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hardhatBelow is a letter from Wendy Shi, a member of the Greenacres Elementary Task Force. Her letter compares the cost of the propsed Greenacres renovations and a new Greenacres school. 

To the Editor: The construction industry recognizes that the threshold when deciding whether it is cost-effective to renovate or build new is that renovation is unjustified if it will cost somewhere in the 65% range of what new construction would cost. In fact, the District's current architect acknowledges that spending between 40%-50% on a renovation could only be justified if the end-result was satisfactory. Despite this, the architect proposes a renovation of Greenacres that will not address the objectives set by the School Board or address the safety of the children in a project that will cost, conservatively, as much as what a new school would cost and, more than likely, up to $15 million more than what a new school would cost after appropriate adjustments are made. Therefore, moving ahead with a renovation is unjustifiable and Scarsdale should build a new school for Greenacres.

The architect states that the renovation will cost $30 million but acknowledges that this number erroneously omits $8 million that would be required through funding from future operating budgets. Therefore, by the architect's own calculation, the cost of the renovation is actually $38 million.

The architect then states that a new school will cost $59 million – an estimate he arrives at by multiplying a school of 74,000 square feet by a per-square-foot-cost of $800. But, at the June 22, 2017 public forum, the architect dropped this number to approximately $700 psf and many in the industry say a school can be built for less than $600 psf. In addition, because the proposed renovation does not meet state requirements, the District would receive between $4 and $10 million more in state aid if it constructs a new school than if it renovates. A new school would also provide $3-5 million in cost savings over time through more efficient and sustainable (geo-thermal heating and cooling, etc.) infrastructure that requires fewer repairs over time. Therefore, the actual cost of a new school would be in the range of $29.4 million and $45 million.

Furthermore, the current proposal leaves theletter-to-the-editorchildren in the school during renovation, subjecting them to environmental hazards and the architect's budget does not include any protection for the children. The previous architect stated that removing the children from the school to ensure their safety would cost between $4 and $7 million. Accordingly, if the Board takes the responsible approach and requires that the children be removed from harms' way, the cost of renovation would increase to $45 million.

Below is a summary showing the cost comparisons: project costs

Therefore, a renovation may be the same price or even $15 million more expensive than a new school! I note that this is entirely consistent with the initial proposal from the first architect that showed a renovation costing about the same amount as a new school (before taking into account state aid).

Even with the high cost of renovation, the architect and Administration acknowledge that the renovation is inferior to new construction but simply state, without any backup or specifics, that the proposed renovation will be adequate. But, it won't be. The renovation does not address either the spatial or infrastructure needs of the current school and leaves the students and community with an out-dated and inadequate building.

Accordingly, it is shocking that the renovation is even being considered and it would be completely inappropriate and indefensible for the Board to sanction such an approach. Instead, the Board should pursue a new, state-of-the-art facility.

The proposed renovation is an unjustifiable expense that does not address the needs of the current school, while a new school is a cost-effective and innovative investment that continues Scarsdale's tradition of education excellence.

Wendy Shi
Brewster Road
Member of the Greenacres Elementary Task Force

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mmovinginA much discussed policy on the admittance of non-resident students has been revised by the district lawyers and will be voted on at the meeting of the Scarsdale School Board on July 6th. At the end of the June 12 meeting, where they was a first reading, Dr. Hagerman announced that these were in the agenda but did not read or explain the changes. There was no board discussion about the policies at that time.

Policy 5152 dictates rules for the admission of non-resident students to district schools. After the district got more stringent about enforcing these rules during the school year, complaints emerged, specifically from divorced parents and those whose homes were being renovated.

You can view the proposed revisions here:

Here is a review of the changes:

First, the old policy said that the district will accept tuition paying students under limited circumstances, and with the approval of the Superintendent and Board of Education. In the new policy, "the Board of Education" has been eliminated, and instead says, "with the approval of the Superintendent, subject to the provision of this policy."

The prior policy required payment of annual tuition for non-resident students up front, while the new policy allows for payment in three installments in September, January and April.

The prior policy allowed those who own an unoccupied house in the district to attend the school tuition-free provided that: the student had lived in the house for the prior three years, it was unoccupied due to a renovation and the parents continued to own the home and did purchase another residence.

In the new policy, this entire provision has been eliminated. Therefore, it appears that if you own a home in the district that is under renovation and move out, you will need to pay tuition to send your children to district schools.  This does not appear to conform to New York State law that does allow non-resident students to attend, "upon the consent of the trustees or the board of education," and stipulates, "The school authorities of a district or city must deduct from the tuition of a nonresident pupil, whose parent or guardian owns property in such district or city and pays a tax thereon for the support of the schools maintained in such district or city, the amount of such tax."

If you buy a house before the start of school but fail to move in, you can pay tuition for up to three months to enroll your children in school. After three months, if you have not moved in you will need an extension from the Superintendent to continue attending school. (Note: It is not clear from the policy what happens if you move in a few weeks after the start of school. Do you receive a pro-rated refund of the tuition paid?)

Students whose parents move out of the district after the completion of eleventh grade can pay tuition to finish at Scarsdale High School with the approval of the Superintendent and advance payment of tuition.

The former policy allowed children who were living with relatives, another Scarsdale family or foster parents to attend the schools if the Scarsdale caregivers were given full custody. However in the new policy, this clause has been deleted.But this appears to be contradicted in the implementation guidelines below t(5152R) where there is a provision for guardians to provide documentation of custody.

Regulation 5152-R details verification and investigation of pupil addresses. This was the provision that caused consternation among divorced parents who the district asked for custody arrangements and divorce agreements. This policy was also used to question people who had moved out of their homes during renovations.

Here are the proposed revisions to the policy: (Deleted text is in red – proposed new text is in green):

1. The address of the parents must be the address of residence for each student. If a student claims residence with a person other than his/her parent(s), evidence of the transfer of full care, custody, and control must be established by the person claiming such transfer. legal guardianship or permanent residence must be presented.

2. Should a student's address change at any time during his/her enrollment, residency must be confirmed by the parent. an acceptable document; e.g., a lease, a utility bill, a voter registration card.

3. If a student's address is not the address of his/her parent(s) or legal guardian(s), the Building Principal shall consult the Census Office to confirm the procedures used in determining the student's current address. The Census Office shall then investigate and provide specific evidence with regard to of the child's claim to of residency.

4. If the evidence indicates that a student's address has been purposefully changed in order for him/her to attend a school in a district other than the one he/she is legally entitled to attend, he/she shall be immediately excluded from the schools of the District consistent with the law. transferred to the appropriate district.

5. Student registration shall not be delayed pending verification of the address. A verification and/or investigation shall take place after student registration has been effected, but before the student is admitted for attendance.

The revisions to these policies will be voted on by the Board of Education at their July 6 meeting.

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yearbooks1On June 5th, the SHS senior class had the chance to look both backward and forward. They returned to the high school after weeks of Senior Options for Senior Transition Day. As the name suggests, the day sought to help seniors through this transition phase of their life. The day had three stages. First was a Q&A with Scarsdale Alumni who had recently finished their freshman year in college. Second, the seniors met with their respective deans. Lastly, the entire grade congregated in the gym to have lunch and receive and sign yearbooks.

For the Q&A, nine SHS graduates returned to give students information to help them through their college process. The alumni were each from different schools, allowing them to shed different perspectives. There was representation of schools big and small, specialized and liberal arts. Some of the questions these students answered included, "How prepared were you compared to your fellow classmates?" (To which the general response was that Scarsdale had prepared them exceedingly well)deanmeeting1, "How do you avoid the freshman fifteen?" (Make the most of fun gym options and avoid buying large quantities of chips), and "How can you create an ideal roommate situation?"(Communication, communication, communication). After just one hour, the seniors walked away with some great advice to help them make the most of their freshman year.

In the dean meeting I attended, Dean Iosepovici's, students were asked to answer one of three questions; either "What was your favorite SHS memory?", "If you could do one thing differently in SHS what would it have been?", and "Is there any one person who impacted your SHS journey most strongly?". Students recalled funny moments, gave sage advice, and thanked teachers and administrators who had helped them along their way. The seniors then wrote thank you letters to these teachers and were given a heartfelt send-off.

yearbooks2The main event was the third portion of the day. The SHS PTA presented students with an array of sandwiches, snacks, and baked goods, as well as their yearbooks. Along the walls were old photographs of the class from elementary and middle school, which students enjoyed with nostalgia. The seniors spent hours signing each other's books and looking at the photos within. The entire class filled the gym and filled blank pages with kind words and fond memories.

Though these seniors will be graduating Scarsdale High School on June 23rd as the school's 100th graduating class, it is clear that they have made lasting bonds. The event gave students a chance to fondly recall their experiences while developing plans for the future; a true transition.

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letter-to-the-editorHere is a letter to the editor from Chris and Lynn Marvin: The May 22nd unveiling of the Scarsdale School District's proposal to renovate Greenacres School with the "kids in place" rightfully has alarmed Greenacres parents. In less than one week, over half of Greenacres' current kindergarten and first grade families signed a new petition urging the School Board to thoroughly consider a full cost-benefit analysis of a new school option and include the costs of relocating Greenacres' students as a component of any possible renovation.

Why such concern from Greenacres' parents? A frequent response from the District and architects has been that other schools in Scarsdale have been renovated with "kids in place". But Greenacres is different, and a quick look at the aerial photos and plans provided by the architects illustrates why.

Given Greenacres' age and needs, the interior work proposed is greater than at any other elementary school with almost every part of the interior being touched. Although the most hazardous work will be done over 3-4 summers, are parents comfortable leaving Greenacres' children in the building for the rest of the work, including additions being built right outside of classrooms? We are not.

Secondly, the Greenacres building's existing footprint occupies almost all of its lot. But the architects have wedged in not one but two additions extending up to the sidewalks! Yet to be addressed with two of the three street-facing sides of the building under construction: how to deal with entry and exit from the building, pick up and drop off, access to the field, construction equipment and materials storage and construction crew parking? Will the blacktop be taken over for construction? These space constraints mean that Greenacres is different.

Finally, Greenacres is the only school to have been built across the street from its recreational fields. This poor design is the source of constant complaints about traffic and student safety. The District and Board are well aware of this problem, and it was documented as a Greenacres faculty concern in the Greenacres Building Committee's reports. Yet a renovation will never be able to fix this. In fact, it may make things worse! The latest proposal adds a 25 car parking lot over the current blacktop! So now Greenacres' children will be forced to cross a street and a parking lot to get to their recreational space! Again, no other school in Scarsdale has this issue, Greenacres is different.

Greenacres' differences therefore make renovation with the "kids in place" difficult, unwise and dangerous. And the sole focus on a renovation is a lost opportunity to finally fix, once and for all, longstanding issues with Greenacres that could never be solved with a renovation. How about a safe route for traffic with a proper, dedicated pick up and drop off area? What about room for expansion if sections split?

As a Greenacres parent, the School Board needs to hear your concerns. Please send them emails (, but more importantly, please talk to them in person during public comment at one of the few School Board meetings left before these plans are finalized.

We urge all Greenacres parents, particularly those with younger children, including children yet to begin elementary school to attend the Public Forums scheduled for Tuesday, June 20th at 9 am and 7 pm where parents will have the opportunity to ask questions of the architects directly and explain to them why Greenacres is different.

Christopher and Lynn Marvin
Elm Road

Here are remarks from Pam Rubin and Diane Greenwald, read at the Monday night June 12th meeting of the Scarsdale School Board:

I am reading this on behalf of Diane Greenwald and myself. With respect to this new bond, Diane and I share two things. We both served on the 2014 Bond Facilities Steering Committee and neither of lives in Greenacres- so we have no "skin in this game". We wish the Board and the community to know that we would support a bond dedicated primarily to one elementary school, Greenacres, and would even support the construction of a new school.

As members of the 2014 Bond Facilities Steering Committee, we remember that we made a promise to address the significant issues that face Greenacres. The needs were too serious to address in that bond, and we agreed with the administration's recommendation to address issues under future debt service drop off, all at once, rather than piecemeal and patch jobs. While we are surprised how long this has taken and how unpleasant this has become, it really is their turn, and it is fair. We further suggest that Greenacres residents remember they live in SCARSDALE and find a way to cooperate with each other, perhaps through facilitated dialogue of some kind.


In light of the BBS pre-schematic explorations, let us further explain why we believe GA is where it is:


We understood that the last bond was developed through a robust process that revealed the priorities organically from the building committees' up. It took time, it was a bit messy, but it created some buy in.


As we remember:


• Heathcote needed more lunch service space but wanted it built as a multi-purpose room (but not a full kitchen) and wanted it to be thoughtfully integrated into their iconic space. Construction begins this summer.


• Edgewood, in need of renovation at one corner, reviewed a cafeteria, but rejected it too, prioritizing instead a new, expanded library and reorganized office space.


• SMS added the orchestra practice room. They wanted but did not receive a multipurpose room.


• SHS, also seeking to improve the personalized and age-appropriate experience of our teens, opted for a learning commons to improve food service and support all kids - including socially - with flexible use. Though integral to the full project, private funding is also providing the much-needed new fitness space to support the PE curriculum and welcome all students to work out and be healthy -- and a D-lab for making, building and exploring.


• Fox Meadow, having expanded its kindergarten wing in a previous bond, recommended nearly no significant needs for capital bonding.


• And QRS, has had all their issues addressed in a previous bond and received a new roof last year.


While we can imagine some priorities may have shifted and new items need addressing, we are confused by the BBS introduction of 'commons' space. Commons as a concept seem appropriate for high school age students who might step in with a lap top and a snack; it is modeling a college-style commons space! We do not see how that translates to the elementary age. It would seem that the PTA's who make substantial revenue feeding students and school administration should be consulted before including expensive commons space with food service.


That was the long way of saying -- the District pause with new consultants should not be a wipe-out of our history and processes.


Now returning focus on Greenacres -- what we understand is that the water table there is very high, water issues will forever be a problem, and the building is over 100 years old. The building also has significant site limitations for expansion and there could be significant issues of disruption and risk for renovating in phases. You don't know what you will find - Many of us can relate to this reality when renovating. While many rightly love the character of older structures, this is a public space for educating children for the future, so different standards apply beyond aesthetics and nostalgia. Can we make this building work? maybe. Should we? We don't really know -but it continues to be reasonable to consider a new school as an option. And we should continue to explore this robustly. We need to know in a thorough and well-documented exploration with the financial and cost benefit analysis what this really could mean.


So, let's stay open to the possibility of something new! This is an opportunity to face forward with a 21st century state-of-the-art learning space that is serving all of Scarsdale! Fully engage the community and PTA leadership in open discussion. Provide sound financial cost benefit analysis and show us something that makes sense with adequate fields and open space, and a design that we can all agree meets our educational values and Scarsdale will support it.

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ableWhat appears to be a loving relationship can sometimes evolve into isolation, alienation and sadly violence. That's the subject of a disturbing film called "Escalation" that was viewed at the Scarsdale Library on Wednesday May 31. The movie and discussion that followed was hosted by the Teen Center who invited Sharon Robinson, founder of the OneLove Organization to lead the group in an exercise of identifying unhealthy relationships and helping victims safely extricate themselves from dangerous situations.

What's most confusing about these relationships is that abusers are often very charming and attractive and mask their need to dominate and control. They ensnare their victims in exclusive relationships, cutting them off from friends and then making impossible demands. Many of the victims are teens or in their early 20's and are too naïve to recognize the signs of abuse.

The film, "Escalation" depicts a relationship between two attractive college students. Initial infatuation evolves into a demanding, dangerous situation with tragic consequences after the girl breaks up with her boyfriend.

State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin has worked on many NYS laws to prevent domestic violence and she explained that the genesis for the legislation was the murder of heiress Anne Scripps Douglas who was killed by her husband in Bronxville in 1994 when she was only 44. The authorities refused to evict the man from their home after Scripps-Douglas went to them for help. Since that time Paulin has sponsored many bills to empower police and judges to protect victims of abuse.

In the weeks following a break-up, victims are especially vulnerable and should have protection and a getaway plan to safeguard themselves from abuse and violence.

Learn more about the signs of abusive relationships and what you can do to prevent them here

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