The following letter was sent to the Elementary School Building Committee, The Amherst Town Council and The Town Manager on May 23, 2022.
The Progressive Coalition of Amherst and Sunrise Amherst submit this letter together, in support of locating the new elementary school on the current Fort River Elementary site. We believe this is the best solution for Amherst’s students, the larger Amherst community, and the climate. The Fort River site has more than 30 acres of available open space, more than double the amount at Wildwood, and could provide abundant room for outdoor learning, sports, parking and busing to all happen safely. Fort River’s fields are already in frequent use for soccer, baseball and other sports by the Amherst community. The Fort River site is more suitable for ground-source heat pumps as the new school’s heating and cooling system, which would support the Town’s climate action goals. We hope that the Fort River site is chosen for the new school, and implore Town officials to consider converting the Wildwood Elementary School into a multi-function community center. Repurposing of the Wildwood building for the continued benefit of Amherst’s children and families makes sense for many reasons. Wildwood, which has more than 80,000 square feet of space, needs fewer immediate improvements than Fort River, and would offer an excellent location for the youth empowerment and BIPOC cultural centers recommended by the Community Safety Working Group. Wildwood is in walking distance to both the middle and high schools, making it a highly convenient location for Amherst’s youth. The ample space within the Wildwood building would support youth activities and gatherings, while the site would provide the needed parking. We hope you will choose the Fort River School for the new elementary school location, and that Wildwood will be studied as a possible site for the needed youth empowerment and BIPOC cultural centers.
Progressive Coalition of Amherst