that will provide Amherst students with a top-notch learning environment,” Goldberg said in a statement.
Superintendent of Schools, Michael Morris, expressed his appreciation for the collaboration between schools, city and communities which will lead to a better framework for education.
“I am thrilled to see this vital project take the next step in the MSBA process which can lead to a greatly enhanced learning environment for our wonderful students and exceptional staff,” said Morris.
City Council President Lynn Griesemer called the decision a big step forward for Amherst and credited the elementary school building committee and its chair, District 1 Councilwoman Cathy Schoen.
As part of the arrangement to educate 575 students in the new building, the state agency is also approving the move of all sixth graders from the city’s three elementary schools, including those at Crocker Farm, to Amherst Regional Middle School for next fall. .
The elementary school project will depend on Amherst voters approving a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion vote, which is expected to be scheduled for next spring by the city council.
Once the design is submitted in December, the city will get a total project cost from the MSBA and learn what the state will contribute for reimbursement. According to preliminary estimates, the building would cost more than 100 million dollars.
Since its inception in 2004, MSBA has conducted more than 1,750 site visits to more than 250 school districts as part of its due diligence process and has made more than $16 billion in reimbursements for school construction projects .