Climate change and outdoor learning dominate Amherst school district meeting on how to spend pandemic relief money



AMHERST – Much of Thursday’s discussion in a listening session for parents on how the school district would spend $ 3.2 million in COVID-19 cash focused on the benefits and savings cost of energy efficient buildings. The session was hosted by the Amherst Regional School District.

A handful of climate change activists were present to make these points.

They also said ensuring that building heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technology is able to provide a safe environment must remain a priority.

The other major theme focused on how to maximize learning in the outdoors, in part so that kids don’t have to wear masks on campus.

The regional districts of Amherst (K-6) and Amherst-Pelham (7-12) require the wearing of masks by all, inside buildings.

For outdoor activities, the face mask will be optional, when the school year begins at the end of August.

Renata Shepard, a parent, said federal aid money should be spent to improve outdoor sports facilities, including the ball fields and track.

“Now that there is money coming in, I hope that will be taken care of,” she said.

Children need outdoor sports for mental and physical health reasons, she said.

“Every place you look in terms of athletics needs help,” Shepard said.

Lynn Vennell said an “expanded (programs) for the arts” should occur, using the grant money.

District Communications Director Deb Westmoreland facilitated the August 12 remote access meeting.

She told attendees who shared their ideas on Thursday that the school board would consider the comments.

Westmoreland thanked those present.

“I very much appreciate everyone’s contribution,” she said, adding: “It is quite rare to get grants spread over three years,” referring to the allocation, called the federal grants of emergency relief for elementary and secondary schools III, or ESSER III.

Amherst District’s share of grades K through 6 is $ 1,553,427; the four town regional district of Amherst-Pelham, grades 7 through 12, which includes Shutesbury and Leverett will receive $ 1,656,342.

According to the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the deadline for submitting grants for fiscal year 2022 is Monday, October 4.

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