Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Letter: Vote yes for Amherst

(Erica Lowenkron/ Daily Collegian)

To the Editor:

UMass students who are registered to vote in Amherst have a rare opportunity to make a real difference in Amherst’s schoolchildren’s lives this month. The town election on March 28 will include a ballot question to approve a bond issue for building two new elementary schools, under one roof, to replace two old, deteriorating schools. Both of the old schools have serious pollution problems and a history of sickening children and teachers. Both lack partitions between classrooms so noise is a constant distraction. Children with hearing problems and special needs are especially disadvantaged in these environments. Both buildings have mechanical systems that are obsolete and breaking down. The two new small schools will also create a possibility of an Early Childhood Center. Such centers have proven highly successful in neighboring districts and across the country.

To be approved, the ballot question not only must pass by a 2/3rd vote, but also must bring out a substantial number of registered voters in Amherst. Since the many UMass students who are registered to vote count as part of that base, it’s doubly important that students take      the time to go vote on March 28. If the measure fails, Amherst will lose $34 million in state aid. It would then have to re-enter a complex state process, which has many school districts ahead of us in the queue. It may take a minimum of seven years to be considered again for state funds and, realistically, a good deal longer. Inflation and borrowing costs will then be substantially higher and so, too, local taxes. Non-monetary costs will be higher. A number of our good teachers might well leave for better working environments. Student enrollments will also likely fall, depleting monies for the educational program and thus generating more student exits.

Vote Yes for Amherst

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  • B

    Bob SmithMar 26, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Don’t be fooled by the many phony ‘Bob Smith’s out there. Is that you Kevin? Love ya man.

    There’s only one ‘real’ Bob Smith, accept no imitations.

    Laura Quilter doing a great job!

    The plans’ call for 750 kids grammar school kids bused into one building everyday is too much!

    Please vote NO March 28, there are better options available.

  • V

    Vira Douangmany CageMar 24, 2017 at 7:28 pm

  • A

    AnneMar 23, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Vote “No”
    The associated tax increase will cause landlords to raise your rent!

  • B

    Bob SmithMar 23, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    It would be a lot easier to listen to Laura Quilter’s encyclopedic harangues about what we should do with “our” schools and “our” kids if she didn’t send her kid to an expensive private school in another town altogether.

  • L

    Laura QuilterMar 23, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Brian, above, said, “The plan has a lot of pieces and you’re going to hear the NO folks say one thing in the plan is bad so the whole idea should be thrown out.”

    As one of the aforementioned NO voters, I’d like to issue a correction. It’s not “one thing”, but SO MANY things in the plan are bad, that the whole idea should be thrown out.

    * Too many kids on too small a site.
    * Less playspace per kid — smaller, fragmented playspaces. Kids love — and NEED — outdoor time and nature. But THIS plan consolidates so many kids, and so many cars and buses, in one small space, that they’re designating playspaces in the parking lots. Asphalt instead of grass. No thanks!
    * Really large increases in bus time, bus traffic, diesel emissions
    * Minimally green. At a time when every new construction project should be as green as possible, this one barely cracks LEED silver, builds in oil burners, increases diesel pollution, and bakes the town into increasing commuting for all families.
    * Traffic increases. Shipping all the kids up and down Pleasant Street twice a day is going to significantly change (and increase) traffic; right now, elementary kids are distributed in three small spokes, minimizing impact in the downtown corridor.
    * Expensive! The most expensive plan offered, and one of the absolutely most expensive elementary schools in the state. Half will be paid for out of property taxes, which translates into rent increases.
    * The other half of the funding isn’t “free money”, by the way. It’s paid for by sales taxes. And every cent we spend here, is money that cannot be spent rebuilding schools in other communities that really are in bad shape. Schools where kids have to wear their winter coats indoors, or show markedly high rates of respiratory illness. Our relatively well-off community should not be greedy — I’m sure there are students at UMass who come from places in the state where schools need many more repairs than ours do.
    * Not that exciting! For all that money, wouldn’t it be awesome if our kids were getting something amazing? Nope. A crowded building with an airport hangar-like entrance plaza, where 750 elementary kids will mill around.
    * Separating elementary-age siblings. Goodbye older/younger child mentoring! Hello family nightmare of picking up kids early or attending events at both schools. An ESPECIALLY hard nightmare for families with one car or reliant on public transit, or single-parent families.

    Can we spruce up our buildings, improve our energy-efficiency, modernize? Yes. Do we need this plan to do it? Heck no. Rather than borrowing tens of millions of dollars to build a giant airport-like building to warehouse our little kids, we’d rather construct and renovate wisely and greenly, and invest in some really creative pedagogy, nature-based education, language instruction. And lots and lots of recess.

    Parents and kids love and benefit from our three small K6 elementary schools. Please help us save them by voting NO on the $67 million school consolidation plan.

  • B

    BrianMar 23, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    It seems like some of the people above are advocating that only property holders should get to vote, which last time I checked isn’t how this country works anymore. If you are a registered Amherst Voter and you have an opinion you’re entitled to vote. Don’t let someone take away your right to vote.

    Don’t let the cranks tell you what to do. No one would disagree that the schools are in bad shape. If you want to see for yourself what the schools are like watch this impartial video by Amherst Media

    If we vote yes we get half the money from the state to start building, if we vote no we doom hundreds of kids to suffer in these buildings for a decade or more while all of the grown-ups in this town fight over the details of the next plan. You’re still young enough to remember your school experiences vividly. Maybe you went to a great school, or maybe yours was falling apart, but you can empathize with what the kids are actually dealing with every day.

    Take some time, research the issue, and decide for yourself. The plan has a lot of pieces and you’re going to hear the NO folks say one thing in the plan is bad so the whole idea should be thrown out. Personally I think it’s wrong to tell kids we voted no because someone didn’t like one part of the plan when the whole project was so important.

    We are voting again because the voters demanded the chance through a petition, unhappy that Town Meeting ignored the rest of us and did whatever they wanted to.

  • A

    Andrew Parker-RengaMar 23, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Why is it shameful to ask a voter for a vote? I feel it’s important to point out people opposed to this plan that addresses our current educational needs stood in front of the polling booth at U Mass in November urging them to vote No or not vote on the question. Then, after those precincts voted in majority for the plan, blamed the students as the reason why it barley passed. Was that not shameful?

  • P

    Paige WilderMar 23, 2017 at 9:58 am

    In November, half of Amherst voted against this school proposal in the general election. Town Meeting voted against this school project after many hours of careful deliberation not once, but twice, once at fall town meeting and then in a specially called town meeting in January (the Town Meeting debate is available on Amherst Media). Why are we being asked to vote yet again on the same issue a fourth time? Be an informed voter. Many many people voted no for very good reasons. Learn about the school proposal and decide for yourself before you vote.

  • V

    Vira Douangmany CageMar 22, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    The real cost of the Amherst Elementary School Building Project:

    Voting yes will destroy three K-6 schools to pursue a controversial 2nd-6th grade 750-student school. Pre-K, K and 1st graders would be housed at a school at opposite ends of town.

    The Mass School Building Authority seeks communities that can finance school buildings every year. They look at a town’s financial health to go into debt. Lots of doomsday declarations about the conditions of our schools to scare and rush people into saying yes.

    My name is Vira Douangmany Cage and you can follow my Facebook to see how I am using social media to tell the other narrative.

    This is what the superintendent in 2012 said about the conditions of our schools. She’s the one left last summer with a third of a million dollars to cut her contract short that pushed aggressively for this project. Oh, on the conditions of our schools, from her mouth:

  • T

    ToniMar 22, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I agree with the first commenter – this is a shameful tactic by the Yes campaign to appeal to students, the majority of whom live in Amherst for 4 years or less and do not pay property taxes or have kids in the schools.
    Should students have a say in Amherst taking out a 25 year loan to pay for a highly controversial $67million school building project? They may be impacted by higher rents due to the rise in property taxes, and may notice the increase in traffic and pollution, but otherwise they will likely not experience repercussions from this project.

    Students: Please do not cast a vote in this referendum unless you feel you are fully informed of the pros and cons. Many teachers and parents do not support this plan.

  • T

    TawanaMar 22, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Shameful tactic. Students effectively double the population of Amherst for 9 months out of the year, but don’t make use of elementary schools, and don’t pay the share of taxes that residents do. The measure failed twice already among people who live in Amherst full time. So you’re taking advantage of students who use Amherst as a for year vacation home to make decisions for people who have lived there their whole lives. Check out the late Larry Kelley’s Only in the Republic of Amherst for a more detailed take on the project.