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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?

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