Sunday, May 20th

Last updateThu, 17 May 2018 12pm

You are here: Home Content Schools Thinking Clearly
first
  
last
 
 
start
stop
Seniors Explore the Working World

Seniors Explore the Working World

With college decisions behind them, SHS Seniors are in the home str...

Inviting Cafe Opens at White Plains Library

Inviting Cafe Opens at White Plains Library

With the Scarsdale Library set to close for a multi-year renovation...

Feuhrer and Singer Win Seats on the School Board, 2018/19 Budget Passes

Feuhrer and Singer Win Seats on the School Board, 2018/19 Budget Passes

A stormy evening did not stop residents from supporting the candida...

SFCS Hosts a Magical Night at Scarsdale Golf Club

SFCS Hosts a Magical Night at Scarsdale Golf Club

A respected community volunteer, and enthusiastic benefit committee and the prom...

first
  
last
 
 
start
stop

Thinking Clearly

thethinkerAt last week's Board of Education meeting, Board President Bill Natbony insisted that the Board had worked hard to craft the bond proposal, as if their diligence was enough to justify their decisions. As any good student can tell you, sometimes you can do your homework, dot your "I's" and cross your "T's," but still not get an A.

Why? Maybe your thesis was off. Maybe you missed the main the point of the assignment.

That's what might be the case with the current question before the Board ... Maybe they skipped the most important step; that is to define the questions they needed to answer.

In the case of Greenacres, what are the top priorities? What does the bond proposal need to address in order to succeed?

The conversation has gotten muddled and sidetracked. We're discussing what's going to happen during the construction before we decide what to build. We're adding a cafeteria before parents and teachers are given the chance to discuss whether or not food service is a goal. We're asking for temporary classrooms on the field before we decide what ought to be done with the classrooms in the school.

Maybe that's why we're having so much trouble coming to consensus.

I don't know what your priorities are, but to me, the needs are clear:

-The school needs to be safe, clean and sustainable

-The classrooms should meet model code and be large enough to facilitate the curriculum.

-The building should meet current NYS code requirements and be ADA compliant to accommodate the growing population of children with special needs who will be educated in our schools.

What about food service and a learning commons? In my mind, these concerns are secondary. Until we can ensure our students an adequate learning environment, we don't need to worry about lunch.

So does the proposed plan address these basic needs? The answer is no to some questions and for others, we simply have not been given enough information to know.

Let's keep it simple and tackle the questions one by one.

Is the school safe? Clean and sustainable?

The school has a history of moisture in the basement, and there have been reports of mold. Apparently there are dirt crawl spaces underneath the basement instead of cement foundations. There is the distinct smell of mildew on the lower level and materials stored downstairs end up covered in mildew. Is it possible to totally remediate mold in these areas? Has anyone filed complaints or claims that they have gotten sick? We don't know. We filed a FOIL request to get answers in July, and though we have sent several reminders no information has been provided.

Though they have not been forthcoming about the mold, the district has provided reports that show that there is lead in the water. Following the monitoring, signs were posted on the sinks and water fountains instructing students and personnel not to drink from these sources. This issue has currently been remediated with lead filters.

One would think that a $35 million renovation would include new pipes so that lead filters would not be required. However, this is simply too expensive. So when asked about their plans for the pipes, the architects have provided evasive answers about "replacing any pipes they can touch." Will the water be potable? We simply don't know.

Is this a sustainable solution? Will these filters continue to be effective for 30 or 50 years?

What about the school ... Will the renovated space be adequate? Will classes be big enough to accommodate small group learning, inclusion classes with two teachers and in short, multiple, individualized activities?

In fact, educational experts call for classrooms of at least 900 square feet. In Massachusetts, the recommended size for kindergarten classes is 1,200 square feet. However, at Greenacres, classrooms for our youngest children will remain the same size. Some of these classrooms were built in 1916 and are as small as 700 square feet and are visibly cramped. Three kids share the teacher's desk in one room, the seating mat in front of the smart board is too small to comfortably accommodate 22 kids (if not more) and there's not an inch of wiggle room for active learners. Ceilings are low, cubbies fill the room and there's simply nowhere to expand. If these rooms are inadequate now, how will they seem 30 years from now?

As I have written here before, the district is working to keep more of our special needs students in the schools rather than authorize outplacement. They have also permitted classes sizes that exceed the maximum cap for inclusion classes where there are special needs kids and an additional teacher included in the classrooms. These classes also usually have teacher's aids as well. So what do we have? Extra kids and additional teachers and aids in classrooms that are already too small.

Special Needs and ADA Compliance:

Many of the bathrooms at Greenacres are not ADA compliant. In fact these toilet rooms are so small that full sized adults would be challenged to use them. The original plan did not call for renovations of the existing hall bathrooms or these tiny toilet rooms. After urging from the Greenacres Building Committee the administration has added renovations of these to the budget in a provisional line that will need to be voted on by the Board. Though there will be new tile and fixtures, many will still not be ADA compliant.

Teachers also asked that special services such as occupational therapy and physical therapy be consolidated into one location on the main floor of the building. Unfortunately because of size restrictions, these services are now slated to be upstairs, separated from the school psychologist and reading specialist. This will require some of these kids to walk around the building and take an elevator to access their services, cutting back on the time they receive.

What's more? The playground will remain across the street. I don't know if there's an issue with ADA compliance. But I know it surely poses a challenge to take kids across the street for recess, where there are no bathrooms. Crossing guards are needed all day to stop traffic and facilitate safe crossings.

So, does the project address the school's central needs? Sadly, the answer is no.

What to do? I suggest that instead of retaining a public relations firm to sell the community on this plan, we hire sustainability and educational consultants to take a fresh look at the problem. If we don't meddle with their process, they should be able to analyze the site, the issues and the long-term needs of our community, and find the best solution for the $40 million we have to spend.

Let's not rush to adopt an inadequate, short-term solution. The right answer is out there ... a solution which will last us another 100 years. Let's give the experts the time and freedom to find it.

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

Good Work

SETTING

Kids Collect 560 Pairs of Sneakers for Pediatric Cancer

Kids Collect 560 Pairs of Sneakers for Pediatric Cancer

This past March and April, Scarsdale’s Dean Glucksman and friends collected gently used sneakers for the Max Cure Foundation and the Dunk...

Read More

Around Town

SETTING

Do-it-Yourself Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer Risk

Do-it-Yourself Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer Risk

According the American Cancer Society , about 266,000 people are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year. There have been huge adva...

Read More

Neighborhood News

SETTING

The Little Mermaid On Stage at SHS this Weekend

The Little Mermaid On Stage at SHS this Weekend

Travel under the sea with the senior class this weekend. Directed by Camila Tardiff and assistant director Sophia Roth, along with musica...

Read More

On Our Minds

SETTING

Non-Partisans in a Partisan World

Non-Partisans in a Partisan World


( This is the opinion of site founder Joanne Wallenstein ) The campaign for Scarsdale School Board is over and the votes have been counted....

Read More

On Our Radar

SETTING

High School Sustainable Garden Project Enters a New Era

High School Sustainable Garden Project Enters a New Era

With founder Maggie Favretti retiring this spring, the SHS Garden enters a new season. Over the ten years since Favretti and her first “G...

Read More

Parenting

SETTING

Adaptive Golf Coming to Westchester Thanks to Simon Yu

Adaptive Golf Coming to Westchester Thanks to Simon Yu

Golf This Spring , a group founded at Scarsdale High School in 2018, works to bring Adaptive Golf to Westchester County, New York. The gro...

Read More

Village Voices

SETTING

"Running and Winning" Workshop Held to Educate High Schools Girls on Running for Office

Victoria Gearity and Councilwoman Liz Fried spoke with the students. On April 19, 43 high school girls from across Westchester County met ...

Read More

Shout it Out

SETTING

Seniors Explore the Working World

Seniors Explore the Working World

With college decisions behind them, SHS Seniors are in the home stretch. How can the school avoid senior slump and keep these students en...

Read More

School News

SETTING

SHS Varsity Tennis Team Plays Heated Match Against Greely

SHS Varsity Tennis Team Plays Heated Match Against Greely

The matches were held on the high school tennis courts. One could taste the vitriol in the air at the SHS Boy’s Varsity A tennis match las...

Read More

Schools

SETTING

Feuhrer and Singer Win Seats on the School Board, 2018/19 Budget Passes

Feuhrer and Singer Win Seats on the School Board, 2018/19 Budget Passes

A stormy evening did not stop residents from supporting the candidates and waiting to hear the results of the election for the school boa...

Read More

The Goods

SETTING

Inviting Cafe Opens at White Plains Library

Inviting Cafe Opens at White Plains Library

With the Scarsdale Library set to close for a multi-year renovation, the opening of a large café at the nearby White Plains library shoul...

Read More

Real Estate

SETTING

Real Estate: Nancy Shaw Chochrek Becomes Branch Manager at Houlihan Lawrence Plus Sales and Open Houses

Real Estate: Nancy Shaw Chochrek Becomes Branch Manager at Houlihan Lawrence Plus Sales and Open Houses

Scarsdale native Nancy Shaw Chochrek has returned to Houlihan Lawrence in Scarsdale as Branch Manager. She has 17 years of experience in ...

Read More

Today's News

SETTING

Police Report: Westchester Teen Arrested for Terroristic Threat, Drunk Driver and Passenger Found with Cocaine in Car

Police Report: Westchester Teen Arrested for Terroristic Threat, Drunk Driver and Passenger Found with Cocaine in Car

Arrests: On May 12, 2018, a 16 year-old Chappaqua boy was arrested for making threats to initiate a school shooting at the Westfield Day ...

Read More

Arts and Entertainment

SETTING

Family Fun, Food, DJ, Games to Rock Chase Park at PBA Community Day May 20

Family Fun, Food, DJ, Games to Rock Chase Park at PBA Community Day May 20

Scarsdale will be rocking Sunday, May 20, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Chase Park, as the community turns out for a fun, open-air Comm...

Read More

People

SETTING

Math and Empathy Should be at the Center of Good Governance

Math and Empathy Should be at the Center of Good Governance

The Scarsdale School district has been spending a lot of time in the last few years emphasizing math and empathy. I urge you Mr. Mayor an...

Read More

first
  
last
 
 
start
stop

Programs for Scarsdale Kids