Amherst to examine Crocker Farm school improvements

  • Crocker Farm Elementary School in Amherst DODSON & FLINKER LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE & PLANNING

Staff Writer
Published: 11/8/2019 11:57:18 AM
Modified: 11/8/2019 11:57:05 AM

AMHERST — Town officials are ready to begin an examination of the Crocker Farm Elementary School that could help shape the building that would replace the aging Fort River and Wildwood elementary schools, or the extent of renovations that might be needed at all three school buildings.

With a decision by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) expected Dec. 11 as to whether Amherst will be accepted into the program to build a new 600-student elementary school, the town put out a legal advertisement last week seeking applications to provide professional design services, including options in a feasibility study, to address improvements to Crocker Farm.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said this feasibility study, which will cost up to $40,000, plugs into the broader discussion that will begin when town and school officials learn if a project is supported by MSBA.

“We can get information more quickly,” Bockelman said of the feasibility study.

Proposals are due by Nov. 27 at 2 p.m., with the town briefing session at the 280 West St. school on Nov. 13 at 3 p.m.

The feasibility study originally came as a capital request from residents Maria Kopicki and Toni Cunningham and was recommended by the Joint Capital Planning Committee.

The statements of interest submitted to MSBA, supported unanimously by the Town Council in March, calls for a new 600-student school to replace Wildwood and Fort River schools, which serve 750 students in buildings that are considered out of date, with limited natural light in classrooms and open classrooms that make learning more challenging for students.

Because there would be a need to find another location to educate around 150 students if a new building moves forward, the building program for a new elementary school remains uncertain, including whether it would serve students from kindergarten through fifth grade, or also include sixth graders.

Part of the planning will determine whether Amherst sixth graders might move to the Amherst Regional Middle School, where seventh and eighth graders from Amherst, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett are taught in a building that originally also housed ninth graders. ​​​

Earlier, the town rejected a $66.37 million project, which would have received $34 million in support from the MSBA, for a twin school on the Wildwood site on Strong Street. In that plan, Crocker Farm would have been turned into an early childhood education center.

Crocker Farm was renovated in 2002 but may need additions or modifications if there are other district grade reconfigurations.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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