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How Are Peer School Districts Approaching Plant Improvements?

arlingtonAs the Scarsdale School district ponders a major capitol improvement plan for the schools, we thought it would make sense to see how some neighboring districts and leading "peer" districts on the national level are approaching similar issues. We found a few projects here in Westchester along with work at other top districts around the country.

Close to home we noticed that Blind Brook in Rye will hold a bond referendum on October 17 for a $44.7 million bond, $38 million of which will go to renovations, infrastructure and new construction at their elementary school.

The proposal calls for a "cafetorium" that includes a cafeteria and an auditorium with retractable seating for 350 people. The rationale here is to create a large group assembly space with a full sized stage which is "less expensive and more functional than renovating the stage in the old gym."

The renovations will include the "replacement of outdated small classrooms with environmentally appropriate and flexible learning spaces to meet current and future programming needs for the 21st century." All bathrooms in all wings of the school will be renovated to comply with ADA code requirements and the library and technology room will be combined to create an "instructional media center." Both the new and existing areas of the school building will be air conditioned.

In terms of site planning a new school bus loop will be built to facilitate the arrival and dismissal of students and to separate buses from parent vehicles.

WPPSchoolJust up the road from Scarsdale, the original 95 year-old White Plains Post Road School was replaced with a new "green" school that opened in 2009. According to the architect's website, "This new, high-performance, 90,000sf replacement school has earned an Energy Star rating of 100, operates 65% more efficiently than a building of standard design and is the most energy-efficient public school building in New York State at the present time. The building was part of a District-Wide construction and infrastructure program. Sustainable elements of the project include geothermal heating and cooling, solar photovoltaic array, efficient building envelope, low-flow plumbing fixtures, extensive day lighting and advanced lighting controls, and the use of recycled and sustainable materials." Classrooms are 850 square feet and the school earned an AIANYS Excelsior Award for Public Architecture and LEED Gold certification, being called "the Greenest School in New York State."

Chappaqua passed a bond in 2016 for "Global Learning Centers" at three elementary schools to chappaquareplace the old libraries in the buildings. In addition to flexible and adaptable space to promote student collaboration the elementary school centers are adjacent to outdoor instructional work areas so that kids can move outside when weather allows.

Here's a description from the district website:

Global learning centers are 21st century libraries with work spaces intentionally designed to address how students learn and collaborate in today's world.

Flexible and adaptable spaces will support varied instructional techniques, promote student collaboration and research, and enhance virtual and face-to-face communication.

These centers have spaces where students can work in individualized research stations or collaborate in either open areas or smaller breakout rooms. At the elementary level, they provide outdoor instructional work areas.

In addition to print materials housed in stacks, the centers include individual and small group study areas, digital research resources, video teleconferencing and streaming capability, and the flexibility to include new technologies as they emerge.

At the elementary level, designated maker spaces provide students with the tools and technology to envision, design, prototype and create following a design thinking process.

In Newton Massachusetts, three elementary schools are getting makeovers. For one, the Angier Elementary School, formerly a 40,000 square foot school built in 1919, was replaced with a 74,000 square foot school for $37.5 million. The new building opened in 2016 and can serve up to 465 students. Students were transferred to another school during construction.

According to school construction news, "The new Angier Elementary School boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, classrooms equipped with new technology and dedicated areas for breakout instruction and special activities. Where students once had to meet with specialists in converted storage spaces, they now have proper offices and spaces for collaboration and specialized instruction. Color-coded floors assist in wayfinding. The new building is situated around an open plaza that serves as both an outdoor classroom and a gathering space." Also to note, Massachusetts's guidelines call for 1,200 square foot classrooms for kindergartens and 950 square feel for grades 1-6. The school is fully air conditioned and achieved LEED Gold certification.

zervas

Here's how a news article describes the first day of the opening of the new school, "On Dec. 22, staff members got a sneak preview of the new building. Cries of joy and shock were heard throughout the halls as teachers entered their classrooms."

arlingtonplaygroundA net-zero energy school called the Discovery Elementary School opened in Arlington Virginia in 2015. The school incorporates sustainability into its design so that the amount of energy produced by onsite renewable sources exceeds the amount of energy used. The building is heated and cooled by a geo-thermal well field under the school and employs 1,700 solar panels on the rooftop. It has solar thermal water heating, low flow plumbing fixtures, LED lighting and automatic controls, bioretention basins for the slow release of water from the site and rainwater collection barrels on the roof.

Students benefit from hands on learning about the schools many features including a rooftop solar lab, a digital dashboard that tracks energy usage and a built-in solar calendar. Engineers estimate that a similarly-sized traditional school would have $120,000 in annual energy costs, while this school is estimated to have energy costs of just $72,000 per year. The school is 97,558 square feet and the budget was $33.5 million.

And finally, in Winnetka Illinois, a $104.9 million project at New Trier High School was completed in September. Here's a list of some of the new features:

•A new student cafeteria;

•A new library;

•The first green roof;

•More than a dozen third floor classrooms for core English, math, social studies, language and business program classes, Johnson said;

•New art labs, although they were temporarily used by the theater department, he said.

Work on the 166,000-square-foot second phase started in May 2016, with the demolition of the Winnetka campus's old music building, its original 1912 cafeteria and the original McGee Theater.

Johnson said second phase work provided:

•Applied arts classroom space in the basement for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming;

•Classroom and performance spaces for the school's radio and broadcasting programming;

•Space on the third floor for the New Trier integrated global studies school, or IGSS, program. In all, the project created more than 25 new classrooms;

•A second green roof, also outside the fourth floor;

•A new McGee theater, and a new "black box" performance and classroom space, the Hayes-McCausland Theatre, named after two former New Trier students.

What themes are behind these new projects? Sustainability, energy preservation, flexible learning spaces, larger classrooms, natural light, and accessibility to indoor/outdoor classrooms to name a few.

What do you think is important for the future of Scarsdale Schools? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Comments   

+10 #24 Some thoughts 2017-10-14 09:48
School districts across the country are building learning spaces with innovative designs to foster the way learning is going to be done in the 21st century. These spaces are organized in different ways to accommodate different approaches to learning, and Joanne lists just a few examples in the article. The “learning commons” being built is really just a large cafeteria even if it can be used as needed for other purposes. I would love to see more innovative sorts of designs incorporated into the plans. Heathcote’s classroom pods showed great foresight back in the day. Perhaps revamp and expand the library into a modern learning center, rather than just focus on a separare large learning commons that is just a big room? In addition, larger and modernized classrooms would be useful, since the vast majority of students’ days take place there. I have number of specific design and technology improvements for classrooms that I have suggested for at least a year now. I’d also like to see more natural light and better incorporation of sustainability and energy efficiency. The old part of the school will need more work in the future and has largely been ignored in favor of expansion, but I think it will be very hard for GA to get money for that in the next 20 years. Keep in mind that the reason a new school was even considered for GA in the first place was that the old part of the school needed significant work to bring it into the 21st century, which really isn’t being done now.
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+11 #23 To GA dad 2017-10-14 04:51
I am an architect and I have submitted a number of ideas for consideration. The form letters I got back have essentially indicated that no input is wanted by the Board, Administration or architects.

Similarly, the building committees really can’t give any meaningful design impact either. Small tweaks around the edges, yes. Innovative ideas, no.

Other districts have done far better. It didn’t used to be this way in Scarsdale.
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-9 #22 It is innovative 2017-10-13 21:20
The learning commons is innovative. Every week, kids will be in this large room and learn there. What’s not innovative about that? Every elementary school in Scarsdale should get a similar learning commons within the next 20 years.
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+7 #21 Dreamer 2017-10-13 18:43
a few ideas - a spacious library/media center is now being built at Edgewood - it includes small group learning spaces, places to read to kids, new technology etc. That would be a great addition to Greenacres. And while they are at it - how about replacing the water and sanitary pipes so that they don't contain lead and won't break! Re-do the gym which is 100 years old -- and give the school a nice performance space so that the community has a nice place to gather for plays, concerts and ceremonies. What else? How about classrooms that are 900 square feet!
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-6 #20 GA Dad 2017-10-13 13:58
A/C isn't really visionary. Furthermore, A/C has to be addressed as a town-wide issue. If you add it to the old sections of GA you are making a tacit agreement that you will add it to all of the other schools (SMS and SHS included) over time. I would probably be inclined to support such an initiative but I don't think it belongs in this bond.

Quoting Visionary ideas??:
Because I am dumbfounded how to make out this hodgepodge anything visionary... let's try at least some better flows between the spaces and more airy spaces (instead of taking away (like in the gym), A/C instead of those air vents and we can go from there..

[quote name="To: To GA Dad, From: GA Dad"]Seems like a lot of people are able to give my comments a "thumbs down" but not hearing many suggestions for innovative changes to the proposed GA renovation.
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+10 #19 How about catching up? 2017-10-13 13:56
Forget visionary. Clearly based on this article others are well ahead in paving the way. The other districts seem to have a vision they are aiming for but that doesn't seem the case here. Why?
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+5 #18 Visionary ideas?? 2017-10-13 11:38
Because I am dumbfounded how to make out this hodgepodge anything visionary... let's try at least some better flows between the spaces and more airy spaces (instead of taking away (like in the gym), A/C instead of those air vents and we can go from there..

[quote name="To: To GA Dad, From: GA Dad"]Seems like a lot of people are able to give my comments a "thumbs down" but not hearing many suggestions for innovative changes to the proposed GA renovation.
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-2 #17 To: To GA Dad, From: GA Dad 2017-10-13 11:06
Seems like a lot of people are able to give my comments a "thumbs down" but not hearing many suggestions for innovative changes to the proposed GA renovation.

Quoting To: To GA Dad, From: GA Dad:
No issues with this at all. I'm just wondering what is out there that we need to add to this project to make it more visionary.

Quoting To GA dad:
I am and have always been for a renovation and not a new school. But I still think the current plan could potentially benefit from a closer look at what many other schools are doing. This is a once-in-a-lifetime amount of money for GA and I’d like this to be the beat renovation it can be for whatever amount of money is being allocated.
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-7 #16 To: To GA Dad, From: GA Dad 2017-10-12 11:41
No issues with this at all. I'm just wondering what is out there that we need to add to this project to make it more visionary.

Quoting To GA dad:
I am and have always been for a renovation and not a new school. But I still think the current plan could potentially benefit from a closer look at what many other schools are doing. This is a once-in-a-lifetime amount of money for GA and I’d like this to be the beat renovation it can be for whatever amount of money is being allocated.
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-11 #15 GA Dad 2017-10-11 22:26
For some people it seams that nothing short of a new school will be "visionary" enough. The article sites several instances where school districts have added on to existing structures instead of building new. Many of the schools seem to be adding learning commons-like spaces which is what is planned for GA.

As for being Green. Nothing is more green than re-using and renovating existing space rather than completely re-building from scratch.

One more point - Hagerman comes from Winnetka but he was superintendent of the elementary schools. The high school has its own superintendent.


Quoting Vote No:
Only solution here is to vote no on this bond. How is it possible that this town is looking to spend so much money on a renovation at Greenacres that the people of Greenacres don't even want (other than the people who are scared that if this does not happen people will come to their senses and build a new school in their backyard). Regardless of whether a normal new school is built or not, this awful renovation that is a major waste of money should not be approved. Lets use the money for something that makes sense.
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