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School Administration Provides Details for Potential December 2017 Bond Offering

greenacresBBSThe Scarsdale Board of Education met on August 24, 2017 to hear presentations from several consultants who will be involved in upcoming renovations to Greenacres School and district wide upgrades. Architects provided a first look at the design for the expansive additions to Greenacres and consultants reviewed SEQRA plans, construction management and financing options. They sought to address safety concerns raised by parents who will have children in the school during the renovation and proposed to shorten the construction timeline to one school year and two summers (about 14 months) and to include eight temporary trailers for classrooms on the field opposite the school.

Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey invited representatives from BBS architects, Park East Construction, and environmental consulting firm JC Broderick to share details of the design, construction planning and environmental review for Greenacres. Mattey said the bone would also finance district-wide facility needs, including roofing, electrical upgrades and health and safety issues on all district schools. Due to the timing of the meeting during summer vacation, only about two dozen residents attended.

Mattey announced that a Greenacres Building Committee, would be formed and start meeting September 5. They are charged with working with BBS architects and Park East Construction to refine building designs and logistics, consider safety issues and construction planning. The committee will work with consultants to address such practical issues as parking, student's entrance and exit to the new school and access to the playground across the street.The committee will be comprised of two members of the Board of Education, district employees, Greenacres staff members, two representatives from the Greenacres Neighborhood Association, parent representatives from the PTA and the Village Planner.

In addition, a District-wide Facilities Committee will be appointed to become familiar with the proposed scope of work, provide feedback to district administrators on proposals, and serve as key communicators to all district constituents on the proposed bond referendum. Meetings will start in early September and continue throughout the fall. Members of the facilities committee comprise two Board members, nine administrators, seven teachers, five community members, 15 parents, and one high school student. Among other issues, they will consider the possible installation of air conditioning in instructional spaces. They will also devise a communications strategy to help support the passage of the bond referendum.

Superintendent Hagerman outlined a speedy timeline for the proposed bond offering. In order to hold a community-wide vote on the $64 million referendum in December, the Board of Education would need to agree to hold the referendum at their October meeting. This provides very little time for examination of the design of Greenacres or an evaluation of a lengthy list of proposed projects for the other schools. The two committees, who will begin their work in early September would need to provide input in just a few shorts weeks.

The Board of Education scheduled a series of public meetings for the future:
● September 11 for updates on the projects and committees, and to poll board members on the proposed scope of the project;
● September 25 to discuss project and committee updates as well as hear district-wide committee recommendations;
● October 16 for the Board to vote on bond propositions;
● December 14 for district residents to vote on the bond proposition

Kristen Nannini a representative from JC Broderick gave an update on SEQRA, an environmental impact assessment mandated by local governments for most large projects or activities. She said JC Broderick is in the early stages of planning and gathering information on the project sites. She also spoke to the issue of "historic" status during her outline of the SEQRA process, as such designation is part of that process. She reported that the New York State Parks and Recreation Department has ruled that Greenacres is an "eligible structure" for historic preservation. She noted that the district does not have to pursue this status, and most districts do not --but that the state Parks and Recreation Department must be consulted on the design of Greenacres to ensure that it meets their aesthetic standards and blends properly with existing building characteristics. This woud need to be done before the Board of Education can adopt a SEQRA resolution on October 16, which is a deadline that must be met in order to hold a December bond vote. BBS Architects said they anticipated the building's eligibility when they formulated their exterior design plan.

Meanwhile, architect Roger Smith said that BBS has continued to meet with the building administration, faculty and staff. Floor plans, architectural designs and engineering systems continue to be updated and investigated. BBS presented their exterior architectural plans as well as a topographical site map. A video rendering of the school can be seen here.

The exterior echoes the design elements of the current building while greatly increasing its mass. On the Huntington Avenue side, a six classroom addition would extend to the curb. The three story addition would have no setback from the street. On the Sage Terrace side, a large learning commons would be added.

Architects are proposing the addition of a two-story learning commons which will also serve as a hub for student entry and exit to the school. The library and "maker space" will be renovated together. The gym interior will also be fully renovated with skylights. New sections of the building will be "reinterpreted", not duplicated from the old school. Every new and renovated area will have up-to-code air conditioning. All old unit ventilators will be replaced with new ones. As part of the Energy Performance Contract (EPC), all old technology is to be updated and maintained. New air unit ventilators are expected to have a 30-40 year life span. Fourth and fifth grade classrooms will be 800 square feetwhich is slightly larger than the state mandate. Only one design option was presented, possibly due to the project timeline.

Park East Construction will handle the renovations. Principal James Wojcik said that the company has over 20 years of work experience, and management of over two billion dollars in the K-12 sector, company. He "feels confident in completing operations while promoting student safety." The company has software and supervisors who will be responsible for construction at all times while keeping the sites safe. Park East will provide the Board with updates monthly, complete with before and after pictures.

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Park East outlined two potential construction schedules; one ending in the summer of 2020 and the other ending in the summer of 2021. Either schedule will incorporate interior construction during summer months when students are out of the building. Heavy lifting will always occur outside school hours.

Dr. Hagerman said that he also plans to ask village officials if a partial closure of Huntington Avenue would be possible for the duration of the construction project. He said he is trying to set up a meeting with them.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Hagerman discussed the timeline and said, "Some have been complaining that the process is "too fast." He defended it saying, "There's a certain amount of work to be done" and "it doesn't matter if we spread it out over two to three months or one and a half months," adding, "It's still the same kind of work that needs to be done." So, "Giving ourselves another three to four months doesn't necessarily do anything, unless there's more work than what we see right now. But, again, I think we got a lot of clarity from our consultants. If we do that in a week or once a month whether it is a week or a month, it's the same amount of work..."

Learn more here:

Administration to Present Plans for Greenacres at August 24 Meeting

greenacresschoolThe Scarsdale School Administration is moving full steam ahead with plans to add a large addition to Greenacres Elementary School. In a July 24th email to the community, Superintendent Hagerman and Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey provided a report on their next steps for the project. They have asked district architects BBS to provide 3D drawings of the expansion plans and retained several other firms to move the process forward.

Among these firms is Park East Construction Corp. for construction management, JC Broderick and Associates to perform the SEQRA – or environmental impact review – and Warren & Panzer Engineers for air testing and monitoring for the presence of asbestos and lead. In addition, municipal finance consultants from Bernard P. Donegan Inc. will present a bond timeline and options for financing the bond and information on the tax impact.

For those in town this week, the Scarsdale School Board will hold a meeting on Thursday night August 24 at 7:00 pm at Scarsdale High School where representatives from these firms will be present.

At the meeting, district architect BBS is expected to present 3-D renderings of the exterior and interiors of the new portions of the building as well as renderings of how the building would look during construction. Park East will address the possibility of placing temporary classrooms in trailers during the construction and will review cost estimates from BBS for accuracy.

The district is in the process of forming two building committees: the first is a Greenacres Committee composed of administrators, teachers, parents and community members. Their charge is to "provide feedback, and to work with BBS and Park East on final design, logistics, safety, construction planning, and the like." The Greenacres PTA is currently looking for three parents to serve on this committee that will meet from 3-5 pm on Tuesday afternoons, beginning September 5.

A District-wide Facilities Committee will include "representatives from each building, including parents, teachers, administrators, Board of Education member(s), and community member(s). This Committee will be tasked with creating and carrying out a communications plan and serving as project/bond ambassadors at each school and at community-related functions."

The last board meeting was on July 6, where six of the seven members of the Board of Education agreed to ask the administration to move forward with the plans.

However, many open questions remain and parents who will have children in the school during the three-year renovation have expressed their concerns. One group of Greenacres parents with young children are fearful of the potential environmental and safety hazards posed by a major renovation with kids in the school. In particular, they are worried that asbestos, lead based paint, mold, dust, noise, and other construction hazards pose risks to the children's health, safety and the quality of the learning environment. The Greenacres Elementary School Task Force retained attorneys Zarin and Steinmetz and environmental experts "to monitor the District's compliance with environmental and legal requirements related to the proposed Greenacres renovation."

The Scarsdale School administration has laid out a very ambitious timeline to propose plans for Greenacres and the balance of district schools - in time for a December 2017 referendum on a $60 million bond. In addition to $33.5 million for the addition at Greenacres, the administration is proposing to spend about another $30 million on priority 1, 2, and 3 items at other district schools. This list of projects was formulated by the administration without input from the community, who may want to weigh in on what work should be done. In addition, groups like the League of Women Voters and the Scarsdale Forum who are studying the issues may not have time to provide input before the plans are finalized.

It's not clear whether opposition from parents and Greenacres community members will have any impact on the timeline and if there will be an opportunity for the community to review the entire list of district projects to prioritize them or consider needs. The assessment of environmental impacts, construction plans and cost analysis for Greenacres will all have to proceed rapidly to meet the proposed schedule. Once presented, the plans will need to be communicated and sold to taxpayers if the bond is to pass.

For now it appears that the administration is considering their plan a done deal and putting all resources in place to present this bond referendum to the community in December.

A Neighborhood School in Harmony with Neighborhood Norms

schoolpickupAs the community explores options for the expansion of Greenacres School, I think everyone can agree that the building design should respect neighborhood character and conform to local Village building code. The school is smack in the middle of a vital residential neighborhood, closely bordering homes. Whatever is built will inevitably affect the neighboring homes and impact the appearance of the community. Therefore, when considering construction plans, the Board of Education should keep the neighbors' needs in mind and respect local zoning code.

Greenacres sits in Zone A (3). If the building were governed by local code, what would the requirements for this area be?

Height: The code says, "No building shall exceed 35 feet in height." 

Setbacks: Setbacks from the street are enforced for safety reasons, to prevent crowding, to allow for placement of utilities and to give uniformity to a neighborhood. In zone A(3) the required setback is 30 feet from the curb. 

Maximum Lot Coverage: Greenacres Elementary School sits on a 3-acre lot, which is 138,680 square feet. If the building were a home in the area, the building requirements would allow for a building with a maximum footprint of 17,411 square feet or 14% of the lot. For a two- story building, the maximum square footage of the building would be double that --or 34,822 square feet – or if height restrictions allowed, a three-story building could be 52,233 square feet.

Though architects BBS have not yet provided renderings of the proposed addition to the school, they have said the following:

  • The proposed building will be set back only eight feet from the curb on Huntington Avenue rather than the 30 feet required for area homes.
  • The renovated building will be 79,147 square feet or about 25,000 square feet more than the guidelines.
  • The building will extend upward three stories starting at the bottom of the hill on Huntington Avenue. The height has not been provided.
  • The proposed building appears to cover at least 80% of the lot.

From everything we can see the building will not conform in any way to the current zoning requirements or character of the neighborhood.

Since the school district seeks approvals from the State Education Department rather than the Scarsdale Village Planning and Building Departments, the architects from BBS claim that they will be permitted to build a structure that far exceeds the capacity of the current site. Even if they are able to get variances or ignore code requirements, is that in the best interests of the residents? The building will undoubtedly be bulkier and taller than appropriate and from what we can see it will cover the lions' share of the site.

The perennial problems at the school will not be addressed and in fact will be exacerbated:

  • Where will there be space for parking?
  • How will children cross the street to the playground and field?
  • Where will they be safely picked up and dropped off? With most of the green space gone, will there be sufficient space on the sidewalk for safe entry and exit to the school?

It will be up to the Board of Education and the community to decide whether a building of this scale should be permitted, even if it does receive the stamp of approval from the State Education Department.

Perhaps the Scarsdale School Board should share the plans with the folks that govern construction and zoning in Scarsdale Village government. Let's find out how they assess the impacts of the proposed project? Is it right for the Greenacres neighborhood and for Scarsdale's kids?

What do you think? If you wish to comment, please use your real name.

New SMS Principal Prioritizes Student Wellness

meghantroyThe new principal of Scarsdale Middle School grew up in a town outside Syracuse where she learned the values of community, support and relationships from a father who was superintendent of the local schools and a mother who was a teacher.

Meghan Troy might have seemed bound to follow in her parent's footsteps, but took what ended up being a wrong turn in her career to bring her back to a path forged as a child.

"Educational leadership has always been in my bloodstream," Troy said in a recent interview in her office at the school.

Troy studied at Georgetown University, where she majored in government and psychology, planning on heading to law school. After working for a year in a corporate law firm, she realized that it wasn't the right career for her, and instead pursued educational graduate work at Fordham.

In 2001, she moved to Scarsdale and began to work as a social studies teacher in the Cooper House. Since then, she's worked with the Scarsdale Teachers' Organization as a secretary and rights and responsibilities handler, where she's been able to meet with district administrators and build relationships with central offices and teachers. As the Social Studies Department Chair, Troy gained experience working dually as a teacher and administrator. "You never want to be too far removed from the work that's going on in classrooms," she says. "Connected to kids, connected to teachers in the classroom... I think that's how I envision this role. And I think that's the beauty of being a department chair, you really have a foot in each world." She supervised and evaluated staff, while maintaining a watchful eye over the needs of her students. She now benefits from the advantage of knowing how middle school students operate, and how to form relationships with them.

Troy first heard of the Latin term 'cura personalis' in college, and has since pledged to the philosophy as her role as educational leader. Translating to "care for the entire body," she seeks to balance a student's academics with social, emotional, and physical needs. "Take care of their social and emotional needs, help them manage stress and anxiety... and obviously all the extra things that happen at the middle school, like modified sports, and clubs," says Troy, a marathon runner. "Those things are so important to let kids find their passion and excel in other areas where they don't excel in. You know, showcase that."

In addition to this doctrine, Troy's goals include watching and learning her first year. "It's important for me to really learn other people's' perspectives in order to help shape my own... because I really am coming from one perspective... one discipline, one house." She seeks to be as visible as possible and wants to build relationships with students not only in times of crisis. She is redesigning her office with a round table and stools, to foster and facilitate casual student conversation. Troy is working on a district-wide initiative of wellness, in which she connects with students and faculty in order to reduce stress and reinforce positive psychology.

One way she will try to accomplish this is through a change in the cellphone policy. Though students are already prohibited from phone usage in class, Troy wants to encourange students to put their cell phones away when they enter school in the morning so that they can connect with each other and faculty - and focus on the day ahead. Phones, she added, are too much of a distraction for students in school, who she believes should engage with peers, faculty and life at school. At dismissal, kids can again use their phones to contact their parents.

Troy also aspires to foster parent involvement. She highlights the creation of a Twitter account, which will let parents and students know the day-to-day happenings at the school. She is working closely with the PTA and plans several coffee gatherings with parents in October, in which she will explain initiatives to parents and host an open discussion. Troy also has a column in the monthly PTA newsletter, as well as a weekly faculty newsletter, which outline what has happened and what is to come. The faculty newsletter operates for teachers' professional development, by exposing lesson plans across the school and allowing for cross-pollination of ideas. "There's never too much communication. And the more transparent and open we can be, the better off everyone is."

Note to Parents and Students: The schedule for a middle school day will change in September: 16 minutes of instructional time will be added to each day. Homeroom will be removed, and first period will start at 8:10 a.m. The final bell will sound at 2:36 p.m. Incoming sixth graders will, however, be assigned a homeroom class the first week in order to help their transition. Announcements and special passes will be delivered electronically.

Letter to the Editor: Greenacres: Construction Plans Should Emphasize Safety and Parent Involvement

Construction-Hard-HatsDear Editor: Before the new school year begins, the Scarsdale Board of Education will work with the District architects and newly  hired construction manager to address many of the unanswered questions regarding how to extensively renovate Greenacres Elementary School while dealing with a multitude of logistical issues, including student and staff safety, noise levels, traffic, parking, construction material and equipment storage and the expected use of at least part of the Greenacres field for construction purposes.

As the parents of several young children who are expected to spend 2-3 years of their elementary school years in the midst of this project, we believe that any construction implementation plan must, at a minimum, include the following components to provide for the safety of the children. We urge the Board to implement each of these, regardless of whether they exceed the bare "minimum" required by state law:

1. A commitment that either (a) no interior work will be done during the school year or (b) all students will be removed from the building for the duration of the project
2. A ban on outdoor construction activity that could produce airborne dust or debris during times when students will be outdoors and near the construction
3. HEPA filtered fresh air for all student environments (including the multipurpose room and gym) and sealing off of those areas from all outdoor dust and debris
4. Establishment of noise standards for construction activity with frequent independent monitoring and a mechanism for teachers to immediately shut down construction activity that interferes with student learning
5. No storage of construction materials, equipment or vehicles near student learning or recreational spaces
6. Posting of crossing guards / safety monitors during all times that students will be walking near construction activity or areas
7. No construction activity or deliveries during drop off or pick up times (including after school club pick up)
8. Lengthening of the shorter, new-for-2017 four minute long morning drop off period to account for construction related disruption
9. Accommodations for parent parking during school year construction (particularly if the Montrose parking spaces will be utilized for construction)
10. A commitment to real time online accessibility of all construction related documents material to student safety, including air quality, noise level and safety reports, material safety data sheets, test results, incident reports, the CIP and staging plans and, most critically, any changes to the foregoing
11. Expansion of the Greenacres Building Committee to include parents from all grade levels
12. Formation of a safety committee open to all interested Greenacres parents and teachers to establish a direct line of communication to the construction manager and to monitor compliance with the CIP and other construction implementation issues

In addition, as the architects work to finalize their renovation plans, we urge them to consider the following changes:

1. No parking lot should be constructed on Huntington Avenue between the school and the field as it would require the children to cross a road and a parking lot to access recreational facilities and make access to bathrooms even more difficult
2. The architects should study and propose plans for (a) physical alterations to improve drop off, pick up, traffic and parking during and after construction, including options to close Huntington to traffic during the school day to enhance safety and (b) adding bathrooms to the field to minimize the need for students to be escorted across Huntington during recess and gym (a teacher safety concern documented by the prior Greenacres Building Committee)
3. Fire sprinklers should be added to the entire building to maximize student safety
4. All lead pipes should be removed (filters are not an acceptable long term solution)
5. Air conditioning should be added to all student learning environments (the incremental cost is minimal given the size of the project and almost the entire building will already be under construction)
We hope that the Board and District will carefully consider and address all of these issues as they work to reassure concerned parents that every effort will be made to make both a Greenacres renovation project and the school building itself as safe as they could possibly be.

Sincerely,
Christopher and Lynn Marvin
Elm Road

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