Construction of New Elementary School Set to Begin


Architect's rendering of the new Fort River Elementary School. South drop off. Photo:


The new school will be built to the south of the existing Fort River Elementary School on adjacent open land currently used as fields.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman awarded the bid for the “Early Site Package” to Gagliarducci Construction of Springfield, Massachusetts. The Town received seven bids, reflecting a competitive bid process, and Gagliarducci was the low bidder. Anser Advisory, the Town’s Owner’s Project Manager (OPM), reviewed the firm’s qualifications, checked references, and recommended that the Town Manager award the bid to Gagliarducci. The bid was for $2,248,000, $652,000 below the project estimated cost of $2,900,000. This sum will provide added contingency for other parts of the project.

The scope of this contract includes fencing, erosion controls, stormwater management, roadwork, early site demolition, excavation and removal of topsoil and subsoil, the installation of rammed aggregate piers as foundation support and the placement of materials to compact the site of the new building. This early site package will prepare the site for the construction of the building and the remainder of the project including final site work and demolition of the existing building upon occupancy of the new building.

A second bid package for the construction of the building itself will be issued in June. The schedule is to complete the new elementary school building prior to the beginning of the September 2026 school year. The final stage of the project will be the demolition of the existing Fort River Elementary School and final site work which is scheduled to be completed later in 2026.

Town Council President Lynn Griesemer stated, “As we break ground for the Town’s new elementary school, it symbolizes the next step in the construction of a building that will provide students an opportunity to matriculate in this wonderful setting while learning about how a net zero energy facility works.”

School Committee Chair Sarah Marshall added, “What an exciting step for our town! After years of debating and planning, we will soon break ground for a beautiful, modern, efficient school building. The Amherst community strongly supports this project, so I know my excitement is shared by thousands of other residents, old and young alike.”

“We are excited after years working together to see the first phase of the school starting soon, with shovels in the ground. The news that the bid from a highly recommended, skilled contractor is well below the estimated budget bodes well for the entire project and will provide added funds for contingency as we move forward,” said Cathy Schoen, Chair of the Building Committee.

“This is an important first step in the actual construction of our new Fort River Elementary School. We continue to focus on final design elements and will pay close attention to the costs to ensure we stay within the budget established by the Town and approved by the voters,” noted Town Manager Paul Bockelman.

The proposed new school will replace Wildwood Elementary and Fort River Elementary Schools with one new elementary school on the Fort River site. The plan includes moving Amherst’s sixth-grade students to the Amherst Regional Middle School. The new Fort River Elementary School is being designed for kindergarten through fifth grade students.

The new three-story school will have a capacity of 575 students, with five classrooms for each of the six (K-5) grades. Importantly, the new school will be a Net Zero building utilizing ground source heat pumps and photovoltaic panels to supply 100% of the energy for the building. The site will include space for outdoor learning and play.

With the mobilization of Gagliarducci in early March, there will be significant changes to the circulation of vehicles entering and exiting the site. We will be notifying parents/guardians, staff, and visitors that the current (southern) entrance to the site closest to Belchertown Road will become the construction entrance/exit and will be closed to school traffic.  All school traffic will utilize the northern entrance to the school closest to Main Street as the entrance/exit.

The project is funded by two sources:  the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and the Town of Amherst. Voters approved a debt exclusion override in April 2023. The MSBA partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally appropriate, flexible, sustainable, and cost-effective public-school facilities.

For more information, visit the School Building Project website here: https://www.amherst-school-

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3 thoughts on “Construction of New Elementary School Set to Begin

  1. When school construction is completed, couldn’t any excess funds be used for the athletic fields renovation?

  2. Where will the 6th graders go? There really isn’t room at the MS which is, by the way, SORELY in need of a new roof. And, without Leverett, Shutesbury and Pelham agreeing to send their own 6th graders to a regional middle school, the 6th grade at the MS would not actually be part of Amherst REGIONAL Middle School. In contrast, many communities (Northampton, for example) have 6-8 middle schools. So the Amherst 6th grade would need to be a separate “academy,” with its own administration, thus adding to costs. As a teacher at both ARMS and ARHS I am saddened by the lack of planning and foresight from the previous district administration. Can the district start pursuing an agreement with Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett now?

  3. Responding to Claire: The Amherst School Committee could very well decide that we want to have Amherst 6th graders enrolled as Amherst Regional Middle School students, without needing agreement from the other three towns to do the same. This is a decision that will come before the Amherst School Committee in the coming months – whether to pursue the idea of a “6th grade academy” for Amherst 6th graders in the ARMS building, or whether to pursue having our 6th graders enrolled as ARMS students.

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