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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.

SHS's 100th Class Transitions to College

yearbooks1On June 5th, the SHS senior class had the chance to look both backward and forward. They returned to the high school after weeks of Senior Options for Senior Transition Day. As the name suggests, the day sought to help seniors through this transition phase of their life. The day had three stages. First was a Q&A with Scarsdale Alumni who had recently finished their freshman year in college. Second, the seniors met with their respective deans. Lastly, the entire grade congregated in the gym to have lunch and receive and sign yearbooks.

For the Q&A, nine SHS graduates returned to give students information to help them through their college process. The alumni were each from different schools, allowing them to shed different perspectives. There was representation of schools big and small, specialized and liberal arts. Some of the questions these students answered included, "How prepared were you compared to your fellow classmates?" (To which the general response was that Scarsdale had prepared them exceedingly well)deanmeeting1, "How do you avoid the freshman fifteen?" (Make the most of fun gym options and avoid buying large quantities of chips), and "How can you create an ideal roommate situation?"(Communication, communication, communication). After just one hour, the seniors walked away with some great advice to help them make the most of their freshman year.

In the dean meeting I attended, Dean Iosepovici's, students were asked to answer one of three questions; either "What was your favorite SHS memory?", "If you could do one thing differently in SHS what would it have been?", and "Is there any one person who impacted your SHS journey most strongly?". Students recalled funny moments, gave sage advice, and thanked teachers and administrators who had helped them along their way. The seniors then wrote thank you letters to these teachers and were given a heartfelt send-off.

yearbooks2The main event was the third portion of the day. The SHS PTA presented students with an array of sandwiches, snacks, and baked goods, as well as their yearbooks. Along the walls were old photographs of the class from elementary and middle school, which students enjoyed with nostalgia. The seniors spent hours signing each other's books and looking at the photos within. The entire class filled the gym and filled blank pages with kind words and fond memories.

Though these seniors will be graduating Scarsdale High School on June 23rd as the school's 100th graduating class, it is clear that they have made lasting bonds. The event gave students a chance to fondly recall their experiences while developing plans for the future; a true transition.

Willy Wonka is a Hit at Scarsdale High School

 

oompaloompasThe SHS Senior Class production of the musical Willa Wonka was a hit on stage on May 19th, 20th, and 21st.  It was a phenomenal production, and even the occasional misshaps added to the hilarity. The students did a wonderful job, and the audience was lively and full every day. Below are some photos of the cast in costume taken by Jon Thaler. You can see more photos of the play by clicking here

bucketfamilysquirrels
gloopgonecandymankellyandjake

OneLove Foundation Provides Vital Information on Signs of Abusive Relationships

ableWhat appears to be a loving relationship can sometimes evolve into isolation, alienation and sadly violence. That's the subject of a disturbing film called "Escalation" that was viewed at the Scarsdale Library on Wednesday May 31. The movie and discussion that followed was hosted by the Teen Center who invited Sharon Robinson, founder of the OneLove Organization to lead the group in an exercise of identifying unhealthy relationships and helping victims safely extricate themselves from dangerous situations.

What's most confusing about these relationships is that abusers are often very charming and attractive and mask their need to dominate and control. They ensnare their victims in exclusive relationships, cutting them off from friends and then making impossible demands. Many of the victims are teens or in their early 20's and are too naïve to recognize the signs of abuse.

The film, "Escalation" depicts a relationship between two attractive college students. Initial infatuation evolves into a demanding, dangerous situation with tragic consequences after the girl breaks up with her boyfriend.

State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has worked on many NYS laws to prevent domestic violence and she explained that the genesis for the legislation was the murder of heiress Anne Scripps Douglas who was killed by her husband in Bronxville in 1994 when she was only 44. The authorities refused to evict the man from their home after Scripps-Douglas went to them for help. Since that time Paulin has sponsored many bills to empower police and judges to protect victims of abuse.

In the weeks following a break-up, victims are especially vulnerable and should have protection and a getaway plan to safeguard themselves from abuse and violence.

Learn more about the signs of abusive relationships and what you can do to prevent them here

SHS Senior Class Presents Willy Wonka

bucketsGet your golden ticket! It's a tradition at Scarsdale High School for the senior class to put on a musical and this year, the production is Willy Wonka, based on the famous book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Directed by Catherine Chan and Morgan Cochrane, with musical direction from Sofus Rose and Nivi Ravi, and choreography by Jessica Cohen and Zoya Binyaminov the show has performances on May 19th, 20th, and 21st.

The play will star Zach Brenner as Charlie Bucket, Jake Stiel as the chocolatier Wonka himself, and me as Mrs. Beauregarde who is definitely a star on the same level as Charlie and Wonka, 100%.

The senior class government nominated two shows to be this year's musical, and the senior class voted Willy Wonka as the winner. Speaking from my own background in theater, I was a little daunted by the selection. The show is very male and character actor heavy. Most of the leads in the show are played by men and dramatic productions in SHS tend to draw a much larger number of women. Also, many of the roles require accents and a fantastic sense of comedy. I was worried that we wouldn't have enough strong actors to cover the roles. Turns out, I underestimated my classmates. As soon as I heard Mollie Kerr do her german accent as Mrs. Gloop I knew that things were going to turn out alright.

augustusThe best and worst thing about Willy Wonka is how well-known it is. Even if you don't know the musical, you probably know the story. Five kids and their guardians, many of whom take the word bratty to new heights, enter a chocolate factory and chaos ensues. During rehearsals, many of the scenes became much easier to learn because of this familiarity. Almost everyone knows the tune to the Oompa-Loompa songs and our Veruca, Caroline Kaufman, instantly knew how to scream that she wants it now. The problem arises in the pressure that comes with the audience knowing the characters already. "It's a little nerve-wracking to be playing such a well known character, especially with the accent," says Kaufman. It's scary to be aware that the audience has expectations, but from what I've seen the seniors are more than up to the challenge.

Another challenge the class has had to overcome is the deep dark pit known as scheduling. With a cast of more than a hundred and different levels of prioritization, you are literally never going to get a rehearsal everyone can attend. Even getting all of the speaking roles to come is a tall order. This means that for most rehearsals, somebody at some point is talking to an invisible person. Not only that, but there is also an added degree of difficulty in that access to the auditorium and the set itself has been difficult to obtain. We've got a week till our performances and we have only just recently been able to start using the auditorium stage. But at my old camp we started all rehearsals two weeks till the performance and if a bunch of screaming eleven-year-old girls can do it, then I have no doubt that a group of high school seniors can do it. Everyone has really pulled through so far, and so much of that is thanks to the student directors. "The hard work of our directors inspires us to 'make sure we memorize our lines and dance numbers" Says Thomas Jacobsen. We're all working not just to impress the audience, but also to build up our fellow castmates.

directorsWhatever the difficulties, the show must go on. The cast has absolutely made the most of their less-than-perfect situation and no matter what happens it promises to be entertaining. The best part of putting on a play is never the performances. It's the rehearsals. Through my time working on Wonka I've gotten to know some people I had never really interacted with before, and I think that my experience here is universal. "It's really going to be a memory I will look back at for the rest of my life and I would definitely encourage underclassmen to do the play when they become seniors!" Says Nakul Srinivas (Mike Teavee).I know that the phrase "if you had fun, you won!" is a cheesy motto generally found on participation trophies, but it seems pretty applicable here. No, you can't "win" a musical, but you can win new friends, some chocolate, and a golden ticket if you're lucky.

Come check out the play on May 19th and 20th at 7:30 PM and May 21st at 2:00 PM in the Scarsdale High School Auditorium! Tickets are available for purchase online here

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