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The Buzz on the Bond

thebuzzThe vote on the largest bond referendum in Scarsdale's history is just weeks away. On February 8, 2018 residents will vote yea or nay on a controversial $64.9 million bond to underwrite the renovation and expansion of Greenacres Elementary School and infrastructure repairs and upgrades at other district schools. The proposal has been years in the making and has elicited strong views from many different factions of the community.

Here are a few of the comments we've heard over the past few months:

One observer said, "There was something wrong with the decision making process. After community dissent the superintendent declared a six-month moratorium. And when he brought the issue up again he had fired the district architect, sought new architects and wouldn't show the community the RFP for the work. Next thing we knew we were given one option for a renovation. We were not given a realistic analysis of the long-term costs of renovating the old school or the long-term savings of a sustainable new school. It seemed like Superintendent Hagerman made up his mind and then pressured the Board of Education and the community to go along with his plan. This is not the way we make decisions or build consensus in Scarsdale."

A young Greenacres parent said, "If this bond referendum is approved, my child will be in the school during the renovation. I have serious concerns about the construction timeline and the safety of the kids. First, it's taken the district 18 months to build one library onto Edgewood – how do they expect to build this massive addition at Greenacres in 15 months? There are lead pipes, there's asbestos and mold. What happens when they open up the walls? The gym has very poor ventilation and there's no plan to install air conditioning. The kids will have to walk by a noisy, dusty construction site to cross the street to get to the playground and the blacktop will be covered with construction equipment. It's already hard enough to drop off and pick up the kids. Consider the process when we have to drive around cranes and backhoes. We're looking into sending my daughter to private school, and it's a shame, because she loves Greenacres and is doing well there. And I'm not the only one who will pull their child from the district if this plan goes through."

A mother of high school students who is a proponent of the plan explained her view as follows. She said, "If we don't approve this, we'll get nothing. The funds will go away. I am tired of all of the arguing .... if the bond passes, at least something will happen at Greenacres. Also – if we build a new school at Greenacres, what will the district do when people at Edgewood and Fox Meadow starting asking for new buildings? We can't afford that! My taxes are high enough."

A lifelong resident of Greenacres who served on one of the Greenacres Building Committees and knows Greenacres well, said, "We are putting a band aid on serious problems at the Greenacres School... mold which will keep recurring because the water problems are still there, as well as lead pipes and the potential for asbestos in the walls. Many of the classrooms will still not be large enough for today's collaborative learning. They have not dealt with the huge parking problem and they are destroying the character of the building itself with the huge addition covering the front façade. I am concerned that we're spending good money for a bad result."

An empty nester said, "People think that if you're against this plan you're holding out for a new school. That's not why I am voting "no." In fact, I am perfectly happy to leave the school where it is. My objection is that they didn't provide a plan to clean up the existing school – to fix the dirt crawl spaces, get rid of the mold, replace all the lead pipes, install air conditioning and expand the existing classrooms to today's standards. Why wasn't this considered instead of the addition of a big cafeteria. Who asked for that?"

Longtime residents question if there is anything wrong with the current school. They say, "My kids went to Greenacres and they did fine! The building has been here for over a century. Why do we need to change it? My kids learned to ride their bikes on the blacktop and I like the field the way it is."

Some question the cost estimates. A neighbor said, "They say we will spend $35 million on Greenacres now, with another $5-$6 million in repairs down the road. That's $40 million of taxpayer money. I've seen new schools built all over the country for less than that amount. Have they given us a realistic estimate of what a new sustainable school would cost now – and in the future?"

Another long time resident who has been involved in village affairs said, "It seems to me this entire decision started with the premise of tax neutrality. Since when is that the primary driver? Most people who move here do so because of the excellence of our schools. Shouldn't we put excellence first?"

A mother of athletes said, "If they build the school on the field, we are going to lose another athletic field! We need that space."

Considering the years of decision-making, another woman said, "The district and the Board of Education have put years of work into this proposal. Maybe it's not perfect, but this is the best plan they could craft that is tax neutral and addresses issues like boilers and roofs. Trust that the Board has made the right decision for the community."

A friend who is trying to sell her 1940's house said, "I can't understand it. The Superintendent keeps saying that the Greenacres School is quaint and historic and the proposal maintains the building's character. But all the potential buyers who look at my house want new, new, new. They ask questions about the pipes and the basement and complain that we have too many small rooms. Why would these young parents want to move to a neighborhood with an antiquated school?

And another Scarsdale long timer said, "People shouldn't feel that we're putting the money into Greenacres only. We all live in Scarsdale. It's the Scarsdale School District not the Greenacres or the Fox Meadow district. People don't move here for a particular elementary school. Residents can't possibly think they will never have to build another school. Schools do not last forever. They will need to be rebuilt. If not now, when? All the schools are our schools. When we improve a school or build a new one, we improve the entire district."

What do you think? How will you vote?

Comments   

#17 Hm.. 2018-01-26 12:54
Wow... whoever you are please look yourself in the mirror and tell us what you see...
Quoting Youfigureditout:
Joanne and her blog are garbage. She is a bored housewife who has never accomplished much. So she spends time gossipping and trashing residents.


Quoting K. Ramza:
Joanne - comments from people against the bond are ok but any comments critical or your article or in favor of the bond are cast aside? That's not right.
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#16 The right comparison 2018-01-25 16:57
Why the comparisons with colleges? Just look around at what k-12 schools are doing locally, nationally and globally and you’ll realize the Greenacres project aspires to middling
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#15 Resident 2018-01-25 05:24
It would have been much more prudent to spend $10mm on fixing the existing Greenacres building and add districtwide AC. It would be a much better use of funds. The teachers at Greenacres would probably prefer AC to the monster cafeteria being built.

They have no idea what they want to do with districtwide AC because they have no long range plan for facilities. I belive this was the issue highlighted by Chris Morin.
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#14 G.Schwartz 2018-01-24 23:54
What more do you want? You want to replace every pipe, nail and screw in the building even though not one expert said it was necessary? You want to tear down the building so we can add 50 more square feet to a couple of undersized classrooms? What a waste. Let’s spend that money on District wide A/C or other more impactful projects.

Quoting Resident:
Remember that Harvard, Princeton, etc, gut renovate their buildings. They come up with a "model program", empty the building, and rip out the insides so the building can be completely reconfigured. If they came up with a renovation project that made this building meet that then it would make sense. Here they came up with a renovation that can be done over 2 summers. The guts are staying intact. This is bringing a building up to mediocrity for $35mm.
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#13 Harvard Grad 2018-01-24 18:00
Funny, a number of the renovations of buildings I'm familiar with at Harvard didn't involve "coming up with a model program" and then "ripping out the insides so that the building could be completely reconfigured." We don't have the biggest endowment in the history of the world at Harvard by throwing it down the drain for no good reason. Sometimes we have to do gut renovations, sometimes we just modernize our classrooms, make old bathrooms ADA compliant, put in new wiring, lighting, lounges, and the like.

But you must have gone to Princeton. I hear Princeton doesn't strive for mediocrity like we do at Harvard. At Princeton, they pick a model program and go to town, spare no expense, and get the all important number 1 ranking in US News & World Report because we all know that's what matters!
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#12 Resident 2018-01-24 16:38
Remember that Harvard, Princeton, etc, gut renovate their buildings. They come up with a "model program", empty the building, and rip out the insides so the building can be completely reconfigured. If they came up with a renovation project that made this building meet that then it would make sense. Here they came up with a renovation that can be done over 2 summers. The guts are staying intact. This is bringing a building up to mediocrity for $35mm.
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#11 G. Schwartz 2018-01-24 14:12
There is nothing at all mediocre about what is planned. GA will have a fully renovated and expanded school. If only brand new buildings can properly educate children, then we should tear down all of our schools and while we are at it, we should tear down all the old buildings at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, Cornell, Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin...

Quoting Resident:
They said a new school is not needed and we can be mediocre without it. Rather than striving for the model program we decided to drive for mediocrity. We are racing to the bottom! I am guessing this is what the League of Women voters objected to and Bob Berg supports.
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#10 Befuddled 2018-01-24 12:24
It seems strange to consider approving ANY new expenditures or commitments without evaluating them in the new tax environment. All school and village expenditures now cost residents much more $$ than they previously did. Unless money really is no object, the likelihood of a proposal that might have made sense two months ago still making sense is minimal. Have the bond proponents addressed this? The timing of the tax changes and the bond vote have given Scarsdale to opportunity to potentially dodge a bullet - the opportunity should be taken!
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#9 Resident 2018-01-24 10:35
They said a new school is not needed and we can be mediocre without it. Rather than striving for the model program we decided to drive for mediocrity. We are racing to the bottom! I am guessing this is what the League of Women voters objected to and Bob Berg supports.
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#8 To Scarsdale Parent 2018-01-23 21:46
The Board studied the need for a school for 3 years. 2 architectural firms said we don’t need one. Both firms provided cost estimates of a new school way above the renovation option. The District and Board Concluded that we don’t need a new school and that the renovation was the best approach. They have proposed an addition and renovation that greatly enhances the school with the added benefit of being tax neutral. We should be happy we don’t need to spend materially more to build a new school and we now have the ability spend those dollars on something else if the community will support it.
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