The town of Amherst will soon decide where it aims to build its new elementary school. Pending town-wide approval of a debt exclusion tax override, the school will be built either on the site of Fort River School or Wildwood School. In recent weeks, the Elementary School Building Committee has explored the pros and cons of each of the sites as the location for the new school (see e.g. here and here and here). That decision will be made soon. The new school will combine the students from Fort River and Wildwood from grades K-5 with the sixth grades moving to the Middle School. Once the new school is constructed, the town will have to decide what to do with the leftover building, that is, the decommissioned building whose site was not used for construction of the new school. In this issue of Speak Up! we’re interested in hearing your ideas about what should be done with the surplus school building.
Over the last two years Indy commentators have offered a variety of ideas. Michael Greenebaum has lamented the shortage of civic space in Amherst and suggested that our leftover school building offered an ideal opportunity to redress that shortage He proffered that the old Wildwood School would serve as an excellent location for a senior center, teen center, LSSE headquarters and several functions of the library (if a more modest design had been adopted) and he argued that there are good reasons and plenty of space to co-house these activities. He later noted that the Fort River School could serve the same functions equally well. A few weeks ago, Toni Cunningham resurrected the argument in response to Richard Yourga et. al’s. suggestion that the Amherst Senior Center, currently located at the Bangs Center, is just too small to meet the needs of Amherst’s substantial elderly population. Emilie Hamilton commented on the same article that the Bangs is an optimal location for the senior center and that the senior center should not be moved. The discussion highlighted a perception that space to meet civic needs is currently inadequate and folks have ideas about how to address the need.
Here are two questions that we hope will generate more public discussion over what should be done with a leftover school building, where civic space is most needed and how to meet that need. We’ll keep this survey open for two weeks, closing it at end of day on Thursday, May 5. We will get back to you with readers’ responses in the May 7 issue.