Amherst Town Council Advances School Construction Project

The Amherst Town Council meeting on March 15th was primarily focused on the progression of the new elementary school building project. This project includes not only the construction of a new school building but also the development of an innovative playground, traffic circulation adjustments, and the upcoming groundbreaking event. Amidst discussions on various subcommittee updates and construction details, the council addressed the community’s concerns regarding traffic changes, tree removals, and the integration of sustainability features into the new school design.

The Elementary School Building Committee reported on the construction process, which is now in full swing with the contractor’s mobilization, site preparation, and the establishment of a construction fence. Tree clearing activities have begun to make way for the new building, driveway widening, and playfields. Some trees have been identified for removal due to disease, while others will be repurposed within the new design, particularly in the rain garden and forest floor areas.

One focus of the committee’s discussion was the upcoming changes in traffic circulation at the construction site. The traffic plan involves redirecting all traffic to the north entrance and creating a new circulation pattern for school drop-off and pick-up. Safety concerns for students who walk or bike to school were addressed, with the implementation of six signs directing people to a website for more information about the traffic changes. The plan includes the placement of a stop sign at the southern end where the turn occurs and the deployment of police officers to manage traffic during peak times. To alleviate traffic congestion, the public will be encouraged to seek alternative routes, especially considering the ongoing construction in the area.

The groundbreaking event for the new school building was another significant topic of discussion. The council discussed inviting community members who played roles in supporting the school project and ensuring that the groundbreaking event is well communicated to the public.

In line with the commitment to the community and the environment, the meeting included updates from the sustainability subcommittee. The involvement of the Massachusetts School Building Authority was also noted, particularly their review of the 90% construction documents and their planned participation in the groundbreaking event.

The playground equipment working group presented an update on the new playground design, promising a diverse and accessible space with swings, sensory input devices, closed loops for play, rope climbing, slides, and musical play elements. The playground will cater to different age groups and include considerations for shade and site planting. The procurement decision for the playground equipment remains pending, with options to approach the school committee for a priority vote or to seek a bid.

The design subcommittee’s meeting was noted for its finalization of color palettes and materials for the building, with an eye towards ensuring that the playground equipment colors coordinate with the building’s accent colors to create a cohesive aesthetic. The inclusion of basketball courts, trails, and rain gardens in the site design was also discussed.

Financial aspects of the project were addressed through the review of invoices totaling approximately $400,000, which covered design efforts and construction work. These invoices were approved.

Additionally, plans for future communication about the project were highlighted, emphasizing the importance of keeping the community informed and involved.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Town Manager:
Paul Brockelman
City Council Officials:
Mandi Jo Hanneke, Andrew J. Steinberg, Ellisha Walker, Ndifreke Ette, Cathy A. Schoen, Patricia C. De Angelis, Lynn Griesemer, Hala Heather A. Lord, George Ryan, Pamela Rooney, Jennifer Taub, Ana Devlin-Gauthier, Robert Hegner, Athena O’Keeffe (Clerk of the Council)

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