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Plans for Greenacres Fail to Address Infrastructure Issues and Educational Adequacy

classroom(This is the opinion of Scarsdale10583 site founder Joanne Wallenstein) The recent findings that there is indeed mold in the classrooms at Greenacres Elementary School highlights fatal flaws in the decision-making process and raises serious questions about the current plan to expand the building. It's now abundantly clear that the administration and architects knew about the moisture and mold issues at the school for years, but chose to downplay the severity of the issues in order to come up with a cost-saving renovation plan.

Looking back at the work of two Building Committees from 2014 and 2015 moisture and humidity were repeatedly identified as the key issues to be addressed. The high water table on the property and the dirt foundation were perennial problems at the school and parents often remarked on the persistent odor on the lower level. Materials stored in the basement ended up covered in mildew and often needed to be discarded.

From the minutes of prior meetings of several iterations of Greenacres Building Committees and architects and engineers reports, it's evident that the faculty and former district architects KG&D were well aware of the moisture and humidity problems at the school:

Reviewing notes on the building, water intrusions and moisture are frequently mentioned:

Here is an excerpt from the minutes of a November 19, 2014 Greenacres Building Committee that included former district architect Russ Davidson, former Assistant Superintendent for Business Linda Purvis and Board member Scott Silberfein:

"According to Russ Davidson, there is no guarantee that waterproofing the building would solve all the water issues due to the high water table under the school. More exploratory work would have to be done to understand the nature of the water table, perhaps in March when the water table is considered to be at its highest level."

The April 2015 Greeenacres Feasibility Study from architects KG&D says,

Ground water intrusion & high water table – The northern corner of the building has a lower level that routinely has odors and other evidence of some water intrusion. Despite several attempts at repairing the condition there does not seem to be any easy answer to this problem. It is likely the result of a high water table which varies seasonally and has many sub‐surface points of entry into the aging structure. With moisture penetration likely coming from under slabs and through walls that are significantly below grade it is difficult to imagine a cost‐effective method of repair. The condition could be made more tolerable with improved ventilation and air conditioning but will still require monitoring and could continue to make this portion of the building uncomfortable or inappropriate for student use. This area is currently used for Art, Music, Instrumental Music, Art Storage and mechanical support spaces.

Minutes from a October 27, 2015 Building Committee Meeting discuss both moisture and humidity:

A major challenge facing Greenacres renovation is the high water table at the school's location. The dirt crawl spaces underneath the building generate significant humidity, combatted by constant use of dehumidifiers. For comprehensive remediation, it would be necessary to drill monitor wells in order to pinpoint excavation. The moisture problem is greater at Greenacres than in any other District building.

Furthermore, when the Building Committee completed their work in December 2015, one of the conclusions of their report was that "There was a lot of concern by staff about updating the heating and ventilation systems in the existing building."

The district did publish one air quality report from October 2015 and said that the problems were resolved, but given the building history, and the big decisions that were being considered to expand the school, it's curious the district did not regularly monitor the building and conduct further air quality tests earlier than now. For the past two years, despite repeated questioning from the community, we are not aware that any additional testing has been done.

Raising more questions is the fact that Scarsdale10583 filed a FOIL request in July requesting air quality reports, work orders for mold remediation and complaints about mold since 1996 but has not received the requested information. Is there something to hide?

In reviewing these building committee and feasibility reports, we found that the architects raised another significant concern about the building that was also ignored in the renovation plan, and that is the issue of class size.

The April 2015 Feasibility Study says, "This highlights one of the major issues with the Greenacres building – there is not adequate space for the full student program. Perhaps the most serious manifestation of this issue is the size of the core instructional classrooms themselves."

The October 27. 2015 minutes say, "One of the most problematic is the small size of classrooms, relative to state requirements and also in comparison with other Scarsdale elementary schools. Teaching approaches have changed significantly in the last 100 years; for example, classrooms are no longer set up in rows but in clusters; extra room is needed for science and other projects and use of technology; and special needs inclusion practice requires adequate space for both the children and their aides."

Similar to moisture, the issue of class size was ignored and ultimately denied by the administration, the Board of Education and architects from BBS when they formulated their plans for a large addition to the school, while leaving the old portions of the building as is.

Superintendent Hagerman claims that the current renovation proposal addresses the needs identified by the 2014 and 2015 building committees. But this is not what the record shows.

In a memo recommending the 2018 proposal presented by Dr. Hagerman at the November 13, 2017 meeting he points out that the 2014-15 Building Committee concluded that the "Focus of future discussion would be building condition and educational adequacy." It states further that the Greenacres Feasibility Committee that was re-convened in 2015- 16 using the "same data factors, recommendations of the Committee remained consistent with the initial committee: focus on building condition and educational adequacy.

So how is it that the current plan addresses neither the building conditions nor the size of the classrooms that were identified as THE TWO PRIMARY PROBLEMS with the building?

The school administration has spent six months -- and who knows how much money --pushing a plan that addresses neither need. They claim the school is safe and the classrooms will do. Instead, funds have been earmarked for far less pressing district-wide needs. Now that the mold study has finally been done and the report has been shared, it appears that their obstinacy has caused far more than a waste of funds: they have potentially put the school population at risk.

It's time for parents to demand a transparent administration and a Board of Education that demands the appropropriate studies before making decisions and puts children's health, safety and education first. Don't let the discussion about expanding a moldy school with inadequate classrooms and lead pipes go on any longer. It's time to call in environmental engineers and green architects to address the needs of the community now and for the decades to come.


#12 Taylor 2017-11-29 22:17
How many data points does the community need prior to realizing we need new administration leadership? I think many are now looking at the bond vote as a referendum on the current leadership. Why is the administration pushing a project that is so clearly fatally flawed? As everyone who has ever done a renovation knows (and there are a lot in this town), you don’t invest considerably on a failing foundation/infr astructure.

Thank you 10583 for your coverage and working to hold the stakeholders here accountable. Now it’s up to the community to use our civic power when we cast our votes.
#11 Parent 2017-11-28 19:16
Maybe they should have tested for mold before deciding to renovate Greenacres. This is another case of the cart
coming before the horse.
#10 Pls consider 2017-11-27 12:42
Kids spend most of their days in the classroom. If a $40 million renovation happens and he smallest classrooms (611 so feeet) are not made larger and updated for modern learning configurations, then maybe less money should be spent on the expansion part, especially given the recent demographer’s analysis of future enrollment. This is consistent with what the teachers have been saying (e.g., they would rather have improvements such as air conditioning to classrooms over common spaces that kids occupy for only short periods of time).

It’s not too late to make some adjustments to the plan.
#9 Quality Journalism 2017-11-27 11:10
Ms. Wallenstein, thank you for adding a statement at the beginning of this article clarifying that this is an opinion piece.
#8 One item to specifically ask for 2017-11-27 09:47
Joanne and others:

Ask the Administration for all correspondence from the teachers union or teachers (individually or as a group) regarding mold or other health issues at Greenacres.

I have heard that there is a letter you will want to see.
#7 No FOIL No Vote 2017-11-27 09:43
Vote NO unless all FOIL requests are honored. All residents can insist in transparency with their votes.

Responding to FOIL requests is NOT OPTIONAL.

Joanne, please keep everyone posted on the status of you FOIL requests.
#6 I dont understand 2017-11-27 09:37
Is the district really going to spend 40 million and still have 611 sq ft classrooms at GA?

How does that make sense?
#5 FM resident 2017-11-27 09:33
Is the district is going to cook our food at GA and then bring it to us a Fox Meadow? Sounds terrible. From what I hear about the food at QR and I can’t imagine this being a good idea. At the very least, ask the FM PTA if they want this.
#4 Go back to the original point of the project 2017-11-27 09:28
More of the money needs to be spent on (1) improving the classrooms and (2) other aspects of the existing part of the building. These were the real reasons that so much money was slated to be spent on GA. After spending the money, the building must be in very good shape for many, many years to come. Large amounts of money will not be spent on GA again for a very long time. It is not at all clear why expansion has now become the overwhelming priority for this school.
#3 Quite clear 2017-11-26 21:33
Quoting Quality Journalism:
Ms. Wallenstein raises some very valid concerns, but her opening paragraph states that the administration knew about the mold problem for years, and then she only offers evidence that the administration knew of humidity and a high water table. Perhaps evidence will surface at some point, but to my knowledge we haven't seen that evidence yet.

Also, this article, especially the final paragraph, sounds an awful lot like an editorial. Is there a clear delineation on this website between editorials and reporting? It seems murky to me.

I have only recently started reading scaradale10583 and I have quickly concluded that Ms. Wallenstein, who lives in Greenacres, obviously belongs in the "rebuild" camp, not the "expand and renovate" camp.

I caution all readers of this website to keep these things in mind.

I think she is quite clear that this is her opinion as she introduces the comments in bold that it it her opinion. It sounds like an editorial because it is and that is OK when pitched as such.

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