By Sarah Marshall
With the announcement of a designer for the elementary school building project on November 18, DiNisco Design, the project will move forward more rapidly now and with plans for robust public engagement. The winning firm was chosen by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Designer Selection Board with input from the Elementary School Building Committee (ESBC).
The next step, hopefully to be taken before Thanksgiving if the parties come to an agreement regarding DiNisco’s fee, is to launch a website for the project, designed and managed by Anser Advisory Management, the owner’s project manager (OPM). Residents will be able to
- watch videos of presentations and meetings,
- ask questions and provide comments,
- see a detailed timeline of the process,
- learn which decisions are the responsibility of which parties (e.g., the building committee, Amherst School Committee, Town Council, or the MSBA),
- be alerted to the opportunities for public input, and more.
We will update the links on the Elementary School Building Project page, found under Town Government 101 in this site’s menu, when they are made public.
The Town hopes to be able to put a debt exclusion on the November ballot, since turnout for federal and state races should be relatively high, but if necessary the Town can call a special election at any time.
Members of the ESBC expressed enthusiasm for DiNisco’s proposal, presentation, and previous work, noting their net-zero experience and student-centered approach. Committee Chair and District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen and District 4 Councilor Stephen Schreiber described their visit to one of the two completed schools in Springfield designed by DiNisco (the firm is now designing a third school for that city). They noted that the school was lovely and that facilities staff spoke highly not only of working with DiNisco to design the school but of the school building’s actual performance.
A joint meeting of the ESBC with the Amherst School Committee, with attendance by Anser and DiNisco, was tentatively scheduled for December 14. A goal of the joint meeting will be to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the parties for steps such as developing the education plan (that drives the design) and site selection (Wildwood or Fort River).