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You are here: Home Section Table School News Greenacres Elementary Task Force Recommends a "No" Vote on the Bond on February 8
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Greenacres Elementary Task Force Recommends a "No" Vote on the Bond on February 8

greenacresschoolThe Greenacres Elementary Task Force represents residents of Scarsdale who have significant concerns about the unmet facilities needs of Greenacres Elementary School and the health and safety aspects of a proposed renovation of the school.

We have advocated for an inclusive and transparent bond planning process, collaborative discussion of Greenacres' needs, fiscal responsibility, and a major focus on safety during any construction.

After careful consideration, the Task Force recommends a "No" vote on the 2018 Scarsdale school bond. We believe the bond is the product of a flawed planning process, offers a poor return on investment, and fails to address important safety concerns. We propose to work together with the School Board to develop and promote a new bond that offers worthwhile investment for all of Scarsdale while protecting our kids and teachers.

Process
Efforts to identify and incorporate community values were disingenuous, and no clear vision of the long-term investment of this bond was ever convincingly articulated. Many major decisions during this process were also made unilaterally behind closed doors.

There are too many examples of the flawed process to fully recount here, but some major events included:

  • Failing to adequately engage both Greenacres and all of Scarsdale in meaningful two-way dialogue;
  • Firing the former District architects and then hiring new ones and revealing the related RFP only after public pressure;
  • Holding the most important meeting of the process in determining the future plans for Greenacres on a weekday morning during a summer holiday week when many residents were out of town;
  • Inexplicably limiting the Greenacres discussion to a single renovation option;
  • Surveying residents purportedly to identify their facilities concerns but intentionally omitting a response that would have allowed residents to indicate their preference for a new Greenacres building;
  • Failing to form a Greenacres Building Committee until all major decisions had already been made, in contrast with renovation proposals at the other schools, then ignoring the most important recommendations made by the Greenacres Building Committee and the District-wide Facilities Committee;
  • Ignoring strong demand from surveyed residents for air conditioning throughout the District; and
  • Failing to pursue viable parking options for Greenacres or even to perform a traffic study when those issues have long been identified as significant Greenacres concerns.

With this history, perhaps it should come as no surprise that such a process resulted in a flawed and very atypical school bond proposal.

Return on Investment
The 2018 bond's proposed renovation of Greenacres is merely an expensive band-aid for a school building with significant unmet needs, including:

  • Small, antiquated classrooms for the younger grades;
  • Over 100-year old lead water pipes and aging sanitary pipes;
  • Ongoing issues with mold that more than once the District has incorrectly insisted had been fully addressed;
  • Lack of energy-efficiency and sustainability planning;
  • Inadequate parking and a precarious drop-off and pick-up traffic situation;
  • Lack of fire safety sprinklers as required in all new construction; and
  • Uniquely poor site plan that requires children to cross a road to access the playground.

Virtually none of these issues will be addressed by the $35 million renovation. In addition, the architects indicated that several million dollars of additional work will be required over the next decade. Is this the best use of Scarsdale's resources?

It is important to note that we are not promoting that a new Greenacres school would be the only acceptable solution should the February 8th bond vote fail. However, as recently emphasized by the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale in announcing why the League does not support this bond, the community was never provided with a full cost-benefit analysis to renovate and expand versus build a new Greenacres School. The Board's supposed comparative fiscal analysis assumes a $60 million cost for a new school without having conducted a true cost study. No architectural plans were ever drawn for a cost estimate nor were any options presented for study. In any case, the Board's myopic focus on cost alone ignores the crucial other side of any cost-benefit analysis: what would be the value of such an investment to the Scarsdale community?

Safety
As parents, we continue to believe that there are major, unaddressed safety issues with renovating the uniquely space-constrained Greenacres School while children are inside.

The 2018 bond does not include several safety recommendations endorsed by the Greenacres Building Committee and the Districtwide Facilities Committee, including modular classrooms to be used as swing space in the likely event of construction delays. These recommendations were ignored, and the Greenacres Building Committee was summarily dismissed prior to the Board making its final bond recommendation.

Additional safety concerns include:

  • Potential hazards resulting from the opening of walls that likely contain asbestos, lead and other toxic materials;
  • Playground in very close proximity to and surrounded by construction (an option to relocate the playground away from construction was dismissed without public discussion);
  • Use of cranes at Greenacres, including a statement by the District's Construction Manager that the kids will be around "swinging steel" for some time; and
  • Exacerbation of significant, existing issues with student drop-off, pick-up, traffic and parking.

The District has yet to come up with a contingency plan on where to move the children and staff should unexpected toxins be found in the renovation, or a detailed plan of how the children and staff will be protected at each stage of the renovation. Our children's and school staff's safety during this proposed renovation process should not be put at risk.

This renovation cannot be compared to other school renovations. The Greenacres project would be the largest renovation project in the history of Scarsdale's elementary schools, in its oldest school building, on a site offering the least amount of room to accommodate the demands of construction. There is no margin for error.

Greenacres may be the first, but it won't be the last of Scarsdale's aging elementary schools to be subject to major construction. The precedent established for Greenacres will eventually affect all of Scarsdale's elementary schools. We must get this right.

Conclusion
Many of us moved to Scarsdale due to its reputation for educational excellence. We believe that a well-articulated, long-term vision of how this bond invests in improving the Scarsdale school system should have been apparent and guided the bond development process from the beginning. This lack of vision and flawed process has led to a bond proposal with unclear educational and facilities goals, as well as a lack of critical safety contingencies.

As Greenacres residents whose neighborhood school would receive the majority of work under this bond, we are particularly disappointed to find ourselves recommending a "No" vote on February 8th, but we believe that is the better choice not only for Greenacres, but for all of Scarsdale.

We therefore encourage all Scarsdale voters to join us in voting "No" on February 8.

For more information on our efforts, please visit www.greenacrestaskforce.org and https://www.facebook.com/greenacrestaskforce/.

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