This feature offers links to selected articles that might be of interest to Amherst readers. If you have read something that is germane to what I’ve been posting in this feature, please share the link in the comments section below.
Here are some stories that we were unable to cover in The Indy.
Sixth Grade Middle School Program At Regional Middle School Approved by Scott Merzbach (12/29/22). The Amherst School Committee has approved a sixth-grade program at the Amherst Regional Middle School to begin in fall 2023, with two core subject teachers and a special education teacher for each team. But even with the committee’s Dec. 13 unanimous approval of a three-page executive summary that outlines aspects of the new program, including its location within the school building, the bus drop-off times and world languages option, a question about whether bathrooms will be exclusive to sixth graders, or will be accessible for older students, remains. Superintendent Michael Morris said there will be some mixing in the building based on having three grade levels in it, but it’s possible that seventh and eighth graders will have to use the bathrooms on their side of the building, or on the ground level. (Amherst Bulletin)
Amherst CRESS Selected For National Collaboration by Rory Liddy (12/28/22). Amherst’s Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service (CRESS) has been selected as “one of eight teams selected from across the United States and Canada by the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, in collaboration with the Center for Policing Equity (CPE), to participate in a virtual learning community focused on enhancing crisis system alternatives through public health and community-centered approaches,” according to a press release from the town. CRESS Director Earl Miller was excited to collaborate with other departments around the continent to fine-tune strategies for responding to mental health-related calls.“The specifics of this are really the response to mental health crises, and the towns and municipalities that are doing alternatives that are including that in the scope of their alternatives to policing. It’s a really fantastic opportunity for us. The work we’re doing right now can sometimes feel like we’re doing it in a bubble. I love Amherst, but sometimes it can be helpful to hear from folks outside Amherst to see what they’re trying, what’s working and what’s not working,” Miller said. (Amherst Reminder)
Amherst Accused Of Inequitable Distribution Of Rescue Funds by Scott Merzbach (12/27/22). For a dozen years, Yasmin Brandford has owned and operated Amherst Extensions and Beauty Salon, specializing in maintenance and care for African American hair. But Brandford says she didn’t seek American Rescue Plan Act money to grow her 460 West St. business once she learned about strings attached to filing an application, including how she could spend the money and a financial match she might have to make… Pat Ononibaku, who founded the town’s Black Business Association, contends other businesspeople weren’t notified about the opportunity to request ARPA money, and that this process illustrates how access to financial support remains problematic for Black and Indigenous people and people of color. Black-owned businesses remain invisible and these businesses continue to be shortchanged, despite being the most in need, she said. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Valley CDC Nears Purchase Of EconoLodge On Route 9 In Hadley by Scott Merzbach (12/27/22). Valley Community Development is nearing acquisition of the EconoLodge hotel on Route 9, meaning a comprehensive permit application for its conversion into affordable apartments could be filed with the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals early in the new year. Laura Baker, real estate development director for Valley CDC, told the Select Board at its Dec. 21 meeting that the nonprofit agency anticipates acquiring the title for the 329 Russell St. property from Hampshire Hospitality Group in the first week of January. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
New Bus Service Launchers In Region to offer New York -Amherst, Boston-Northampton Routes by Declan Langton (12/26/22). A month after selling out trial runs offering bus service from New York to Amherst and from Boston to Northampton, a regional transportation company that specializes in intercity and charter bus trips is now offering these routes on a permanent basis. OurBus, a 6-year-old company with service in over 100 markets nationwide, launched its New York City route on Nov. 10. This route includes stops in Connecticut in downtown Hartford and at Bradley International Airport, and in Massachusetts in Holyoke, Northampton and Amherst. The Boston route is set to begin next Tuesday and will take riders from Northampton, Amherst and Belchertown to Logan Airport. Both routes will run daily, with fares starting at $25. More trips will be added to both routes, the company said. (Amherst Bulletin)
Local Projects Get Boost From Federal Funds. Jones Library Gets $1.1Million Toward Renovation/Expansion. by Gazette Staff (12/26/22). U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern and Richard Neal announced Friday they have helped secure a combined $38 million in federal funding for a broad range of local investments across 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. The funding was approved as part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that funds the government through next September and passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 225 to 201… $1,110,661 for the Jones Library renovation and expansion project in Amherst. The project will use low-embodied carbon materials, reduce energy use intensity by 60%, and reduce total lifetime carbon emissions by 41% compared to the current building. The larger library renovation and expansion leverages state, local, public and private funds toward multiple objectives including full accessibility for those with mobility impairments and meeting the current and growing need for English language instruction space. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Expanded Jones Library Design Endorsed By Building Committee by Scott Merzbach (12/25/22). Final schematic design elements for an expanded and renovated Jones Library, including putting the art gallery near the basement entrance and moving the young adult area to the second floor, are being endorsed by the Jones Library Building Committee. Representatives of Finegold Alexander Architects of Boston recently received unanimous support for the plans from the committee, with Library Director Sharon Sharry, who serves on the panel, saying that staff is thrilled that its requests are being honored. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Amherst Police Staffing Woes Hit Department Morale by Scott Merzbach (12/25/22). An already short-staffed Amherst Police force, which recently saw the departure of three members for lower-paying jobs at other area departments, means the remaining officers are working more overtime and having to prioritize emergency call responses. With a department that has typically functioned with 48 officers now down to 38 officers, Police Chief Scott Livingstone said he worries that if municipal leaders don’t soon do more to stand up for the department, Amherst will be moving toward the worst possible outcome. “The most dangerous thing for a community is a police department that doesn’t care,” Livingstone said. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Amherst Schools Land State Grants To Help Diversify Teacher Ranks by Scott Merzbach (12/22/22). A continued focus on enhancing the diversity of staff teaching at the Amherst-Pelham Regional schools will again be supported by a state grant. Superintendent Michael Morris told the Regional School Committee on Tuesday that he received notification of the successful request from the state’s Teacher Diversification Pilot Program, which assists districts to retain and recruit a diverse staff. The Dec. 2 letter from Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito states that the regional district, which serves students from Amherst, Shutesbury, Leverett and Pelham, is getting $83,193 from the fiscal year 2023 program… The program can provide tuition assistance for paraprofessionals and provisionally licensed teachers, as well as relocation allowance and signing bonuses for bringing in new teachers. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Amherst Labor Alliance Fundraising For Campus Workers by Rory Liddy (12/19/22). The Amherst Labor Alliance (ALA), based out of Amherst College, is currently fundraising to support the expenses of Amherst College workers whose wages are insufficient for their cost of living. The fundraiser will last the entire month of December, projected to end by Jan. 1, 2023.ALA member Melonie Huq described the organization as “a worker’s advocacy group.” Fellow member William Prince added that the alliance’s current efforts were focused on two specific groups of employees. (Amherst Reminder)
A Dive Into UMass Admissions By The Numbers by Sabrina Ishanyan (12/13/22). Upon further evaluation on the statistics regarding admissions over the last eight admission cycles, the University’s recent reputation of accepting a higher number of students is appropriate. UMass has consistently seen an increase in its total number of applicants, and the number of students accepted, each year since Fall 2015. According to University Analytics and Institutional Research, there were a total of 43,470 applicants and 25,371 acceptances (58.4 percent acceptance rate) in the 2014-2015 admissions cycle. For the most recent admissions cycle, 2021-2022, there were 48,393 applicants and 30,873 acceptances (63.8 percent acceptance rate) — an increase of nearly six percent. (Massachusetts Daily Collegian)