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Letters to the Editor re: Greenacres Parents: The School Board Needs to Hear Your Concerns!

letter-to-the-editorHere is a letter to the editor from Chris and Lynn Marvin: The May 22nd unveiling of the Scarsdale School District's proposal to renovate Greenacres School with the "kids in place" rightfully has alarmed Greenacres parents. In less than one week, over half of Greenacres' current kindergarten and first grade families signed a new petition urging the School Board to thoroughly consider a full cost-benefit analysis of a new school option and include the costs of relocating Greenacres' students as a component of any possible renovation.

Why such concern from Greenacres' parents? A frequent response from the District and architects has been that other schools in Scarsdale have been renovated with "kids in place". But Greenacres is different, and a quick look at the aerial photos and plans provided by the architects illustrates why.

Given Greenacres' age and needs, the interior work proposed is greater than at any other elementary school with almost every part of the interior being touched. Although the most hazardous work will be done over 3-4 summers, are parents comfortable leaving Greenacres' children in the building for the rest of the work, including additions being built right outside of classrooms? We are not.

Secondly, the Greenacres building's existing footprint occupies almost all of its lot. But the architects have wedged in not one but two additions extending up to the sidewalks! Yet to be addressed with two of the three street-facing sides of the building under construction: how to deal with entry and exit from the building, pick up and drop off, access to the field, construction equipment and materials storage and construction crew parking? Will the blacktop be taken over for construction? These space constraints mean that Greenacres is different.

Finally, Greenacres is the only school to have been built across the street from its recreational fields. This poor design is the source of constant complaints about traffic and student safety. The District and Board are well aware of this problem, and it was documented as a Greenacres faculty concern in the Greenacres Building Committee's reports. Yet a renovation will never be able to fix this. In fact, it may make things worse! The latest proposal adds a 25 car parking lot over the current blacktop! So now Greenacres' children will be forced to cross a street and a parking lot to get to their recreational space! Again, no other school in Scarsdale has this issue, Greenacres is different.

Greenacres' differences therefore make renovation with the "kids in place" difficult, unwise and dangerous. And the sole focus on a renovation is a lost opportunity to finally fix, once and for all, longstanding issues with Greenacres that could never be solved with a renovation. How about a safe route for traffic with a proper, dedicated pick up and drop off area? What about room for expansion if sections split?

As a Greenacres parent, the School Board needs to hear your concerns. Please send them emails (boardofed@scarsdaleschools.org), but more importantly, please talk to them in person during public comment at one of the few School Board meetings left before these plans are finalized.

We urge all Greenacres parents, particularly those with younger children, including children yet to begin elementary school to attend the Public Forums scheduled for Tuesday, June 20th at 9 am and 7 pm where parents will have the opportunity to ask questions of the architects directly and explain to them why Greenacres is different.

Christopher and Lynn Marvin
Elm Road

Here are remarks from Pam Rubin and Diane Greenwald, read at the Monday night June 12th meeting of the Scarsdale School Board:

I am reading this on behalf of Diane Greenwald and myself. With respect to this new bond, Diane and I share two things. We both served on the 2014 Bond Facilities Steering Committee and neither of lives in Greenacres- so we have no "skin in this game". We wish the Board and the community to know that we would support a bond dedicated primarily to one elementary school, Greenacres, and would even support the construction of a new school.

As members of the 2014 Bond Facilities Steering Committee, we remember that we made a promise to address the significant issues that face Greenacres. The needs were too serious to address in that bond, and we agreed with the administration's recommendation to address issues under future debt service drop off, all at once, rather than piecemeal and patch jobs. While we are surprised how long this has taken and how unpleasant this has become, it really is their turn, and it is fair. We further suggest that Greenacres residents remember they live in SCARSDALE and find a way to cooperate with each other, perhaps through facilitated dialogue of some kind.

 

In light of the BBS pre-schematic explorations, let us further explain why we believe GA is where it is:

 

We understood that the last bond was developed through a robust process that revealed the priorities organically from the building committees' up. It took time, it was a bit messy, but it created some buy in.

 

As we remember:

 

• Heathcote needed more lunch service space but wanted it built as a multi-purpose room (but not a full kitchen) and wanted it to be thoughtfully integrated into their iconic space. Construction begins this summer.

 

• Edgewood, in need of renovation at one corner, reviewed a cafeteria, but rejected it too, prioritizing instead a new, expanded library and reorganized office space.

 

• SMS added the orchestra practice room. They wanted but did not receive a multipurpose room.

 

• SHS, also seeking to improve the personalized and age-appropriate experience of our teens, opted for a learning commons to improve food service and support all kids - including socially - with flexible use. Though integral to the full project, private funding is also providing the much-needed new fitness space to support the PE curriculum and welcome all students to work out and be healthy -- and a D-lab for making, building and exploring.

 

• Fox Meadow, having expanded its kindergarten wing in a previous bond, recommended nearly no significant needs for capital bonding.

 

• And QRS, has had all their issues addressed in a previous bond and received a new roof last year.

 

While we can imagine some priorities may have shifted and new items need addressing, we are confused by the BBS introduction of 'commons' space. Commons as a concept seem appropriate for high school age students who might step in with a lap top and a snack; it is modeling a college-style commons space! We do not see how that translates to the elementary age. It would seem that the PTA's who make substantial revenue feeding students and school administration should be consulted before including expensive commons space with food service.

 

That was the long way of saying -- the District pause with new consultants should not be a wipe-out of our history and processes.

 

Now returning focus on Greenacres -- what we understand is that the water table there is very high, water issues will forever be a problem, and the building is over 100 years old. The building also has significant site limitations for expansion and there could be significant issues of disruption and risk for renovating in phases. You don't know what you will find - Many of us can relate to this reality when renovating. While many rightly love the character of older structures, this is a public space for educating children for the future, so different standards apply beyond aesthetics and nostalgia. Can we make this building work? maybe. Should we? We don't really know -but it continues to be reasonable to consider a new school as an option. And we should continue to explore this robustly. We need to know in a thorough and well-documented exploration with the financial and cost benefit analysis what this really could mean.

 

So, let's stay open to the possibility of something new! This is an opportunity to face forward with a 21st century state-of-the-art learning space that is serving all of Scarsdale! Fully engage the community and PTA leadership in open discussion. Provide sound financial cost benefit analysis and show us something that makes sense with adequate fields and open space, and a design that we can all agree meets our educational values and Scarsdale will support it.

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