Large Crowd Turns Out to Weigh in On the Future of Greenacres
- Category: Schools
- Published on 17 May 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Though School Board President Lee Maude began the public comments section of the May 16 school board meeting by asking alarmed parents to refrain from "hyperbole, exaggeration and rhetoric" about the risks of proposed construction at Greenacres School, by the time the meeting drew to a close at the stroke of midnight, it seemed that the Board had been swayed by these same parents, and as a result, decided to change their course.
The room was packed with many residents who had previously come before the board to urge them to save Greenacres field and a newer group of parents with young children who currently go to the school or will be there during construction.
Many of them had emailed the board and Lee Maude assured them that all members of the Board review every letter they send in. She said, "In the last two weeks we got many, many letters about the Greenacres School. The Board will consider all points of view. The ultimate decision will be made by a bond referendum after a thorough examination of the facts by the board. We will also take into account the debt capacity of the district..... We have a lot to think about .... We will not base our decision on how many letters we receive from one side or the other. We have received many letters about the dangers of construction. Please know that the safety of children is our utmost concern. Many of the letters have made assertions about the hazards of construction debris ... We have received many letters that are alarmists and warning us of litigation."
There were two lengthy periods for public comment and you can watch the four hour meeting in its entirety here. Below are comments from some new voices who raised concerns that we had not previously heard:
Thomas Giuffra identified himself as a resident of 14 years who is an attorney who specializes in lead paint litigation. He said he has a five year-old who will start school next year. He said that kids ages 6-10 years old are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning, not from eating lead paint chips but from breathing lead dust. He said, "I don't want my son to pay the price. Look at the literature, it's no joke."
Dr. Katherine Miao of 51 Walworth Avenue said she had not previously gotten involved in the discussion because her family was not affected one way or the other. However she told the board, "I was concerned when I learned that the children would be inside the school." She referred to the Doll and Peto Report written by scientists at Oxford University in 1985, which analyzed the health risks from exposure to asbestos. The article says there is an exponential risk based on the age of the child. A child has 32 times the level of risk of developing cancer from asbestos exposure then their grandparent. More recent literature from Vanderbilt published last year, validated these results and said the risk may even be higher. She said, "I want the safest possible thing for the children."
Tony Corrigio of Brite Avenue said he is the father of three kids who will be in the construction zone. He asked the Board to reconsider option C. He said the footprint of the new building could be smaller and provide more green space. "These kids deserve an equal and safe opportunity to get an education here." The cost of the trailers for option B1 was taken out of the bid." Kids will have a materially higher likelihood of being exposed to a construction accident or mishandling of hazardous materials." Construction is the fourth most dangerous activity, the second most deadly activity in the U.S. You are dealing with electricity, fire, gravity, chemicals. You don't do it under the same roof where there are little kids. To knowingly subject kids to that level of risk is immoral."
Paulina Schwartz of Oakstwain Road quoted Board President Lee Maude at a March meeting where the board voted to take Option C off the table. Maude said, "it's what the community wants, but I just don't know about the kids over the next 40 years."
Schwartz presented her findings on the classroom sizes in the B1 option. She said that in some classrooms, kids are now sitting on the floor as there is not adequate room for desks for all the children. According to Schwartz, these small rooms will not be expanded during the renovation. Some of these classrooms are as small as 611 square feet. She said that the renovation would meet model program standards by providing new large classrooms for the older kids. However, in her view, the youngest children, who need space to move around, would still be stuffed into inadequate classrooms. She said, "Spending $40 million and getting a gym with no windows with the HVAC in basement? You should be nervous. You should give this community the best you have which is a new school."
Many more echoed concerns about safety, the disruption during construction and argued that the Board should not spend $40 to put a band-aid on the old school.
Also in the room were those who remain passionate about keeping the school where it is, and retaining the blacktop and the open field for both the school and the community. They said that the district has done many construction projects over the years without putting children at risk. They voiced concern about the expense of a new school and wondered if other neighborhoods would also ask for a new school.
Meredith Gantcher of Brewster Road, who was one of the leaders of the "Save the Field" campaign said that parents have "valid concerns." She said, "in light of the panic and alarm" she asked the board to educate the community about the hazards. She argued that kids at the high school would also be at risk during the upcoming renovation and said the "office move" at Greenacres was done with everyone's support. She asked the Board to respond to "rumors and heresay."
Madeline Hauptman asked the board about the water table at the field and questioned whether building there would impact the environment. Mike Greenberg said that if the original school were demolished, all the materials would blow all over the community and pose the same risks as a renovation. Marnie Gelfman said that "Option B1 remains the right choice." She said, "I sympathize with parents who do not want their kids in school during construction. However other renovations took place in occupied buildings without incident. I have confidence that the contractors will follow the law. The total net cost differential is a staggering $60 million. Option B1 is a responsible compromise."
There were two periods of discussion among the board and Dr. Hagerman during meeting. Below are comments made by board members at both times.
In a discussion with the board about next steps, Dr. Hagerman said that they would ask architects KG&D for several iterations of Option C to maximize green space. He wanted KG&D to explore making the new building more "stacked" or vertical and to consider different places to site the building on the field. He wanted to determine how a smaller gym and the elimination of the cafeteria would affect the price. Board members asked for an apples-to-apples comparison of what elements would be in option B1 versus Option C. along with temporary accommodations for Greenacres children if the renovation option was chosen. He said that it was important to make a timeline for the decision and to also bring the wider community into the discussion.
Art Rublin said, "These are school grounds ..... questions should be focused on the kids and what's best for the kids of Greenacres. .... I do think that a new building is not only better for the kids – and I don't think it would necessarily be more expensive in the long run."
Suzanne Seiden said, "I think we need to discuss the principles behind our decision. For me, Greenacres is the priority. The decision should be tax neutral. There is a fairness issue. Other schools have gotten a lot. We must check historical context within which to view this."
Scott Silberfein said, "I appreciate the process. It is incumbent upon us to do an iterative process on Option C. We need to get the facts. I would like to know what can be taken out or changed. We also need to see a version that includes trailers. We need to see how much that really is."
Pam Feuhrer posed questions about financing and energy efficiency said her "frustration with B1 is the small classroom sizes." She asked if that could be changed. She added, "I am concerned about the availability for capitol for the rest of the district for the next 15 or 30 years.
Chris Morin said, "It seems to me we want to know what the new building will cost and what the renovation will cost
Lee Maude said, "Having watched KG and D move from B to B1 ... we have not pushed them on C. What about a 3 story – not a 2 story building. I need to educate myself. I don't have all the facts. What about the water level on the field? I learned allot about the perils of asbestos and lead. And if we do B1, do we need to rent a temporary school for 2 years and is that feasible?
She concluded saying "Big decisions are messy."
Young Greenacres Families Urge School Board to Build a New School at Greenacres
- Category: Schools
- Published on 11 May 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
A group of younger Greenacres residents has launched a campaign to urge the Scarsdale Board of Education to build a new school in Greenacres rather than renovate the existing building. Though the conversation about the school has been going on for more than a year, some say they were not aware of the issue and are just now getting informed.
Among their concerns are:
- The safety of their children during a renovation
- Potential for asbestos, lead, mold and dust to be released during construction
- "Putting a band aid" on a 100 year-old school rather than constructing a new one.
- Favoring the wishes of older residents to maintain the field vs. their belief that a new school would better serve the children of Greenacres.
To that end, they have organized meetings and drafted a petition to urge the Board to adopt "Option C," which is to build a new school on the current Greenacres field.
Here is a letter from Jennifer Hu Corriggio that includes most of the groups' reasons for adopting their position:
Greenacres Residents May Lose Once-in-a Lifetime Chance for New 21st Century School Over Pressure from Unrepresentative Fanatics
This op-ed morphed from a Mother's Day email I wrote to Greenacres moms about the deep concern I have as a mother for my kids and the future of Greenacres school. I wrote that email as well as this op-ed in an effort to redeem myself, because I have shamefully neglected to be an informed citizen and resident on this most paramount issue until recently. Now that I am better informed, I am furious that the conversation about the future of the Greenacres school has been co-opted by some well-organized and outspoken Greenacres residents, who either have no direct stake in the decision because their children will not be attending Greenacres during or after the renovation/construction time, or who have a very personal stake in preserving the field because they have a view or direct access from their house. Those families with young children who are the most impacted are often the busiest with juggling young kids and careers, so don't have as much time to get educated about the issue. I am in this camp. As a mother of 3 young kids trying to juggle family and career, I feel thankful to survive each day, and hadn't been paying attention to this issue as closely as I should have been. Then there are the countless others who just didn't have the facts straight and signed a petition to "Save the Field" because their friends and neighbors asked them to sign a petition with a catchy slogan but without much substance behind it. So many of those people who signed the petition have recently told me that they regret signing the petition and felt misled. But they can't be blamed too much for signing the petition. After all, the options were constantly changing, and who doesn't love the Greenacres field? Of course we all love it. But this issue shouldn't have ever been about preserving a field, but rather what is the best option for Greenacres students now and for many future generations to come. Let's turn the conversation back to the real priority in this short window of time we have left, and not allow the Board of Education to be bullied into a decision about the future of Greenacres school by efforts led by a vocal few group of residents.
This issue of the future of Greenacres school is going to be decided likely within the next few weeks by the Scarsdale Board of Education, so this is our last chance to get as informed as possible in a very short amount of time. The Board will need to decide soon whether to suggest taking the path of 1) Option B1 - renovating the school, or 2) Option C - building a new school. The reason why the timing is so urgent is because the Board has to make this decision due to the schedule they are on in order to prepare a school budget that will be part a bond vote next year.
Scarsdale has a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to make a difference for generations of Greenacres students in supporting the construction of a new school, to assert its leadership in investing in school infrastructure designed for the 21st century, and we may lose this precious opportunity very soon. I'd like to share a few things that I have recently learned:
1) The "Save the Field" camp is not calling themselves "Save the School" for many critical reasons. Their argument is based almost entirely on preserving green space rather than critically examining the state of the school or the potential consequences of this renovation/construction. We all love our unique community, and want to keep the "green in Greenacres" but let's face it, we moved here for our kids' education and the school system and not for the Greenacres' field. This is an opportunity to gain a new state-of-the art 21st century school, plus 2 new "green" soccer fields and playgrounds. I felt seriously misled that we would be losing a lot of green space through Option B1. The loss of green space is only a baseball-diamond difference, that can be reduced even more if we continue the conversation on what is best for Greenacres within the construction of a new school (Option C). In their efforts to further distort how much green space will be lost, the "Save the Field" camp also isn't counting the multiple new playgrounds gained in Option C as green space because it's not untouched. But playgrounds are also very important. They make it seem like the new school would be some sprawling, obtrusive school on a pristine field. But the truth is that the new school proposed in Option C would have a smaller square footage footprint than Option B1 because of the more efficient design of a new building.
Plus, the core "Save the Field" camp's concern isn't genuinely about the school, and you can't feign authenticity. The core advocates have time to attend all the Board of Education public hearings because they are retired and have time to organize strategy meetings, take out ads in newspapers supporting their position, make yard signs, put up a website, and run a campaign pressuring their friends and neighbors to sign a petition with very little information. But if you look beyond the rhetoric, you'll find that there's not much substance behind their supporting Option B1. The reason is because they don't have much substance to offer.
2) No one is campaigning around "Save the School" because the school would not qualify for any historical preservation project. Quaint as you may find the building, the original part of the building built 100 years ago is actually a small portion of what currently exists, and the building has been added on in 7 separate piece-meal additions piece-meal in its history to accommodate the growing Greenacres population. Now the footprint can no longer be expanded. Let's stop adding band-aids and additions to a school that is substandard in core ways, and take this unique opportunity to build a new school for close to the same amount of money.
3) The focus on cost is also a bogus argument. It is clear that for the long-term, Option C will be less expensive. Because it would be new construction, the construction costs would be easier to control, and the construction would be more energy-efficient, receive more state aid, and have less insurance costs. This is a tax-neutral decision. Taxes are not intended to be raised for either option. The latest B1 plan is that for $40 million, Greenacres would basically get a new 2-story wing with 6 classrooms and an HVAC system in a "previously moldy" basement that still has a high water table. That's just great. Would you personally invest in this kind of renovation? Then there's a second phase of renovations that will occur approximately 10 years later. By then, we'd probably be planning for additional renovations again. Many of the systems that are "past the end of their expected useful life" as stated by the architects are not included in Option B1 renovations because these systems are still in "good condition."
3) But the school is in worse condition than I had thought, and below standards in classroom size, ventilation, moisture problems, and fresh air access. While the school has been well-maintained, the architects reported that on average, major systems such as walls, windows, flooring, piping are way past their expected useful life. However well-maintained these systems are, how much longer do you expect them to operate beyond their expected useful life systems? Additionally, kids in some classrooms are attending class sitting on floors, and kids sit in the hallways during indoor recess because there is no gym large enough to accommodate the number of kids during indoor recess. Under the proposed B1 renovation, many classroom sizes still cannot be expanded to acceptable national standards. What is the purpose of this renovation if we can't get the school up to acceptable national standards? A B1 renovated school would also never have the infrastructure to accommodate technological changes in the 21st century.
4) The Building Committee itself agreed that the two most important criteria in making the decision about the future of Greenacres school were Educational Adequacy and Building Condition. In the feasibility study, Option C was clearly the better option on these conditions as well as the vast majority of the other criteria. How did we then get to a situation where option B1 has become the favored decision of Greenacres outcriers? Again, well-organized people who distorted, misrepresented, or didn't know all the facts have been the ones most active in spreading the word. It's late in the game but we still have a little time to discuss amongst us why Option C should still be seriously considered. Take a look at the Greenacres Re-Convened Committee Recommendations yourself.
Which option do you see that has the highest rankings in the vast majority of categories?
5) However, the most potentially catastrophic aspect and deal-breaker for Option B1 is that our kids will have to attend Greenacres during this 2-3 year renovation of this first phase of renovations. (A second one planned in another 10 years or so under Option B1) If you are a parent to young children and nothing else interests you about this issue, then this one should grab your attention. As soon as parents really understand that they will be asked to send their kids to school in a major construction zone for 2-3 years, they will get very interested. In fact, many parents in just the past week have told me that they will REFUSE to send their kids to Greenacres while this level of renovations are going on. This is the issue that will truly awaken Greenacres residents to what is going on in this Option B1/C debate. The architects have already acknowledged that there is asbestos in the building. Does anyone doubt that there will also be lead, mold, or toxic dust? What else are they going to find when they open up those walls? Do you trust the contractors to truly seal off their construction zones to protect your children in a 2-3 year renovation of a 100-year old building? We all know that children are much more vulnerable to exposures of these toxins and that the effects of such poisoning will not likely show up for decades. This is a lawsuit bomb just waiting to go off.
I also don't know if the architects and Board of Education have padded in the high costs of compliance, insurance, contingency plans if they find additional asbestos in the walls during the renovation (they would have to move the kids out of the school last minute or shut it down), and potential legal expenses that Option B1 would require. The budget that is being presented with B1 would not be accurate without this. I guarantee you that parents are not going to sit by the sidelines when they realize what's really going on here. Then the loud barking of the "Save the Field" people will only look like whimpering when you see the ferocity unleashed by parents who will do everything in their power to protect the health and safety of their children. Please, let's don't let this situation get out of hand. The health and safety of our kids should be the top priority, period. Let's make sure that residents really understand what's going on, and get the option to extensively renovate the school while the children are in it off the table. If even one of the 400 Greenacres students develops mesothelioma from asbestos exposure during this renovation 40 years later, it is not worth the risk. We have an alternative option in front of our face to keep the kids safely in place while a new school can be built across the street. That's a rare and unique opportunity that most old schools do not have!
I was also baffled to learn about the aggressive and intimidating tactics that the core "Save the Field" camp has been using, including shouting at Scarsdale Board of Education members at the last March hearing in efforts to pressure them to vote for Option B1. I honestly could not understand why anybody would engage in this kind of behavior, but after reflecting upon it, I think I understand it. Very early on, the core "Save the Field" understood that they have no legal right to the field. It is Scarsdale public property. They would have no standing to sue if they lose their access to the field and they have no guaranteed access or view. So all they can do is bark as loud as possible to protect their selfish interests and pressure their friends and neighbors to sign a propaganda campaign petition. And I believe that most people signed with the intention of expressing that "the field is important to them." But the options were not that clear then, and although they are still morphing, they are now clear enough to see that the obvious direction and choice that the Board of Education should make is to figure out how to get community input for the best possible new school in Option C.
6) Another huge misconception is that these plans are set in stone. The Board had been pressured to consider alternatives to Option B, which was always to renovate the existing school. When they realized how expensive it would be to arrange for temporary barracks for the students to do the renovations, Option B morphed into Option B1 to scale back renovations and keep the children in school during the renovation. Due to pressure from the hardcore "Save the Field" camp, there has not been so much space for discussion about how Option C can also be easily tweaked to accommodate residents' concerns. These are not final architectural plans as some in the community believe. There has been concern voiced about the size of the parking lot and gym. The architects have been clear in stating that those things can be easily changed. One of the parking lots can be altered to create a blacktop so our kids can continue to learn to ride bikes, and play there as they have been doing for years. The facade can be easily manipulated to be architecturally consistent with the neighborhood's charm. The gym can be down-scaled. These are all relatively simple alterations, and we can continue to have this conversation with the architects, Board, and community as long as Option C is chosen. There is not this kind of flexibility in the design of B1.
Finally, I'm shocked and disappointed at how short-sighted this "Save the Field" camp has been. In their relentless pursuit to "Save the Field", they would rather preserve their view and access to a field, and trade the health and safety of our children for a field. Their argument that Option B1 lets us keep the field and get a renovated school for a cheaper cost is full of so many holes it's ridiculous. The architects have shaved off so many parts of the renovation now that the amount of money you would need to spend for that level of improvement would be a clear loser investment of our tax dollars.
The future of the school is not just about them and us. It's about picking the best long-term option for Scarsdale and its residents. The priority should be on the educational capacity of the school, health and safety of its students, as well as long-term value and cost. Who will be the future residents of Greenacres and Scarsdale and what do you think they are going to value? The family that you will be selling your house to is going to be a young family looking to raise their kids in a beautiful suburban community that is famous for its schools. Do you think that this family is going to be more interested that we preserved the Greenacres field or built a 21st century school? It keeps the property value high for all of Scarsdale when our schools continue to live up to their reputation.
Let's do this right, and do it right once. No band aids and no jeopardizing the health and safety of our kids.
In the end, let's not forget that this is decision that will be made by the Scarsdale Board of Education whose focus is on developing policy and guidance on Scarsdale's school system. I hope that they think long and hard about the motto that guides them: The Scarsdale Education for Tomorrow is what distinguishes a Scarsdale graduate. The choice is obvious on which option will give our children the "education for tomorrow" that they deserve. We want a new school! If this option is chosen, the stakeholders in the community will support you.
I urge all Greenacres residents, as well as Scarsdale residents, since it would be an investment of your tax dollars too, to take some time to get more informed on the issue. The publicly available information on these options is confusing, but here is a summary:
-a new building with a green, energy-efficient design, outfitted to support 21st century technology for approximately $54 million (note that cost can't truly be pinpointed as proposals keep changing)
-students continue to attend school in current building while new school across the street is constructed
-overall less expensive option when all costs are considered
-less energy, maintenance, insurance costs for the next 100 years
-2 new "green" soccer fields, plus additional playgrounds for the kids
-Option to convert parking lot spaces to a blacktop, adjust the size of the gym, as well as room for input on architectural facade
-possibility of expansion
- a new lunchroom with a kitchen so that hot meals can be prepared on site for students, larger gym, additional music room, security office and larger classrooms up to national standards
- no difference in your taxes
-smaller square footage footprint than B1
-6 new classrooms, renovated bathrooms, and a new HVAC system in a basement with previous mold problems and still high water table for approximately $40 million (note that cost can't be truly be pinpointed as proposals keep changing)
-2-3 years of our children attending a school that will be a construction zone
-high litigation risk for exposing children to asbestos, lead, and other toxins
-high risk of additional renovation expense, including delays and contingency plans
-2 story addition, which would be the 8th one, to the original Greenacres school which would not qualify for any historical preservation project
-no more room to expand
-renovation of a 100 year old added-onto school
-many classroom sizes that still don't meet modern national classroom standards.
-no difference in your taxes
-a baseball-diamond size loss in field space
If you don't believe me in asserting these facts, or anything I wrote about in this op-ed, I invite you to do the research yourself, and let me know where you think I'm wrong. I believe I also just provided more substantive information about the options than the whole website that the "Save the Field" camp has constructed, which you can find here: http://www.greenacresfield.org
I'm the last person who wants to see this community fragmented over this issue. We are all neighbors, friends, and parents of children who are friends. I would like to see sincere, honest community engagement where people can consider the big picture of what is best for Greenacres and Scarsdale. But in the past few weeks, I have had a real eye-opening experience about how a well-run propaganda campaign can be powerful enough to distort community dialogue, and I can not in good conscience not speak out against it.
If you feel ready to sign a petition to support building the new school in Option C, please sign this petition:
This is an urgent issue, and as informed citizens, we only have at most a few weeks to communicate our thoughts to the Board before they make their decision. The Board of Education is interested in hearing from new voices about this issue. If you want to express your thoughts about the future of Greenacres school, or ask the Board to delay its decision so that you can take some additional time to better understand the issues, or express your regret for signing the "Save the Field" petition, please email the Board of Education at: BoardofEd@scarsdaleschools.org. Please write them as soon as possible to express your opinion! Additionally, please also attend the Board of Education public hearing at Scarsdale High School on May 16th at 8:00 pm to express your thoughts and participate in the community dialogue.
Jennifer Hu Corriggio
Calling All Gardeners - SHS Garden Needs Community Volunteers
- Category: Schools
- Published on 28 April 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
The Scarsdale High School Sustainable Garden Project is celebrating its 10th spring planting this year, and five years of at least 1500 pounds of totally organic, fresh produce delivered to two important public food centers: Grace Church Soup Kitchen (White Plains) and Fred's Pantry (Peekskill). Students are committed to getting their hands dirty in the interest of building a more sustainable community, both inside and outside of the school grounds. Most of the school departments use the garden as an outdoor classroom, and the club helps to facilitate garden-based lessons where students learn about year-round eco-system-based food production, and see for themselves how fruitful a small piece of land can be. The garden cannot be planted and maintained without community support.
In 2014 the project hosted a Gardening Matters Conference, which brought over 100 participant guests to SHS to discuss hunger in America, and also to teach sustainable food production as key to building sustainable communities. In the same year, they were recognized at the White House by the EPA.
Alliances with the Friends of Scarsdale Parks, and Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) have brought advocacy, information, and plants, as well as volunteers. This year, they were asked to join Yale Blue Green. YBG "serves as a hub for thought leadership, collaborative action, lifelong learning and inspiration on initiatives relating to the environment and sustainability." In case any students were wondering about whether the garden would be recognized by institutions of higher education, this latest invitation should leave no doubt! Ms. Favretti represented the project at a Global Environmental Summit at Yale in November.
The garden itself depends on the community. Each spring and fall they have a volunteer day. The spring volunteer celebration and potluck picnic will be held on May 14 from 9-2. The community is invited to attend and welcome spring. If you cannot be there on that day, but you would be interested in pitching in during the summer months, please call Maggie Favretti (914) 721-2567.
Board Examines Phased Renovation of Greenacres and Financing Options
- Category: Schools
- Published on 05 May 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Questions about the future of Greenacres and the amount of the May 2017 bond grew more complex at the Scarsdale School Board meeting on the morning of May 4. As one commenter suggested, the Board and Administration will need to use their critical thinking skills to balance the needs at Greenacres Elementary School and overall district facilities needs with financial realities.
Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey presented the following two charts showing how much the district could raise without raising taxes, and another chart showing the net cost to the district for various building options at terms of 15 to 30 years.
Mattey explained that the formulations in the top chart took the following factors into account:
Building aid from NYS: A complex formula including base aid ratio
Bond percent: The amount of the bond that is aid eligible
Aid per building: The calculated maximum aid per building
Interest rates: Based on the state's average interest rate
Furthermore, he explained that the payment of state aid, which is "20 cents on the dollar," commences 18 months after a project is filed with the state, and is paid back over a set number of years, depending on the type of project, with the state favoring renovations over new constructions. Payback periods are as follows:
- Renovations: 15 years
- Additions: 20 years
- New building: 30 years
In reviewing the options, Mattey and Superintendent Hagerman said that the options shaded in green – or the 15-year financing options for renovations and the 30-year option for the new school – made the most sense for the district. They said it is customary to pay off renovation projects before they became obsolete. You can review the entire presentation here.
Following Mattey's explanation of financing options, Architect Russ Davidson of KD&D presented an option for renovating the school in two phases. Previously the focus had been on whether to build a new school across the street or renovate and enlarge the existing school. At this latest session, the conversation turned exclusively to renovation options as the Board had received little support for Option C, which was to build a new school on the field across the street.
At the May 4th board meeting Russ Davidson presented a plan to split Option B1 into two phases, one to occur after the passage of the bond in May 2017, and the other to occur nine to ten years later. He also explained that due to a cost analysis error, the cost of Option B1 had dropped around $3 million. Phase One would consist of heavy renovations, including:
The addition of 6 new classrooms; 3 on the first floor and 3 on the second floor facing the Huntington Road side.
Reconfiguring the K-2 classrooms to meet the model program classroom requirements and to including a new HVAC system with air conditioning.
Reconfiguration of existing offices and small group rooms to create full-sized rooms and new student bathrooms.
Expansion of the current computer classroom.
Reconfiguration of the multi-story area opposite of the gymnasium on both levels to create 3 larger rooms where 4 smaller rooms now exist.
The plan proposes that all of the classrooms and common learning spaces will have central air conditioning, with the new HVAC machinery located in the basement. The reconfiguration of the upper level will also include the creation of new student bathrooms.
Phase One would not include changes or replacements to the current windows or roof, which were both deemed adequate by the building committees, but will need to be replaced in ten years as part of Phase Two. Phase Two improvements would also update the rooms to include ceiling improvements, interior finishes, millwork replacements, new interior doors.
According to Davidson's estimates, Phase One is projected to cost, $31.8 million while Phase Two at $8 million, for a total of $39,822,497. In contrast, the architects had previously stated that Option C to build an entirely new school would cost $53.96 million.
When asked about revamping the wiring and data systems already installed in the school, Davidson explained that the B1 proposal would attempt to leave the existing wiring, for security and data systems in place, saying they were both adequate.
In the conversation that followed, Dr. Hagerman asked why the windows, roof and data wiring would not be replaced in Phase 1, saying, "Does it make sense to do this work and not do the roof and not do data? We area touching every part of the building."
Several Board members questioned whether it would be safe to put the HVAC mechanical systems in the basement of the school, which was previously reported to be damp and moldy.
Davidson explained that previous iterations of the plan had sited the air conditioning handlers in new dormers in the attic of the building. He now believes that there are dry areas of the basement where the equipment can be placed. He said the HVAC systems was closed, there would be no impact on the air quality and would provide "the same quantity of fresh air per student."
The board also discussed whether they favored air conditioning the entire school, including the classrooms, when this has not been done in the other elementary school classrooms. Davidson said about his other projects, saying, "We are air conditioning more than we are not.... the tide is turning on air conditioning in the region."
Board member Suzanne Seiden asked that the Board to consider the core principles behind their decision at the next meeting; i.e. no tax increase and that the priority should be Greenacres.
The conversation concluded with Board President Lee Maude saying, "So tonight we learned that our potential project size is significantly lower than we thought and got information on B1 and B2. Do we want to think about a more additive B1?" She asked Board members to give her feedback and said the issue would continue to be discussed at the Board's May 16 meeting.
School Board Considers New Policy for Non-Resident Students
- Category: Schools
- Published on 19 April 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Scarsdale School Board members wrestled with some sensitive issues at their April 18 meeting regarding the presence of non-resident children in the schools. Questions abound: Should children who are living out of the district while their home is renovated be permitted to attend schools tuition-free? What about children whose parents have signed a contract on a home but have not moved into it at the time school begins... and what if a family moves out of Scarsdale after their child completes junior year at Scarsdale High School? Should the student be permitted to finish senior year at the school?
In order to assess the opinions of Board members on these and other residency issues, Dr. Hagerman surveyed them in March, but said that their responses "were all over the map," and therefore the issue required further discussion. Hagerman indicated that the current policy was "handcrafted" and he was looking for direction from the Board to use when drafting revised policies with the district's attorneys.
The April 18 Board of Education Agenda included information from the New York State School Boards Association on residency which you can review here. It defines residency as "both one's physical presence as an inhabitant and the intention to reside within the district." Furthermore, a person can have only one legal residence and "therefore where someone owns or rents property both within and outside a school district, only one of the properties can be considered his or her legal residence for purposes of attending school within a particular district.
However, in practice, the district has been more flexible in permitting children to remain in school, even when circumstances require them to sleep out of the district.
According to the current policy, if a student becomes a non-resident during one semester, they can complete that semester tuition-free, but tuition would have to be prepaid for the following semester. In practice, some families do move out of the district for a home renovation that spans two semesters. It is not known whether or not these families pay tuition. In most cases, the family owns a home and is paying Scarsdale taxes while the home is under renovation, though they are not technically "residents."
This year only seven families are paying tuition, which is $20,961 for grades K-6 and $27,696 for grades 7 -12.
The discussion at the meeting was lengthy. Proposed revisions to the current policy can be read in pages 66-68 of the April 18 meeting agenda. The first issue involved the question of permitting fourth graders whose families have moved out of the district to pay tuition for fifth grade. The second involved allowing students who have completed eleventh grade and become non-residents to pay tuition to complete their senior year.
For fourth graders, if the family moves to another elementary school district in Scarsdale, the Board favored permitting the student to remain in their own school, provided it did not cause a section or class to break into an additional section. If the family moves out of the school district, the Board favored permitting the student to stay for fifth grade provided they pay tuition.
And for those whose parents move away after a student completes 11th grade, the board favored permitting the student to complete 12th grade as a tuition-paying student.
What about students who are living out of the district while their home is under renovation or uninhabitable?
Chris Morin said, "We could have a simplified policy but still be generous. To some it would seem unfair if they have a vacant house but are required to pay tuition."
Suzanne Seiden said, "If people are renovating and staying elsewhere I don't think we should charge tuition. And also, we should not have to hire investigators to find out where kids are sleeping. I don't think it makes sense to charge if someone is out of the house."
Pam Feuhrer agreed, saying, "We should not penalize those who are renovating."
Scott Silberfein said the state law says "Intend to reside there, that's the law. We should not charge tuition if a renovation goes on too long. I don't think we can legislate every situation. I don't have a problem with people who are paying taxes."
Bill Natbony pointed out that it would be hard for the district to investigate the whereabouts of residents. He said, "It would be difficult for the district to be the enforcer. Are we supposed to send investigators out to see where the family is staying?"
Seiden outlined her thoughts on the revised policy saying, "Make sure we are compassionate. We should not change a rule in response to a few bad actors. The rule should following common sense.
Art Rublin asked the Board to "Welcome input from people in the community," and Bill Natbony asked that "The new policy should not change expectations for current families in the district."
Dr. Hagerman responded to Rublin and Natbony saying, "If we open this up to the community, this will never get done. It is the Board's job to set policy. And if it is adopted it should be in effect immediately. I want to be clear about grandfathering this."
The Board did not reach consensus about a proposed policy change for those who have a home in contract, but have not moved into it at the beginning of the school year. Those families would need to prepay tuition until they move in, and if they move in by October 15, the tuition would be refunded.
Dr. Hagerman's next step will be to work with the district's attorneys to draft a new policy which will be reviewed by the Board of Education.