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Greenacres: Relocation Options, Including Modular Classrooms, Must Be Part of Bond Planning

modularclassroomThis letter to the editor was sent to Scarsdale10583.com by Greenacres resident Sara Cetron:
The Greenacres Elementary Task Force, a group of concerned Greenacres parents and their supporters from across Scarsdale, have been advocating for the relocation of all Greenacres students off-site during a large construction project expected to begin in 2019.

Shockingly, at the September 11th School Board meeting, only one Board Member spoke in favor of even studying relocation options, despite a petition signed by hundreds of Scarsdale residents, frequent advocacy in the press and requests to the Board from concerned residents.

Why is the Board so reluctant to even think about relocating Greenacres' kids? The Board appears to misunderstand types of relocation options available as well as their costs and benefits. Let's review the reasons that several Board Members gave for not wanting to even consider relocation to show why they are misinformed:

"Relocation Isn't Better Than Being in the School Building" -- Relocation is much better because it keeps the kids as far away from construction as possible rather than forcing them to learn, travel and play next to it every school day for more than a year. This may come as a surprise to District administrators who already enjoy modern comforts such as air conditioning, but modular classrooms are significantly better than the conditions at Greenacres school. Nice modulars are modern with comforts like air conditioning that won't be found in most Greenacres classrooms even after a $40 million project! They have modern bathrooms, great lighting and are built with green materials. Modulars are not meant to replace permanent structures, though some cash-strapped school districts (not Scarsdale) use them for that, but modulars are certainly a modern, healthy and desirable choice and preferable to keeping kids in the construction zone.

"It's Financially Unfeasible" -- It's difficult to see how such a determination could be made until specific options have been studied and priced out, but the current plan budgets $1.5 million for 8 modular classrooms (about 2 grades) on the Greenacres field. To accommodate the rest of the regular classrooms at Greenacres, add another 16 classrooms for $3 million. $1.5 million has already been budgeted for Greenacres field restoration -- that can be used for site work. Modular classroom should be located at the back of the field as far away from the construction as possible. A temporary playground should be installed next to the modulars so that no child has to go near the construction to play. Can Scarsdale afford this? Of course it can, but it all comes down to priorities. The bond currently budgets $1.4 million for a baseball field renovation at the high school. That amount could fund half of the additional modular classrooms for Greenacres. If the School Board were interested in relocation, they could find a way to fund it. As Task Force member Tony Corriggio pointed out to the Board during public comment, there is the potential for cost savings if relocation allows all of the Greenacres work to be done at one time rather than spread out over several years. Contractors may offer better bids which would lower costs for the entire project, which is why these options must be studied in detail by the Board.

"We've Done Construction Before Without Relocation" -- Scarsdale has never done a project of this scale at a school this old on such a tight site plan and with kids this close. You can't compare this project with other District work that involved a corner of a building on a much larger lot. Greenacres' site is tiny, and this project covers the entire front of the school and the kids' play area next to their playground, leaving them right in the middle of construction.

"The Consultants Say It's Not Necessary" -- The District administration has steered their paid consultants toward a particular path for this project. If the School Board had asked for relocation options, the consultants would be talking about them.

The reason there is so much unfamiliarity with these options, even among members of the School Board, is that relocation options haven't been properly studied or discussed.

Time is running out to finalize these plans before the bond is presented to Scarsdale voters. But it's not too late for the School Board to change course and show that it wants to work in good faith to address significant concerns and pursue all potential options for relocation. These options, including modular classrooms, must be a major part of bond planning going forward.

Sincerely,

Sara Cetron
Greenacres Resident

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