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What is the Real Cost of a Greenacres Renovation?

constructioncostsThe following article was written by site founder, Joanne Wallenstein:
The flurry of comments on the proposed bond referendum contains many good points that warrant further discussion and clarification. Having thoroughly studied the current proposal and attended many meetings, I think I have as good a grasp as anyone of what's in and out of the latest proposal for the renovation of Greenacres. It seems to me that the reason this argument continues is that the cost to adequately renovate the school to meet current standards for student health and safety may be prohibitive.

Here's why:

The current plan costs $34.7 million and includes 8 new classrooms and a learning commons/cafeteria along with 8 modular classrooms on the field.

What it does not include are vital infrastructure updates to the current facility, despite reports that these are badly needed:

Here is what is NOT included:

New water pipes (current ones contain lead). This would require extensive and expensive work on the interior walls of the school.

New waste pipes inside the building. The waste pipe outside has been replaced after a "catastrophic failure" but the interior sanitary pipes remain.

New bathrooms in the existing school: These facilities are seriously outdated and in need of replacement. The July 6, 2017 proposal says that $268,000 is included in the bonds to "upgrade classroom toilet rooms." However architects now say that the challenge is that the bathrooms in the classrooms are too small and do not meet ADA requirements. As the classrooms are also too small, there is no room to borrow space to expand the bathrooms using the existing classroom space. Therefore, the current floor plan prevents the district from creating ADA compliant facilities.

Adequate Ventilation: Teachers and students report that during warm months, the classrooms are simply too hot to facilitate effective teaching. Teachers bring fans into the rooms and film has been placed on the windows, but the rooms remain uncomfortable. The unit ventilators proposed by the architects will blow in air from the outside – and if it's hot outside, hot air will be blown in. They will not cool or heat the classrooms. If the district does approve air conditioning, it is questionable whether or not the attic of the school can accommodate heavy air handlers. With global warming bringing more hot days to our area, this is a need that cannot be ignored, even if air conditioning puts the school at an advantage over other elementary schools.

Adequate sized classrooms: All of the classrooms (including the eight new ones) are below the recommended size of 900 square feet – despite the fact that the district is now permitting "Co-taught classes "with more than the maximum number of students in the room – along with two teachers. If the district plans to continue this practice, larger classrooms are needed.

Other issues to consider:

The Basement: There is a persistent smell in the basement foundation that indicates moisture, humidity and mildew ... or worse. The administration proposes to remediate this by moving the kids upstairs and installing dehumidifiers. No one knows for sure if this will work. Should the problems persist after $40 million is spent, then what?

Enrollment : Despite the administration's claims of a dip in enrollment, the population of the Greenacres School has remained very constant for years. A large part of the variation in the number of students result from the administration's decisions on where to hold inclusion and special needs classrooms and the placement of staff children. This year, Quaker Ridge now has four sections of both kindergarten and first graders, each grade with inclusion classes, as presumably they have the space. With a constant population of at least 350 kids, the need for a neighborhood Greenacres School persists.

Traffic and Parking: Issues with traffic, parking, and access to the building and the playground at the current site are real – and will only be exacerbated by the expansion of the building on the limited site footprint and the elimination of more parking spaces to accommodate the larger building. Additional staff may also be needed to man the cafeteria and they too will need to park. The district has made no recommendation on these issues – nor retained a consultant to analyze the impact on students, parents and the community.

So how does this add up? Take the current renovation estimate of $34.7 million and add the cost for plumbing, ventilation, bathrooms - and the possible relocation of the entire school population for a longer period to accommodate a more extensive interior renovation, Add in another $6 million in deferred work on the building needed down the road. What is the total cost of this decision?

As much as we would all like to compromise, the district cannot compromise on children's heath and safety. So if we consider the totality of the needs, the current state of this aged facility and the near certainty that additional non-budgeted expenses will accrue over the coming decades, it looks like the district may need to go back to the drawing board to find a feasible solution.

Comments   

0 #15 GA Voter 2017-10-16 07:52
it incorrect to imply that we can vote for this or get nothing. That is simply not true. We can and should vote down a poor plan and the Board of Ed can and should come back with something the WE are willing to stand behind (AND PAY FOR) - remember, we are the ones paying for it.

[quote name="Kathy Stahler"]There will not be a new school. It is just not happening, so we can say don't do anything or we can get his school to a great place that we can all feel good about.
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+16 #14 Accuracy indeed 2017-10-02 09:57
That is the problem with the information flow: the reno of the old bathrooms was scraped recently due because it would cost too much to bring them up to today's code to be ADA compliant..
Quoting accuracy is important:
In the last plan I saw from the architects they were putting in 2 new sets of bathrooms in the "old" part of the building. What else is misrepresented here in this list?
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-4 #13 GA Dad 2017-09-30 15:48
You are fighting an uphill battle if you are going to try and convince people that lead pipes need to be replaced. These are the same pipes in thousands of homes in Scarsdale and are completely safe as long as they are monitored and filters installed.

I still don't understand what's wrong with the sewage pipes.

Quoting Resident:
The waste pipe to the street to the street has been replaced. You have old lead pipes bring water in to the building. Those are the issue.

They are adding some new bathrooms. What about the disgusting old bathrooms?

Why aren't the new classrooms the recommended standard of 900 sq ft?
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-2 #12 GA Dad 2017-09-30 14:00
Instead of focusing on what we aren't getting, let's try to focus on what we are getting. This includes:

1. Brand new 4th and 5th grade classrooms (with AC).

2. A learning commons which when not used for lunch can be used as multi purpose space, event space, and even meeting space for the community and neighborhood.

3. The learning commons takes pressure off of existing Multi Purpose space so that we now will have proper designated spaces for music, more places for indoor recess, etc.

4. The new 4th and 5th grade classrooms take pressure off of the existing spaces so that we now have room to add new bathrooms and importantly can move art out of the basement, dedicated language room, and increased flexibility to respond to enrollment changes which vary over time.

5. New ventilation systems in all classrooms.

These are all very significant improvements to our school. This school may not be perfect or brand new and maybe we can push for more around the edged but at the end of the day it will be the best elementary school in GA when it's done.

Quoting New resident:
I think Joanne's concerns are valid. Why do we need to build such a big addition to the school while after completion, only 1/3 children will use. Why do we need the "learning commons" in an elementary school? Why don't we focus on the old buildings and address these issues related to children's health and safety? These questions have never been addressed by the administration. And we as parents need to know the answers.
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+8 #11 Resident 2017-09-30 13:47
The waste pipe to the street to the street has been replaced. You have old lead pipes bring water in to the building. Those are the issue.

They are adding some new bathrooms. What about the disgusting old bathrooms?

Why aren't the new classrooms the recommended standard of 900 sq ft?
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+4 #10 Kathy Stahler 2017-09-30 11:45
Oh and population is down- smallest kindergarten classes in years. Maybe bc no wants to enter this mess we have all created...
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+2 #9 Kathy Stahler 2017-09-30 11:43
There will not be a new school. It is just not happening, so we can say don't do anything or we can get his school to a great place that we can all feel good about. Instead of inciting people with the what you won't haves, why don't we work to get this into the bond or find out why it isn't. For example, the waste pipes were already replaced per the meeting this last week. So check that one off the list. We don't need to spend on something that is already new. You are on the building committee, take these issues to committee and find out why they aren't yet addressed.
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-7 #8 accuracy is important 2017-09-30 08:37
In the last plan I saw from the architects they were putting in 2 new sets of bathrooms in the "old" part of the building. What else is misrepresented here in this list?
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+6 #7 A. Taylor 2017-09-29 23:42
I have a kid in GA. I'd rather they just spend money on a/c and wait for the rest of the building to age until the community can get behind a project that provides actual value - which would likely be after my son is out of GA. The bottom line is that it's just a really poorly designed and scoped project on every level. This is not worth the hassle or expense. Do a true bottoms up and complete reno or build new, I could get behind either, but this project isn't worth it.


Quoting Not accurate:
Aside for the parking issues that need to be addressed, what you are proposing here is pie in the sky and would require demolishing the current building and building a new building from scratch which would be more expensive and would not pass the smell test with the rest of Scarsdale who will vote for or against this bond. The administration has already gone through this exercise of new vs reno and is putting forth the best plan that they think will be OK'd by ALL of Scarsdale--not just Greenacres. Why can't you understand this concept?

You need to stop rehashing this new vs reno debate and quit the negative propaganda and feeding the parents' fears with inappropriate stock photos and inaccurate reporting.
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+2 #6 New resident 2017-09-29 21:20
I think Joanne's concerns are valid. Why do we need to build such a big addition to the school while after completion, only 1/3 children will use. Why do we need the "learning commons" in an elementary school? Why don't we focus on the old buildings and address these issues related to children's health and safety? These questions have never been addressed by the administration. And we as parents need to know the answers.
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