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Greenacres and the 2017 Bond: What You Should Know

GreenacresSchoolIf you've heard about a potential $60 million bond referendum this coming December for the Scarsdale Schools but don't have the patience to sit through lengthy meetings, here's the lowdown on what's in, what's out and what's TBD.

Financing:

As of the September 11 meeting of the Board of Education, the amount of the bond has crept up from $60 million to $64.99 million to fund an expansion and renovation at Greenacres School and district-wide infrastructure improvements such as roofs, boilers, electric and new ventilators to meet current fresh air standards. Work at Greenacres represents 53.4% of the bond.

Here's how the numbers breakdown:

Greenacres Renovation and Expansion: $33,240,430
8 Temporary Classsrooms (Trailers) $1,500,000

Total Greenacres: $34,740,430

Facilities Work at Other Schools: $29,541,461
Security Vestibules: $708,246

Total Bond: $64,990,137

Here are the current plans for Greenacres and other district schools as of the September 11, 2017 meeting of the Board of Education:

Space:

New Addition:

The school will receive a very large addition on the Huntington Avenue side of the school. It will include eight new 800 square foot classrooms, a new learning commons and a kitchen to provide cafeteria service. The new portions of the school will be air-conditioned. The 3,000 square foot learning commons will be adjacent to the kitchen and existing multipurpose room and it will be two-stories high. The new space will accommodate the school population for lunch – and when the tables are cleared away the multi-purpose room can be used for gym as it will no longer be used as a music room.

Recreation:

The existing gym/auditorium will remain. The windows will be covered up by the classroom addition so skylights will be added to bring in natural light. The gym will not be air conditioned as the consultants have found that the existing ventilation system is adequate.

Existing Classrooms, Hallways and Common Rooms:

Plans call for interior renovations to the existing classrooms for "21st century learning" – however no details have yet been provided about what that means. It appears that these rooms will receive new flooring but beyond that, nothing has yet been decided.

Several of these existing classrooms are small – under 800 square feet -- when national standards call for classrooms of 900 square feet. In addition, the district is now permitting co-taught classes to include more than the maximum number of students, making these classrooms even tighter. Architects might have used this opportunity to eliminate a classroom or two to form larger rooms with the space, however these classes will remain as they are.

Plans call for new paint in the halls, multi-purpose room and gym, replacement of the ceilings in the hall and the relocation of six drinking fountains.

Infrastructure:

Existing classrooms will be given new unit ventilators to bring fresh air in from the outside. This air will not be temperature controlled, bringing hot or cold air into the rooms depending on conditions outside. According to Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey, "The unit ventilators are recommended due to their age (vintage 1950's). They are not mandated to be removed nor has any air sampling shown that their is an air quality issue. This vintage UV do not meet current code for fresh air exchange but are indeed grandfathered. As you know, Edgewood and Fox Meadow do not have any active fresh air exchange which is also proposed to be addressed as part of the bond scope as well as other areas across the district which are listed in the complete list of items that have been provided in the presentations." The 2015 Feasability Study by the Greenacres Building Committee recommended that, "If Option B1 was selected and was only partially implemented due to cost restrictions there was a strong feeling that the initial phase should include all work related to updating the heating and ventilation systems in all parts of the existing building.

The water and sanitary piping will not be replaced, despite water quality reports that show lead in the water. This problem will continue to be remediated with lead filters.

On the lower level, where the previous report showed problems with moisture and water infiltration, a commercial dehumidification system will be installed and the "condensate will be tied to the sanitary system." The music and art classrooms that were downstairs will be moved upstairs and the basement will no longer be used for instruction. The current architects say there is no problem with water, moisture or mold. This area has been designated for school and district storage.

Traffic and Parking:

Drop-off and pick-up have been perennial issues at the school as it is surrounded by three residential streets and lacks space for a driveway, entrance canopy and parking lot. If plans proceed for cafeteria service, presumably more staff will be needed and it is not clear where they will park.

The 2015 Feasability Study concluded that, "Additional parking should also be explored further independent of the building project planning process." 

To date, the district has not released a traffic study of the area and the current plan has no provisions for traffic or parking. Administrators are looking to the Greenacres Building Committee to come up with solutions.

Similarly, as the playground and fields are across the street, children need to cross Huntington Avenue to access these facilities. Architects have not provided a plan on access to the fields from the building.

Food Delivery and Trash:

If food service is to be provided, presumably there will be frequent food deliveries to the school. The new plans do not include a loading dock or provisions for food delivery trucks or a place for garbage/waste.

Construction Plans:

The construction management firm, Park East, has put forth two schedules for construction which they say can be a accomplished during two summers and one school year, beginning either June or September 2019, pending approvals from the State Education Department. During this time, most of the children will be in the school, with eight trailers on the field. No details have been provided about which classrooms would be relocated to the trailers.

Access:

During the construction period, the Huntington Avenue side of the school will be closed off and the school population will need to enter and exit on Putnam Road or Sage Terrace. The blacktop area across the street that is now used for basketball, games and play will become the staging area for the construction equipment. During the construction, kids will need to walk around the school and across the street to access the playground that will be adjacent to the construction staging area.

Facilities Improvements at Other District Schools:

Architects are proposing $29 million in district-wide infrastructure improvements based on their facilities survey. These items have been given a priority of 1, 2 and 3 and you can see the entire list here.

90% of these projects fall into the following categories:

Roof replacement: 27%

HVAC for new fresh air systems: 22%

Unit ventilators for Greenacres and SHS: 12 %

Boiler Replacement: 10%

Fields and Site Work at Greenacres and SHS: 6.5% (includes new sod, drainage remediation and playability upgrades at Dean Field for $1.4 million)

Electric replacement of old circuit breakers with new panels and replacement of rusted switches: 6%

Masonry replacement at SMS and SHS 3.25%

Door replacement, handrails, ADA door operators: 2.9%

Schedule for Bond Approval:

The administration has outlined a rapid plan for approval of the funding, with a vote by the Board of Education scheduled for October 16 or October 23 if more time is needed. The project requires SEQRA review, a study of environmental impacts. Pending SEQRA and board approval, there would be a district wide bond referendum on December 14, 2017.

What's Next?

From the discussion at the Board of Education meeting, it appeared that most of the Board members were sold on the plans. They asked questions but seemed content with responses from the architects and construction firm. For example, they asked about the condition of the foundation and basement at Greenacres but appeared satisfied with the architects' claims that there were no current problems. They probed into the proposed construction schedule and were assured by representatives from Park East that the work could be done in just one school year and two summers.

Board member Nina Cannon asked for more information about the feasibility of putting the students into temporary space during the construction, saying, this might be helpful in "getting the community to coalesce." She said, "Anything can happen and I do trust in the expertise of our consultants but I would like to know what's involved(in getting temporary space.)"

However, Dr. Hagerman sought to dismiss this request saying, "Modulars are not healthy – they are only temporary. I am only in favor of them as a short-term solution." In terms of busing the children to another location, he said, "I don't know of anything that's close by and is a substitute." Board President Bill Natbony agreed, saying, "I think it will be unfeasible. I think we have successfully done construction projects for years. We are being told it is not necessary." Pam Feuhrer added, "I am reassured that everything can be done safely without moving the students."

Despite that fact that the Board is agreed that the students should remain in the school during a renovation, there appears to be strong opposition from parents who will have students in the school at the time.

Greenacres' dad and attorney Tony Corrigio spoke during the public comments about the risks of lead, asbestos and noise during the construction but was shouted off the mic after he exceeded his three minutes. He said, "We are dealing with elementary school students who are at a higher risk. These are younger children and if they get the remediation wrong you can injure children for life. You are going to fall down due to unforeseen conditions. You don't know what you'll find when you tear down the walls which could require you to stop work and exceed the ten weeks allotted during the summer. ... If you examine the cost/benefits of getting the kids out of the school during the construction, you would go a long way toward creating a unified Greenacres. This community should be talking about best practices. What is the best we can do? Not what is the minimum we can do. The law is the minimum standard... It is not the gold standard. Our kids are sacrificing for the last 100 years and the next 100 years."

Corrigio is not alone. A group of Greenacres parents who are concerned about construction risks has been formed with the mission of "advocating for the complete relocation of Greenacres children during a renovation." They retained lawyers to represent them as well. It is difficult to determine whether or not these concerns will be heard by the Board.

Similarly, the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale has studied the proposal and posed a lengthy list of questions about the process of developing the bond proposal, the educational thinking behind the facilities plan, the timing of the bond referendum and lack of opportunities for community input, as well as questions about the specific plans for Greenacres.

When Mary Beth Evans Chair of the LWVS School Bond Study Committee asked the Board at the 9-11 meeting when there would be opportunity for community comment on the bond proposal, School Board President Bill Natbony said, "We have a Greenacres facilities committee and you have the members, so those are members that the community can obviously contact. We're here and we're responding to every communication that we get. There will be a District-wide District Facilities Committee that hopefully will start to meet on Wednesday [9/13] -- if not, the following week. So, all those opportunities are there, and, certainly, we welcome the input."

The architectural plans for Greenacres were unveiled on August 24, 2017 and in less than two months the administration hopes to have approval from the Board of Education for a massive addition to Greenacres as well as big ticket facilities plans that represent the largest spending plan in the district's history.

The administration has formed both a Greenacres Building Committee and a District-Wide Facilities Committee to review the plans, offer input and communicate the plans to residents at large. They are depending on the support of these two groups to gain consensus for passage of a bond. In the next few weeks the Board of Education will assess whether they have the necessary approvals and sufficient backing to hold a bond vote before the end of the year.

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