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Raiders Girls Basketball Team Ends Regular Season with a 5-Game Winning Streak

mt vernon2After a difficult stretch during December and January, the Scarsdale Girls Basketball team has turned around their season, finishing regulation play on 5-game winning streak. Wins include a three point victory against White Plains (42-39) and Mount Vernon (77-52). Both teams had beaten the Raiders earlier this season.

The team has improved on both their scoring and ability to control the pace of the game, as evident in their maintaining the leads throughout the entirety of both Mount Vernon and White Plains games.

The final league game of the season, also Senior Night, was against Fox Lane. The Raiders won 56-49. With this momentum, Scarsdale (#13 seed) will play Horace Greeley (#20 seed) in an out-bracket game for the playoffs at home on Wednesday (2/14), and the winner of Wednesday's game will face Ursuline (#4 seed) on Saturday (2/17.

Photos by Jon Thaler, see more here

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Greenacres Elementary Task Force Recommends a "No" Vote on the Bond on February 8

greenacresschoolThe Greenacres Elementary Task Force represents residents of Scarsdale who have significant concerns about the unmet facilities needs of Greenacres Elementary School and the health and safety aspects of a proposed renovation of the school.

We have advocated for an inclusive and transparent bond planning process, collaborative discussion of Greenacres' needs, fiscal responsibility, and a major focus on safety during any construction.

After careful consideration, the Task Force recommends a "No" vote on the 2018 Scarsdale school bond. We believe the bond is the product of a flawed planning process, offers a poor return on investment, and fails to address important safety concerns. We propose to work together with the School Board to develop and promote a new bond that offers worthwhile investment for all of Scarsdale while protecting our kids and teachers.

Process
Efforts to identify and incorporate community values were disingenuous, and no clear vision of the long-term investment of this bond was ever convincingly articulated. Many major decisions during this process were also made unilaterally behind closed doors.

There are too many examples of the flawed process to fully recount here, but some major events included:

  • Failing to adequately engage both Greenacres and all of Scarsdale in meaningful two-way dialogue;
  • Firing the former District architects and then hiring new ones and revealing the related RFP only after public pressure;
  • Holding the most important meeting of the process in determining the future plans for Greenacres on a weekday morning during a summer holiday week when many residents were out of town;
  • Inexplicably limiting the Greenacres discussion to a single renovation option;
  • Surveying residents purportedly to identify their facilities concerns but intentionally omitting a response that would have allowed residents to indicate their preference for a new Greenacres building;
  • Failing to form a Greenacres Building Committee until all major decisions had already been made, in contrast with renovation proposals at the other schools, then ignoring the most important recommendations made by the Greenacres Building Committee and the District-wide Facilities Committee;
  • Ignoring strong demand from surveyed residents for air conditioning throughout the District; and
  • Failing to pursue viable parking options for Greenacres or even to perform a traffic study when those issues have long been identified as significant Greenacres concerns.

With this history, perhaps it should come as no surprise that such a process resulted in a flawed and very atypical school bond proposal.

Return on Investment
The 2018 bond's proposed renovation of Greenacres is merely an expensive band-aid for a school building with significant unmet needs, including:

  • Small, antiquated classrooms for the younger grades;
  • Over 100-year old lead water pipes and aging sanitary pipes;
  • Ongoing issues with mold that more than once the District has incorrectly insisted had been fully addressed;
  • Lack of energy-efficiency and sustainability planning;
  • Inadequate parking and a precarious drop-off and pick-up traffic situation;
  • Lack of fire safety sprinklers as required in all new construction; and
  • Uniquely poor site plan that requires children to cross a road to access the playground.

Virtually none of these issues will be addressed by the $35 million renovation. In addition, the architects indicated that several million dollars of additional work will be required over the next decade. Is this the best use of Scarsdale's resources?

It is important to note that we are not promoting that a new Greenacres school would be the only acceptable solution should the February 8th bond vote fail. However, as recently emphasized by the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale in announcing why the League does not support this bond, the community was never provided with a full cost-benefit analysis to renovate and expand versus build a new Greenacres School. The Board's supposed comparative fiscal analysis assumes a $60 million cost for a new school without having conducted a true cost study. No architectural plans were ever drawn for a cost estimate nor were any options presented for study. In any case, the Board's myopic focus on cost alone ignores the crucial other side of any cost-benefit analysis: what would be the value of such an investment to the Scarsdale community?

Safety
As parents, we continue to believe that there are major, unaddressed safety issues with renovating the uniquely space-constrained Greenacres School while children are inside.

The 2018 bond does not include several safety recommendations endorsed by the Greenacres Building Committee and the Districtwide Facilities Committee, including modular classrooms to be used as swing space in the likely event of construction delays. These recommendations were ignored, and the Greenacres Building Committee was summarily dismissed prior to the Board making its final bond recommendation.

Additional safety concerns include:

  • Potential hazards resulting from the opening of walls that likely contain asbestos, lead and other toxic materials;
  • Playground in very close proximity to and surrounded by construction (an option to relocate the playground away from construction was dismissed without public discussion);
  • Use of cranes at Greenacres, including a statement by the District's Construction Manager that the kids will be around "swinging steel" for some time; and
  • Exacerbation of significant, existing issues with student drop-off, pick-up, traffic and parking.

The District has yet to come up with a contingency plan on where to move the children and staff should unexpected toxins be found in the renovation, or a detailed plan of how the children and staff will be protected at each stage of the renovation. Our children's and school staff's safety during this proposed renovation process should not be put at risk.

This renovation cannot be compared to other school renovations. The Greenacres project would be the largest renovation project in the history of Scarsdale's elementary schools, in its oldest school building, on a site offering the least amount of room to accommodate the demands of construction. There is no margin for error.

Greenacres may be the first, but it won't be the last of Scarsdale's aging elementary schools to be subject to major construction. The precedent established for Greenacres will eventually affect all of Scarsdale's elementary schools. We must get this right.

Conclusion
Many of us moved to Scarsdale due to its reputation for educational excellence. We believe that a well-articulated, long-term vision of how this bond invests in improving the Scarsdale school system should have been apparent and guided the bond development process from the beginning. This lack of vision and flawed process has led to a bond proposal with unclear educational and facilities goals, as well as a lack of critical safety contingencies.

As Greenacres residents whose neighborhood school would receive the majority of work under this bond, we are particularly disappointed to find ourselves recommending a "No" vote on February 8th, but we believe that is the better choice not only for Greenacres, but for all of Scarsdale.

We therefore encourage all Scarsdale voters to join us in voting "No" on February 8.

For more information on our efforts, please visit www.greenacrestaskforce.org and https://www.facebook.com/greenacrestaskforce/.

New Documentary Sparks a Community Conversation About Anxiety

pannel angstAccording to the World Health Organization, anxiety is one of the most common psychological complaints in the world. And it doesn't discriminate: It affects adults, teens, and children as young as four years old. It's also an issue that more and more Scarsdale families are facing due to social pressures, school demands, and the pervasiveness of technology.

To raise awareness about anxiety and start a community conversation about mental health, on Tuesday, January 9, Scarsdale C.H.I.L.D. and the PT Council sponsored a free screening of the documentary Angst, a film that explores anxiety, its causes and effects, and what we can do about it. Held at the Scarsdale Middle School auditorium, the screening drew a large audience of Scarsdale parents, demonstrating the importance of this issue in the community.

The eye-opening film features candid interviews with kids and teens dealing with different forms of anxiety and what they experience as a result. One teen in the film describes what happens to her when anxiety attacks: "My hands start to shake. I feel like I can't breathe. I kind of, start to breathe really rapidly and can't slow my breathing. So then my body starts to think that there's no oxygen and that I'm dying."

Angst also delves into the science behind anxiety and the most common reasons—or what's referred to as "core fears"—that cause it: inadequacy, abandonment, rejection, and judgment by others. The film goes on to talk about different coping mechanisms, from distraction in the form of breathing exercises or journaling, to exposure therapy—doing the very thing that scares you.

Showing that anxiety affects everyone—even the most accomplished of people—Angst features a cameo by Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who has struggled with anxiety and depression throughout his life. Finally seeking help after years of pushing people away, he explained, "I understood that it's okay to not be okay." He also emphasizes that opening up about his feelings instead of bottling them is what finally got him the help he needed.

Following the screening, Scarsdale Middle School principal Meghan Troy led a moderated discussion with panelists Eric Rauschenbach, Scarsdale Schools Director of Special Education and Student Services, and Sandra Pimentel, Ph.D., Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They answered questions from parents in the audience about how the school system is preparing teachers to deal with mental health issues, how they are helping students who are dealing with stress and anxiety, and what to do if you think your child is struggling with mental illness.

Rauschenbach commented that they have noticed an increase in anxiety in students and are working to educate teachers and staff so they can identify children who may be dealing with mental illness. At the elementary level, school psychologists regularly visit classrooms to talk to children about different issues they may be facing, and at the middle and high school levels, the schools are making wellness a priority by looking at what causes stress, making sure the workload is reasonable, and ensuring that kids have the tools to deal with daily anxieties at school.angst

For parents who think their children may be struggling with anxiety, Dr. Pimentel expressed a sentiment that was  hammered home at the end of Angst. "Get help, seek help," she said. "Start the conversation." For Scarsdale families wanting to do just that, both panelists recommended seeking professional help from a pediatrician, as well as reaching out to school administrators, the school psychologist, or Scarsdale C.H.I.L.D to get children the support they need.

Lauren Rubino has over 10 years of experience working in marketing and communications. She has held a variety of roles in the book publishing industry and at startups, and is currently working as a communications consultant for a nonprofit organization and a freelance writer. Originally from the Boston area, she lives in Quaker Ridge with her husband, two children, and little dog.

Greenacres Students Get Their Golden Tickets!

willywonkasOn January 20 and 21, two Wonkarrific casts comprised of 114 Greenacres students appeared in four performances of Willy Wonka Junior. The Greenacres PTA partnered with Westchester Sandbox Theatre again this year to produce the Scrumdiddlyumptious shows. Dedicated parent volunteers supported the children, spanning grades one through five, as they rehearsed throughout the month. The Greenacres Community Service Committee teamed up with the School Play Committee to help support the school's food drive for the FOOD BANK for Westchester. As the student actors were given two free tickets for each show and all kids received free admission, those attending for free were asked to bring a canned or boxed food item as the cost of entry.wonkabgoldenticket

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Schools Closed Friday Too!

snow(Updated Friday January 5, 2018) The Scarsdale Schools are closed for a second day in a row on Friday January 5 due to extreme cold and concerns about exposure. The temperature at 8 am Friday was 8 degrees, and is not expected to rise above 12 degrees for the day. The Scarsdale Schools were closed on Thursday January 4 due to severe conditions from winterstorm "Bomb Cyclone Grayson."

As of 1 pm on Thursday, police report that call volume is relatively low. With most people at home the streets are virtually empty and there have been very few car accidents, though there are a few power outages due to fallen tree limbs. Sanitation is currently out plowing but the wind continues to blow snow onto the roads.

The following local organizations and businesses were closed on Thursday:

Advocate Brokerage
Eye Q Optometrists
JCC of Mid-Westchester
Scarsdale Library
Scarsdale Medical Group
Scarsdale Synagogue
Westchester Reform Temple
Yoga Station

Send your snow photos to scarsdalecomments@gmail.com for publication and enjoy your snow day.

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