A “Request For Qualifications” (RFQ) was issued October 31st seeking a design/architectural firm to develop a range of options for expanding, improving, and updating Crocker Farm.

According to the RFQ, the study is “part of wider efforts across the District around school building and reconfiguration, including constructing a new elementary school to replace the Fort River and Wildwood schools and studying moving the sixth grade to the Amherst Regional Middle School.”

The enrollment of Wildwood and Fort River combined is almost 750 students. However, in an effort to find a compromise on how to address both elementary buildings in one project, Superintendent Michael Morris proposed that the two schools be consolidated into a single building of no more than 600 students, in either grades K-5 or K-6. That means at least 150 students would have to be moved to another building.

One option under consideration is to move 6th grade (about 150 students) from all three elementary schools to the Middle School. The other option is to expand Crocker Farm to accommodate a greater number of students across the grades. Depending on what enrollment is possible at Crocker Farm, two similarly-sized elementary schools could result. 

It is not yet known if either the Middle School or Crocker Farm options are viable. A study of the Middle School facilities determined there is sufficient space to accommodate 150 sixth-grade students without requiring significant renovation. A study of whether it is educationally and logistically advisable is still ongoing. The community has not yet weighed in on the issue. 

The Crocker Farm study will look into what expansion is possible at that site and what it might cost, with three options to be developed by the architects. The RFQ specifies that “Designs should also be cognizant of the Town’s other capital project needs and provide options that span a range of budgets, including fiscally conservative choices.” The combined cost of a new/renovated Wildwood or Fort River plus any needed renovation/addition at Crocker Farm would need to be considered when accounting for the cost of addressing the elementary schools.

Responses to the RFQ are due by November 27th. According to the RFQ, the study is estimated to take twelve weeks from when the contract is awarded. If Amherst is invited into the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s process this December, the district would need to define by March 10th which enrollments it wants included in the subsequent feasibility study.

The information gained from the Crocker Farm study will help identify which options for addressing Amherst’s elementary schools are viable and which are not. Combined with the work of the Fort River feasibility study, the approximate costs, and pros and cons, of a two-school versus three-school system and K-5 versus K-6 will be known. 

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