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Greenacres: Renovation Proposal Raises More Questions than Answers

lunchtable(This article was written by Joanne Wallenstein) A proposal by the new district architects, BBS, for an approximately $60 million renovation of the Scarsdale schools has the community buzzing. Questions abound about the process used to decide where the funds would be spent, the rationale behind the proposal, the specifics of the proposal and the accelerated timeline for consideration of the next bond offering, targeted for December 2017.

Communications between the school board, the administration and the community were put on hold in September 2016, when, after much discord the superintendent declared a moratorium on all discussion about the future of the Greenacres School.

The silence lasted until February 2017 when a new district architect, BBS was selected and charged with reproducing a district-wide facilities plan, similar to the one that was done in 2014 by the former architects. An RFP for the work was posted belatedly on the school website and can be viewed here.  The RFP called for the firm to "Provide services which develop creative and innovative approaches in the renovation of older buildings while maintaining their historical character, when appropriate.... and to "Provide services which develop creative and innovative solutions for 21st century educational facilities."

Now after all of this downtime, the superintendent is proposing to move forward at breakneck speed with a proposal to renovate the elementary schools, replace the house dining rooms with a large cafeteria at the middle school and do modest renovations at the high school, which is now undergoing a big upgrade.

A previous school board had promised this next bond to the Greenacres School which is in need of extensive upgrades. The school was passed over for work in the prior bond because the need was thought to be too big to handle without a substantial outlay of funds.

According to prior administrators and reports, the Greenacres School had already been extended to the maximum allowable footprint, ruling out any additions to the tight site.

The community was also previously told that there was persistent moisture in the basement of the school that needed to be remediated with dehumidifiers, the roof was leaking, there was inadequate space for recreation and many of the classrooms were tight. The lack of bathrooms on the second floor of the school where there are three classrooms also posed problems.

In December 2016 the Superintendent dismissed the former district architects, KG&D, saying he didn't have confidence in them and promised that the new architects would provide more reliable measurements, engineering reports and solutions.

However, their presentation on May 22 seemed to raise more questions than it answered.

For Greenacres School the architects proposed not one, but two additions to the existing school. Since no measurements, renderings or aerial site views were provided, it's difficult to ascertain the scale, but it appears that these two additions extend practically to the street on both Putnam Road and Huntington Avenue. If the site was already maxed out, how would this be feasible? When asked, Roger Smith of BBS said they were proposing an addition that is "justifiable at the state education department."

Another piece of information that was shared by one of the firms who had competed to do work in the district was that if the cost of a renovation were close to 50% of the current value of the building, the state education department would recommend construction of a new building.

This concept was also discarded by BBS, who said, "Can the body of the building and its bones do what you need to do? I think the existing building is wonderful and can be used. The lower level is the wrong space. We can make a monumental change to that building at half the expense of a new building."

Residents also understood that if 50% of the building greenacresfloorplanwere renovated, the entire building would need to be brought up to current code. Again the architects saw no problem getting around this requirement. When asked what parts of the building would receive new HVAC, they replied that only the additions would be air conditioned. The air quality in the balance of the building would be improved with unspecified upgrades to the existing ventilation system, which does not currently provide enough fresh air to meet standards.

Though the community was expecting a solution for Greenacres, instead the architects proposed to add cafeterias or commons to Greenacres, Edgewood, Fox Meadow and Heathcote and called for large cafeteria in the courtyard of the middle school to replace the lunchrooms in the four houses. This has served to subvert the discussion from the problem at hand, which is Greenacres.

The 2015 Greenacres Feasibility Study included a list of nine evaluation criteria for the school.
They are:

  • Initial Construction Cost
  • Building Condition Evaluation
  • Educational Adequacy
  • Operational issues and costs
  • Future expansion capabilities
  • Aesthetic considerations
  • Historical and community significance
  • Safety and security
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability

Though a few of these were addressed the proposal from the architects did not consider some important criteria.

Missing from the proposal was the design or educational rationale for the decisions. How would these new commons function? What would the space include? How could these lunchrooms be repurposed for use during the morning and afternoon hours? What kind of collaborative learning spaces would they include? At the middle school, where the four-house system is well-liked, parents are concerned about the prospect of a central lunch area where kids could easily be bullied or ostracized. No one I spoke to knew where the idea to close the four individual dining rooms originated. Could it be to save money?

There was no consideration of the costs to operate a renovated building that would be part new and part old; holding over many aging systems that have already been extended beyond their useful life. What of the roof, the pipes, the electrical systems, the ventilation and the windows in the remaining portions of the building? Both the members of the Board of Education and those who spoke at the meeting asked the administration to provide a detailed financial analysis of the costs to finance, build and maintain a renovated vs. a new building. According to the NYS Education Department, a new building can be financed over 30 years, while financing for renovations are limited to 15 years. Dr. Hagerman insisted that the architect's recommended a renovation and resisted calls for an analysis of a new building.

Sustainability was not considered including a mandate for efficient building systems including geo thermal heat, solar energy, thermal, LED lighting and environmentally friendly materials.

This same 2015 feasibility study discussed the NYS Model Program as a benchmark to determine " spaces that represent the ideal or model for what is minimally required." The roughly drawn sketch from BBS ignored Model Program requirements and included no measurements or justification for the rooms that were to be renovated, added or removed.

One item that was not considered a district priority by the building committees in 2015 was lunchrooms, an item that stands at the center of the BBS proposal.

The presentation from BBS caught the community off guard and also seemed to come as a big surprise to the members of the Board of Education. It appeared that the superintendent and assistant superintendent had closely guarded their conversations with the architects and failed to collaborate with or communicate with anyone on the Board of Education. The work of the prior building committees who investigated needs at each school were not discussed.gasackrace

The proposal has raised concerns among parents of young children, some who are yet to enter kindergarten, and would attend the school during the estimated two and half year renovation. Despite assurances that their kids will be shielded from environmental hazards like lead, dust and asbestos, these parents are alarmed. The proposal does not include provisions for trailers, so the children would be on site while the work is done.

However, the proposal does have its fans. Members of a group who live adjacent to or near the Greenacres field across the way from the school who waged a fierce campaign to prevent construction of a new school on the field, saw the proposal as a victory, as it would maintain the school on its current site.

Architects Present Plan to Add Learning Commons to 5 Scarsdale Schools

greenacresfloorplanAfter months of anticipation, the new district engineers and architects, BBS, unveiled their plans for updates to all district facilities at a three hour meeting on Monday night May 22, 2017. The audience was largely from Greenacres, as the school had previously been the focus of discussion for the next bond offering. However, the administration sought to shift this dialogue to a conversation about equity and parity in the elementary school experience and to provide an assessment and propose update to all district buildings.

To that end, BBS toured all the buildings, spoke to the people who use them and said that they reviewed reports from the prior architects and engineers. The consensus was that all the district buildings have been well maintained and are in good shape. They identified issues that do need to be addressed and assigned priorities to them based on the immediacy of the need, with priority 1A given to those items that pose life/safety issues and are out of compliance with code. They found that 11.6% of the needs that should be addressed are priority 1A and 1B. The chart below indicates their findings. Many of the items are small and can be taken care of by the district.

The ventilation systems at all district schools were found to be out of compliance and fails to provide enough fresh air to the facilities. In some of the buildings the air handlers were disabled and in others they were not working properly. Other than assigning these items a priority the architects provided no data about air quality at any of the schools and indicated that they had not tested it but were told by the district that these tests had been done.

engineering

Their findings differed from a 2015 report from engineers that found that many of the building systems at Greenacres School had been extended beyond their useful life and needed to be replaced. For instance, the 2015 report found that all the sanitary piping was in poor condition, while BBS did not flag this system or many others for replacement.

About the sanitary piping, the 2015 report said, "useful lifeThe school did experience the collapse and failure of the main sewer pipe that exits the building a few years ago. This type of failure can be very disruptive and costly to repair in an emergency situation. Given the age of the building and the expected useful life of building materials and systems these types of failures are likely to continue. As a result the long term recommendation is to completely replace all of the original piping and plumbing systems that have not already been updated."

In addition, in 2015 KG&D and their engineers also cited poor ventilation but they claimed that upgrading the current units to provide enough fresh air to meet code was not feasible. The report says, "The amount of fresh air brought into the classrooms is far below current standards. If the same unit types were upgraded to provide the current code compliant amount of fresh air, the system would be quite loud and will have a big impact on noise levels making it difficult for students to hear an instructor. ... These requirements coupled with the age of the existing systems leads to the recommendation to complete replace the building's heating and ventilation system with a hot water system with energy recovery ventilation mechanical cooling and digital controls."

BBS provided a spatial analysis of all district building identifying "spatial conflicts" which they sought to solve by adding a learning commons with food service to four of the five elementary schools. These commons would include new kitchens so that lunch could be served at all elementary schools. At Heathcote, where an additional multi-purpose room is now being built, and there is already a separate auditorium and a gym, the architects proposed the addition of another learning commons with kitchen service to that room.

The audience seemed most perplexed about a proposal at the middle school to close the individual dining rooms in each of the four houses and build a large learning commons/cafeteria in the courtyard at the entry level.

For each of the schools, the architects provided rudimentary floor plans showing proposed additions, interior construction and upgrades to existing classrooms. No dimensions, renderings, elevations or design ideas were presented so it was difficult to know what an upgrade to a classroom might entail. Here is an outline of the proposed new construction:

At Edgewood, the architects proposed the addition of an instrumental music room and an expansion of the existing multi-purpose room so that it could accommodate half the student population for lunch. A new kitchen and toilet rooms would be added on.

At Fox Meadow, a learning commons, kitchen and toilets would be added to the lower level, facing out onto the field and surrounding the courtyard. Architects proposed that this space would have a separate entrance allowing it to be used for community events when school is not in session.

Greenacres would receive the most new space, with the architects proposing additions on both the Huntington Avenue and Putnam Road sides of the school, expanding the building's footprint closer to the roads on both sides.

On Huntington Avenue, the addition is similar to KG&D's option B1, with a two-story addition covering the gym and extending out toward Huntington Avenue. On the first floor that addition would include a learning commons, kitchen and bathrooms, and above that on the second floor there would be four fifth grade classrooms. The current fifth grade classrooms would be converted to an art room and several smaller spaces. Architects proposed moving the art room upstairs due to conditions in the basement and to integrate it into the floor plan of the rest of the school.

On the main floor of Greenacres, the footprint would be expanded out toward Putnam Road for three fourth grade classrooms. On the other side of the hallway there would be a computer room and maker space and three smaller rooms for small group instruction.

Architects said that the new portions of the school would be air conditioned but did not specify if there would be upgrades or replacement of the mechanical systems in the remaining portions of the building.

At Heathcote, a learning commons with kitchen will be added on to the new multi purpose room which is currently under construction at the school. Changes would be made to the office and entry to include security vestibules.

Quaker Ridge, which already has a dedicated cafeteria would not have any new construction, but the lower level music rooms would be reworked to include rooms for support services.

At the middle school the architects found that more rooms were needed for health and language classes and proposed that the individual dining rooms in each of the four houses be closed and converted to classrooms. Instead, students from all four houses and all three grades would eat in a large commons to be built in the courtyard behind the lower entrance to the school. In addition they proposed moving Choice, the middle school's alternative school, into three classrooms opposite the gyms. A security vestibule would be built at the bus entrance to the school and the retaining wall there would be rebuilt.

At the high school, the architects proposed adding architectural features that would make it easier to navigate around the large school and to reconfigure the offices and learning resource rooms.

Both the Board members and community had many questions for the architects. Lee Maude opened with a question about the air quality, asbestos and mold that was reported to be present at Greenacres. The architects replied that they did not observe asbestos or notice any order but they did see dehumidifiers present to mitigate moisture. About the air quality they said, "We understand you did air quality studies and they came up with acceptable results."

Nina Cannon asked a question about long term solutions to the humidity and was told that students would be removed from the lower level of the school and commercial dehumidification was needed. To a question about a space for language instruction, the architects said that one of the special education rooms could be used depending on the number of sections that were needed in fourth and fifth grades.

Art Rublin asked about the cost to build new structures vs. renovate the existing structure. The architect replied that a new building would be "2X the cost of the renovation." The architect added, "Can the body of the building and its bones do what you need to do? I think the existing building is wonderful and can be used. The lower level is the wrong space. We can make a monumental change to that building at half the expense of a new building."

Lee Maude questioned BBS about the size of the classrooms at Greenacres when compared to NYS model classroom sizes. The rudimentary sketches that the architects provided showed no square footage. The architects replied that Greenacres classrooms were not much smaller than classrooms at the other schools, though "some may be a bit smaller than the highest recommendations." They said, "we can get more efficiencies where we need to."

Rublin asked where the kids would be during construction and was told that new construction will be segregated from the existing space and that the kids would be in the building. The architect said, "All construction projects in schools are required to have testing of existing materials. Lead paint removal would be done in the summer." It was estimated that construction would take at least a couple of years including two full summers.

Scott Silberfein questioned the extension of the footprint of the building on both sides when the district had previously been told that the school was maxed out on the property. He asked, "Do we have the right information?" The architect responded, "We are proposing something that is justifiable at the state education department. I won't comment on previous architects. I think it is a justifiable addition."

Community members were also given the chance to comment:

Mary Beth Evans asked the Board to provide data on the investment the district has made in all buildings since 2000. They had provided one for the last ten years. She asked about the role of the building committees and educators. Had they contributed to the discussions with the architects? She questioned the educational vision behind the proposal,asking, "What is the educational philosophy and vision behind the plan? What's educationally appropriate? What about the house system at the middle school? What about 21st century learning, flexible spaces, the breakdown of classroom walks, fluid use of libraries? How does that vision align with the plans in the short and long term?" Referencing surveys that are to go out to parents at each of the schools she continued, "Will residents without kids in the schools have a chance to give input?"

Jennie Robinson from Dobbs Terrace said, "Is there an objective standard for classroom size per child? The classrooms at Greenacres are very small. 21st century classrooms are important. I urge the board to make sure about the class sizes we are talking about."

Ron Shulhof commented, "I did not hear anything about healthy and sustainable buildings.
I want to be sure that these ideas are considered and part of your presentations to the district."

Tony Corrigio of Brewster Road was concerned about keeping the children in the school during the renovation. He said, "I will have three kids in Greenacres during the proposed renovation. I am very concerned about the proposal. I thought we would have a full discussion and now we were told that that will cost 2X to build a new school and we're not addressing it. Are we looking at 20 years or 100 years? Greenacres needs the most work. Every wall in there has an inch of lead based paint. The work that will expose the kids. Can we have an independent inspector with the power to shut this down if we see an infraction? Forget the law – it's our kids! Let's see the new school and have a fulsome, thoughtful discussion on a new school vs. a renovation."

Mitch Kahn of Brewster Road said, "Does the new school estimate take into account all that has to be done at Greenacres? What about operating costs? Are there efficiencies over the next 10, 20, 50 years? The other architect did not say that a new school costs twice as much – this seems disingenuous."

Diane Greenwald of Oak Lane said, "(Tonight) I heard a lot of value to consistency across our district. Consisitency has never been a primary goal. Excellence and innovation has always been a value. We want to look at flexibility, collaboration, interdisciplinary opportunities, light and spaces that promote focus. I am concerned with considering what came before. As a member of the steering committee for the 2014 bond we did come up with priorities – we recommended that Greenacres be significantly understood in this bond. What about the facilities master plan that was done in 2014 – and how these priorities match up? This might help you determine district priorities. Also, the Heathcote School has unique architectural that needs to be specifically designed. It's a very specific site and cannot just be added on to. At the middle school I am concerned about the house system. Being 13 is hard and the hardest place it is to be a student is lunch. People who know students (in their houses) individually provide support. I hope some of those things are thought out."

Harriet Sobol added, "The Heathcote School is a national treasure; I hope if you do build a new school it will be of that quality. I would support a new school even though I am old."

Lynne Clark was brief, saying, "I thought I would hear whether we were going to consider a new school? Will we?"

Andrew Sereysky, who heads the Greenacres Neighborhood Association said this "caused a ripping apart of the community. I would urge the architect and the board to realize that we need to address renovation vs. new construction. Come to Greenacres – Greenacres is the focal point of what's going on. Come prepared to answer questions. Come to the school and make it easy for people to understand the basis of a decision. Open it up so everyone can understand it."

David Schwartz of Oakstwain Road said, "I was hoping to see more options and a cost benefit analysis of renovation vs. a new school for a longer term horizon... a proper financial analysis. We need a chart showing investment in the last 20 years – not the last 10 years. What will be the size of the new classrooms?"

Barbara Wenglin commented, "This feels like groundhog day. We have been at this for two years. I find it encouraging that the school is in good shape."

Michael Levine asked, "Your recommendations are not consistent with the recommendations of the previous architects? Why?"

Kyle Shirley of Donellan Road said, "Given the level of community involvement – I find it breathtaking that there was no information about a new school – and no financial proposal and no willingness to do it! This is a financially sophisticated community. Give us a reasonable, fleshed out, proposal."

Jon Krisbergh of Greenacres Avenue asked, "Why is this going to be less money than the B1 renovation we saw before?"

Lee Maude summed up and said, "Thematically things came back to the question of educational philosophy and equity and how we balance that. What is the concept of the learning commons that came from the administration and the architects? There is a desire to understand the costs and how we apportion that. I think there is a need to understand why we're not looking at an option for a new building at Greenacres. What led to tonight's presentation? We would also like to see the air quality reports."

The administration has set an aggressive timeline to come up with a plan for a December 2017 bond offering. Community forums with the architects are scheduled for the morning and evening of June 20th so that residents can ask questions about the proposed plans.

As they exited the auditorium on Monday night, many had concerns about the proposals. They felt that the materials that were presented were merely sketches and did not provide enough information to make any decisions. Without estimated costs they did not feel that they could weigh the merits of the plans and they also wanted to hear more about the educational rationale behind the addition of learning commons to five schools. Some called for a cost benefit analysis of the renovation versus a new school. The administration may have to provide more detailed plans, renderings, cost estimates and financing plans to get the community behind these ambitious facility plans.

Watch the meeting online here:

Administration Announces Schedule for Next Round of Capital Projects: Including Greenacres School

greenacresschoolEnding months of speculation about plans for the Greenacres School, Scarsdale's School Superintendent Thomas Hagerman and Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey announced that the district's new architects, BBS, would make an extensive presentation of their findings at Board of Education meeting on May 22, 2017.

The two emphasized that BBS had embarked on a full study of all district facilities and would consider next steps at Greenacres among other priorities. Hagerman told the Board that the district has been working with architects from BBS over the past few months to analyze all district facilities, combining reports provided by previous architects and engineers with their own findings about space utilization and a comparison of all the K-5 buildings to formulate design options for all district buildings. They said that BBS has conducted interviews with teachers and administrators to thoroughly understand the buildings and usage of the current space. The Superintendent promised a far reaching plan to address all district needs for decades to come from building systems to program needs. According to Mattey, "Last year we heard about ventilation at Greenacres – that turned out to be at all the buildings. We will have one comprehensive list. We have slotted two and a half hours to go through each district building and certainly Greenacres as well."

Asked by Board member Pam Fuehrer whether the architects would present design options for the Board to consider, Dr. Hagerman replied that the architects were "formulating innovative possibilities to address spatial utilization conflicts," and would come to the Board with their recommendations. She said, "When will we deliberate on choices? When are dollars attached and when will we deliberate on choices?" Hagerman replied, "On May 22 they will make a recommendation. They are coming to us with their best thinking.... They have produced reams of paper and diagrams.... They will have one comprehensive list analyzed in terms of engineering and spatial needs."

Discussing input from the community, Stuart Mattey said that the former building committees had already been contacted and would meet again in the next few weeks. When asked for clarification on who was on these committees, Mattey said the committees will include administrators, teachers and two representatives designated by the PTA.

Dr. Hagerman said that after each presentation from the architects residents would be surveyed for feedback. He said they were currently speaking to a PR firm with expertise in the area of surveying residents.

In order to hold a bond referendum in December 2017, Mattey provided the following timeline for formulation of projects for the district's next capital improvement plan:

May 22nd – BBS will give an in-depth presentation of their findings and present recommendations.

June 12th – BBS will return to the monthly board meeting with work refined by feedback after the initial presentation.

June 19th – A public forum will be held in the morning for a repeat presentation of the June 12th work with opportunity for community comment.

July 6th – The Board of Education will hold their re-organizational meeting and include time with the architects to narrow the scope of their work. At the July 6th meeting, the administration will put together a district wide community group to go through the priorities before they are handed back to the Board of Education for an August 24th meeting.

August 24th- Board meeting

October 16th - In order to meet the December referendum vote the board will adopt the proposed project.

Board member Scott Silberfein asked Dr. Hagerman, "What about the vision? Has this been conveyed to the architects? Hagerman replied, "They have spent hours and hours with us. They have captured the district wide vision.... They are taking a holistic approach to the building imbued with philosophy. They will be talking about model elementary school classrooms and conflicts where vision is not aligning with space. We are not talking about how much it costs. We want to put out the big ideas. Lets not talk about costs at the start."

Board President Lee Maude raised the issue of community comment at the May 22 meeting. She said, "Will we have comments? I would want comments after they hear the presentation. Maybe the start time should be earlier?"

Prior to the discussion about the May 22 meeting, several residents had commented to the Board on how the uncertainty about the Greenacres School was affecting home sales.

Raff Ezratty, a 22-year resident of 97 Garden Road said, "I am considering moving onto my next stage of life but I have discovered that Greenacres was discussed for a year and a half and I was told there would be some answers as of September. I am troubled because I spoke to Greenacrse Neighborhood Association who told me they have attempted to speak to Dr. Hagerman and I am shocked that they were unable to speak with him; the uncertainty factor is a tremendous issue. I have had people who were interested in our home but would not consider it because of the uncertainty at Greenacres. I ask that the board provide a timeline. Greenacres should not be unfairly affected."

Jon Krisbergh of Claremont Road said, "People in the community are anxious. They are uncertain about a renovation that may put their kids at risk. This is not just about what we will do – but if we will do the right thing. If we go down the route of renovation, no one is going to want to move in."

Elana Ezratty also from 97 Garden Road said, "I am a resident and a realtor. During our time here we have experienced several renovations that have all improved education here. Uncertainty is having a negative affect on the Greenacres housing market. Either a fantastically new 21st century school or a renovation will be an asset to the entire community. I urge you to make a decision and issue a timeline." She continued, "The new residency requirements are causing stress. We have to allow residents to be able to renovate their homes without having to move their children to another school. Residents get great satisfaction when renovations are done. Residency restrictions are making it difficult for people to embark on these projects."

Ira Hassan who lives next door to the Greenacres School at 35 Sage Terrace and had previously advocated saving Greenacres Field told the Board. "I have changed my posture on what I prefer. I am indifferent at this point. Whatever is decided will give people a reason to move here. The uncertainty is killing the real estate values. Eight realtors have told me that people in Manhattan are saying not to move to Greenacres.... we need a new school. Whatever the decision is – and I ask that you move it along. I would ask that we just decide."

Florence Alkalay a realtor from Stratton Road said, "I have a fabulous listing in Greenacres. We had 30 showings but the feedback is, "It's a great house but we don't know what's going on in Greenacres." Property values are important to everyone in this room. We all want our houses to be able to be sold. I got a call today and the clients said, "Please don't show me anything in Greenacres. People don't know what's happening." A decision has to be made quickly. Where are the children going to be during the renovation or the new construction? In trailers? They are petrified about that. There is a lack of knowledge on the part of the population here and among buyers."

Paulina Schwartz from Oakstwain Road said, "I don't think we're terrified of the trailers. I think the parents are much more worried about the kids being inside the school during construction. You won't be able to sell keeping the kids in that building."

2017-18 School Budget Approved by 81% of Voters

budget 1The 2017/18 Scarsdale School budget was approved by 81% of Scarsdale voters at the election on Tuesday May 16, 2017. Two returning school board members, Chris Morin and Scott Silberfein were elected to serve second three-year terms.

Voter turnout was light – with a total of 473 votes cast in the budget vote, the fewest in the seven years we have tracked budget and bond votes. Chris Morin received 390 votes and Scott Silberfein, 405. The lack of hoopla for the school budget vote comes just after an election in March 2017 for Scarsdale Village mayor and trustees brought out more than 3,000 voters.BudgetVoteTally

The school budget increase fell under the adjusted tax cap at .96% and only required a simple majority to pass. The total budget of $153,590,765 is 2.15% higher than the previous year, but also includes reserve funds to temper the increase.

Commenting on the vote, Dr. Hagerman said, ""Our children and our schools are at the very heart of the Scarsdale community. On behalf of the entire District, I would like to acknowledge and thank those who continue to support our efforts in both word and deed. The budget vote, although an annual occurrence, is one substantial way that reaffirms our community's commitment to high quality education and programming for all of our students. The community's support during yesterday's vote will ensure another exceptional year ahead--one which I very much look forward to. In addition to a positive budget vote, we are pleased that both Chris Morin and Scott Silberfein will be continuing in their roles as second term, Board Members. Both Scott and Chris have made significant contributions to the Board team as well as major District initiatives. They have also both been active and visible members, and their re-elections will ensure that our important work will continue seamlessly."

School Board President Lee Maude said, "The Scarsdale Board of Education extends its thanks to the residents of Scarsdale for approving the 2017-2018 school budget. We are especially grateful to all the Scarsdale community organizations who support our efforts and allow the School District to continue the great work of educating Scarsdale's students."

Probably the most notable aspect of the budgetbudget3 is the increase in staffing. The budget includes 8.4 more full time employees, bringing the total teaching staff to 457 up from 446 in 2009-10. These include 2.5 reading teachers for the elementary schools, added staffing for Special Education, a STEAM coordinator, one additional elementary school teacher and 2 unassigned teachers to respond to shifts in enrollment.

The school board and administration plan to hold another election in December 2017 on a bond referendum for capital improvements to district facilities.

(Photo credit Mei Morin)

budget2

Students Envision Cities of the Future at Design Thinking Expo

kyle annie- flushing meadowsOn April 27, the City 2.0 Class, taught by Maggie Favretti and Fallon Plunkett held a Design Expo to showcase their work on improving urban environments. The students came up with creative ideas to improve transportation, solve urban problems and improve the urban experience.

Each group built a prototype to demonstrate their concept and were available to present their ideas to visiting parents, staff members, students and the press. We toured the rooms and were very impressed with the research and design thinking behind the concepts.

Here are a few of the projects we saw:

morgan and jessica- cable carsMorgan Cochrane and Jessica Cohen shared their model for moving more quickly around crowded city streets. They envisioned an elevated cable car system to transport pedestrian north and south and east and west. Elevators would lift users up to the elevated system powered by solar energy.

michael owen-elevated tubewayMichael McCormick, Owen Hall and Harrison Novick proposed to move the subway from below ground to above ground in an elevated system of clear tubes where the train system would be powered by magnets. This would be safer, decrease congestion and improve energy efficiency.

shenberg and stern- redesigning bridgesIf you've ever been stalled in traffic on one of the tri-state areas bridges, you'll appreciate this project redesignsing a bridge to expand the number of lanes and to provide dedicated lanes for emergency vehicles. Andrew Shemberg, Matt Stern and Arlen Tzamarot built a nine lane, multi-level bridge to solve the eternal issue of traffic.

remi- redesigning tunnelsRemi Bernstein, Claire Gillespie and Melinda Orengo also considered transportation, coming up with a new concept for a tunnel. They envisioned an oval-shaped tunnel to provide more open space and light with white and yellow lights in the ceiling to simulate the night sky. The tunnel would also include wide paths for pedestrians and bikers.

justine and sophie- driverless vehiclesJustine Lionti and Sophie Pendrill approached driving safety by envisioning roads lined with sensors to guide driverless cars. These would decrease the incidence of accidents and save money.

emily-MTA EZPASSEmily Rodriguez demonstrated her key fob EZPass for public transportation, which would allow the user to swipe their fob to enter the system and have funds deducted from their account. Imagine how much easier that would be than fumbling for your metro card.

jinyi matt michael- self-cleaning trainAfraid of catching a cold – or something worse – while riding the subway? This team (Jinyi Huang, Matthew Li and Michael Litton) envisioned self-cleaning trains designed with Parx Plastics, which are anti-bacterial materials that clean themselves, preventing the spread of germs between riders.

alex caitlin christina- rooftopsLinked multi-use sustainable rooftops would increase green space in the city and provide areas for gardening and recreation. Caitlin D'Ambrosio, Alex Quill, Christina Siekierski displayed their model for linked roofs where users could plant vegetable gardens, enjoy picnics or even musical performances.

Wen Yi Catherine Zoya- redesigning playgroundsWen Yi See, Catherine Zhao and Zoya Binyaminov visited Russel Sage Park in Queens to see how it could be redesigned for better use. It's currently cold and unfriendly. They proposed adding grassy areas, picnic tables and barbeque pits and even installing charging stations so that residents could relax in their neighborhood park A large, moveable glass dome could descend and cover the park at night and clean the entire area with UV rays.

lilah olivia- natureampLilah Cooperman and Olivia Leone presented a plan to echo and amplify the sounds of nature in park spaces, increasing relaxation and decreasing city noise.

chloe- public park energyChloe Suzman and Harris Gelblum designed a multi-functional energy generating public park. Built with algae walls and solar roadways, park fixtures and seating would be made of a fungus that comes from mushrooms called mycelium that can be reshaped and reworked into new fixtures as the need arises.

This exercise in design thinking produced an impressive range of projects to improve the urban landscape. Let's hear it for the cities of the future.

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