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Letter to the Editor: Greenacres: Construction Plans Should Emphasize Safety and Parent Involvement

Construction-Hard-HatsDear Editor: Before the new school year begins, the Scarsdale Board of Education will work with the District architects and newly  hired construction manager to address many of the unanswered questions regarding how to extensively renovate Greenacres Elementary School while dealing with a multitude of logistical issues, including student and staff safety, noise levels, traffic, parking, construction material and equipment storage and the expected use of at least part of the Greenacres field for construction purposes.

As the parents of several young children who are expected to spend 2-3 years of their elementary school years in the midst of this project, we believe that any construction implementation plan must, at a minimum, include the following components to provide for the safety of the children. We urge the Board to implement each of these, regardless of whether they exceed the bare "minimum" required by state law:

1. A commitment that either (a) no interior work will be done during the school year or (b) all students will be removed from the building for the duration of the project
2. A ban on outdoor construction activity that could produce airborne dust or debris during times when students will be outdoors and near the construction
3. HEPA filtered fresh air for all student environments (including the multipurpose room and gym) and sealing off of those areas from all outdoor dust and debris
4. Establishment of noise standards for construction activity with frequent independent monitoring and a mechanism for teachers to immediately shut down construction activity that interferes with student learning
5. No storage of construction materials, equipment or vehicles near student learning or recreational spaces
6. Posting of crossing guards / safety monitors during all times that students will be walking near construction activity or areas
7. No construction activity or deliveries during drop off or pick up times (including after school club pick up)
8. Lengthening of the shorter, new-for-2017 four minute long morning drop off period to account for construction related disruption
9. Accommodations for parent parking during school year construction (particularly if the Montrose parking spaces will be utilized for construction)
10. A commitment to real time online accessibility of all construction related documents material to student safety, including air quality, noise level and safety reports, material safety data sheets, test results, incident reports, the CIP and staging plans and, most critically, any changes to the foregoing
11. Expansion of the Greenacres Building Committee to include parents from all grade levels
12. Formation of a safety committee open to all interested Greenacres parents and teachers to establish a direct line of communication to the construction manager and to monitor compliance with the CIP and other construction implementation issues

In addition, as the architects work to finalize their renovation plans, we urge them to consider the following changes:

1. No parking lot should be constructed on Huntington Avenue between the school and the field as it would require the children to cross a road and a parking lot to access recreational facilities and make access to bathrooms even more difficult
2. The architects should study and propose plans for (a) physical alterations to improve drop off, pick up, traffic and parking during and after construction, including options to close Huntington to traffic during the school day to enhance safety and (b) adding bathrooms to the field to minimize the need for students to be escorted across Huntington during recess and gym (a teacher safety concern documented by the prior Greenacres Building Committee)
3. Fire sprinklers should be added to the entire building to maximize student safety
4. All lead pipes should be removed (filters are not an acceptable long term solution)
5. Air conditioning should be added to all student learning environments (the incremental cost is minimal given the size of the project and almost the entire building will already be under construction)
We hope that the Board and District will carefully consider and address all of these issues as they work to reassure concerned parents that every effort will be made to make both a Greenacres renovation project and the school building itself as safe as they could possibly be.

Sincerely,
Christopher and Lynn Marvin
Elm Road

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Comments   

#3 A Concerned Parent 2017-08-03 17:48
The obvious problem is that the law still provides a tremendous amount of discretion for schools to be renovated in ways that common sense would suggest are inappropriate. For example, take the case of PS 29, an elementary school in Brooklyn. The NYC Department of Education proposed performing asbestos abatement on school days in the after school hours. Apparently this was legal, but even the Scarsdale School Board would agree that that was a terrible idea!

The point is that the protections of the law will never be a substitute for common sense. As for the District's contractors, their primary consideration will be their own costs. They're not going to do any more than they've been tasked to do. As a result, the renovation plans have to be thorough and sensible.

Who will be looking out for Greenacres' children as those plans are being created? There are no better advocates for the kids than their parents.
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#2 Thank you 2017-08-03 15:42
Chris and Lynn, I think it is great that you are putting this out proactively, as opposed to once it's too late. This should allow plenty of time for each of your points to be considered by the Board and Administration.
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#1 Stating the Obvious 2017-08-03 15:40
Why is it that everyone (okay, maybe not everyone) in the Village is an expert in everything, and believe that those who do have specialized knowledge don't know what they are doing? Granted, many, if not most, of the issues / recommendations raised in this letter are good, but come on, this isn't the first (construction) rodeo for either the district, architects, construction manager, or likely the contractors (who have yet to be selected). Additions / renovation projects in occupied schools have a long history in the Village and frankly, everywhere. Life safety and efforts to minimize disruption to the educational process are paramount. Yes, there is going to be some inconvenience, but it's not like your child will be sitting in class with a steel beam dangling overhead, a jackhammer operating next to their desk, or asbestos dust settling into their lunch. Sure, be concerned, but let the professionals do what they are trained to, and required by law, to do.
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