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Greenacres and the 2017 Bond: What You Should Know

GreenacresSchoolIf you've heard about a potential $60 million bond referendum this coming December for the Scarsdale Schools but don't have the patience to sit through lengthy meetings, here's the lowdown on what's in, what's out and what's TBD.

Financing:

As of the September 11 meeting of the Board of Education, the amount of the bond has crept up from $60 million to $64.99 million to fund an expansion and renovation at Greenacres School and district-wide infrastructure improvements such as roofs, boilers, electric and new ventilators to meet current fresh air standards. Work at Greenacres represents 62% of the bond.

Here's how the numbers breakdown:

Greenacres Renovation and Expansion: $33,240,430
Greenacres Facilities Work: $5,538,314
8 Temporary Classsrooms (Trailers) $1,500,000

Total Greenacres: $40,278,744

Facilities Work at Other Schools: $24,003,147
Security Vestibules: $708,246

Total Bond: $64,990,137

Here are the current plans for Greenacres and other district schools as of the September 11, 2017 meeting of the Board of Education:

Space:

New Addition:

The school will receive a very large addition on the Huntington Avenue side of the school. It will include eight new 800 square foot classrooms, a new learning commons and a kitchen to provide cafeteria service. The new portions of the school will be air-conditioned. The 3,000 square foot learning commons will be adjacent to the kitchen and existing multipurpose room and it will be two-stories high. The new space will accommodate the school population for lunch – and when the tables are cleared away the multi-purpose room can be used for gym as it will no longer be used as a music room.

Recreation:

The existing gym/auditorium will remain. The windows will be covered up by the classroom addition so skylights will be added to bring in natural light. The gym will not be air conditioned as the consultants have found that the existing ventilation system is adequate.

Existing Classrooms, Hallways and Common Rooms:

Plans call for interior renovations to the existing classrooms for "21st century learning" – however no details have yet been provided about what that means. It appears that these rooms will receive new flooring but beyond that, nothing has yet been decided.

Several of these existing classrooms are small – under 800 square feet -- when national standards call for classrooms of 900 square feet. In addition, the district is now permitting co-taught classes to include more than the maximum number of students, making these classrooms even tighter. Architects might have used this opportunity to eliminate a classroom or two to form larger rooms with the space, however these classes will remain as they are.

Plans call for new paint in the halls, multi-purpose room and gym, replacement of the ceilings in the hall and the relocation of six drinking fountains.

Infrastructure:

Existing classrooms will be given new unit ventilators to bring fresh air in from the outside. This air will not be temperature controlled, bringing hot or cold air into the rooms depending on conditions outside. According to Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey, "The unit ventilators are recommended due to their age (vintage 1950's). They are not mandated to be removed nor has any air sampling shown that their is an air quality issue. This vintage UV do not meet current code for fresh air exchange but are indeed grandfathered. As you know, Edgewood and Fox Meadow do not have any active fresh air exchange which is also proposed to be addressed as part of the bond scope as well as other areas across the district which are listed in the complete list of items that have been provided in the presentations." The 2015 Feasability Study by the Greenacres Building Committee recommended that, "If Option B1 was selected and was only partially implemented due to cost restrictions there was a strong feeling that the initial phase should include all work related to updating the heating and ventilation systems in all parts of the existing building.

The water and sanitary piping will not be replaced, despite water quality reports that show lead in the water. This problem will continue to be remediated with lead filters.

On the lower level, where the previous report showed problems with moisture and water infiltration, a commercial dehumidification system will be installed and the "condensate will be tied to the sanitary system." The music and art classrooms that were downstairs will be moved upstairs and the basement will no longer be used for instruction. The current architects say there is no problem with water, moisture or mold. This area has been designated for school and district storage.

Traffic and Parking:

Drop-off and pick-up have been perennial issues at the school as it is surrounded by three residential streets and lacks space for a driveway, entrance canopy and parking lot. If plans proceed for cafeteria service, presumably more staff will be needed and it is not clear where they will park.

The 2015 Feasability Study concluded that, "Additional parking should also be explored further independent of the building project planning process." 

To date, the district has not released a traffic study of the area and the current plan has no provisions for traffic or parking. Administrators are looking to the Greenacres Building Committee to come up with solutions.

Similarly, as the playground and fields are across the street, children need to cross Huntington Avenue to access these facilities. Architects have not provided a plan on access to the fields from the building.

Food Delivery and Trash:

If food service is to be provided, presumably there will be frequent food deliveries to the school. The new plans do not include a loading dock or provisions for food delivery trucks or a place for garbage/waste.

Construction Plans:

The construction management firm, Park East, has put forth two schedules for construction which they say can be a accomplished during two summers and one school year, beginning either June or September 2019, pending approvals from the State Education Department. During this time, most of the children will be in the school, with eight trailers on the field. No details have been provided about which classrooms would be relocated to the trailers.

Access:

During the construction period, the Huntington Avenue side of the school will be closed off and the school population will need to enter and exit on Putnam Road or Sage Terrace. The blacktop area across the street that is now used for basketball, games and play will become the staging area for the construction equipment. During the construction, kids will need to walk around the school and across the street to access the playground that will be adjacent to the construction staging area.

Facilities Improvements at Other District Schools:

Architects are proposing $29 million in district-wide infrastructure improvements (including Greenacres) based on their facilities survey. These items have been given a priority of 1, 2 and 3 and you can see the entire list here.

90% of these projects fall into the following categories:

Roof replacement: 27%

HVAC for new fresh air systems: 22%

Unit ventilators for Greenacres and SHS: 12 %

Boiler Replacement: 10%

Fields and Site Work at Greenacres and SHS: 6.5% (includes new sod, drainage remediation and playability upgrades at Dean Field for $1.4 million)

Electric replacement of old circuit breakers with new panels and replacement of rusted switches: 6%

Masonry replacement at SMS and SHS 3.25%

Door replacement, handrails, ADA door operators: 2.9%

Schedule for Bond Approval:

The administration has outlined a rapid plan for approval of the funding, with a vote by the Board of Education scheduled for October 16 or October 23 if more time is needed. The project requires SEQRA review, a study of environmental impacts. Pending SEQRA and board approval, there would be a district wide bond referendum on December 14, 2017.

What's Next?

From the discussion at the Board of Education meeting, it appeared that most of the Board members were sold on the plans. They asked questions but seemed content with responses from the architects and construction firm. For example, they asked about the condition of the foundation and basement at Greenacres but appeared satisfied with the architects' claims that there were no current problems. They probed into the proposed construction schedule and were assured by representatives from Park East that the work could be done in just one school year and two summers.

Board member Nina Cannon asked for more information about the feasibility of putting the students into temporary space during the construction, saying, this might be helpful in "getting the community to coalesce." She said, "Anything can happen and I do trust in the expertise of our consultants but I would like to know what's involved(in getting temporary space.)"

However, Dr. Hagerman sought to dismiss this request saying, "Modulars are not healthy – they are only temporary. I am only in favor of them as a short-term solution." In terms of busing the children to another location, he said, "I don't know of anything that's close by and is a substitute." Board President Bill Natbony agreed, saying, "I think it will be unfeasible. I think we have successfully done construction projects for years. We are being told it is not necessary." Pam Feuhrer added, "I am reassured that everything can be done safely without moving the students."

Despite that fact that the Board is agreed that the students should remain in the school during a renovation, there appears to be strong opposition from parents who will have students in the school at the time.

Greenacres' dad and attorney Tony Corrigio spoke during the public comments about the risks of lead, asbestos and noise during the construction but was shouted off the mic after he exceeded his three minutes. He said, "We are dealing with elementary school students who are at a higher risk. These are younger children and if they get the remediation wrong you can injure children for life. You are going to fall down due to unforeseen conditions. You don't know what you'll find when you tear down the walls which could require you to stop work and exceed the ten weeks allotted during the summer. ... If you examine the cost/benefits of getting the kids out of the school during the construction, you would go a long way toward creating a unified Greenacres. This community should be talking about best practices. What is the best we can do? Not what is the minimum we can do. The law is the minimum standard... It is not the gold standard. Our kids are sacrificing for the last 100 years and the next 100 years."

Corrigio is not alone. A group of Greenacres parents who are concerned about construction risks has been formed with the mission of "advocating for the complete relocation of Greenacres children during a renovation." They retained lawyers to represent them as well. It is difficult to determine whether or not these concerns will be heard by the Board.

Similarly, the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale has studied the proposal and posed a lengthy list of questions about the process of developing the bond proposal, the educational thinking behind the facilities plan, the timing of the bond referendum and lack of opportunities for community input, as well as questions about the specific plans for Greenacres.

When Mary Beth Evans Chair of the LWVS School Bond Study Committee asked the Board at the 9-11 meeting when there would be opportunity for community comment on the bond proposal, School Board President Bill Natbony said, "We have a Greenacres facilities committee and you have the members, so those are members that the community can obviously contact. We're here and we're responding to every communication that we get. There will be a District-wide District Facilities Committee that hopefully will start to meet on Wednesday [9/13] -- if not, the following week. So, all those opportunities are there, and, certainly, we welcome the input."

The architectural plans for Greenacres were unveiled on August 24, 2017 and in less than two months the administration hopes to have approval from the Board of Education for a massive addition to Greenacres as well as big ticket facilities plans that represent the largest spending plan in the district's history.

The administration has formed both a Greenacres Building Committee and a District-Wide Facilities Committee to review the plans, offer input and communicate the plans to residents at large. They are depending on the support of these two groups to gain consensus for passage of a bond. In the next few weeks the Board of Education will assess whether they have the necessary approvals and sufficient backing to hold a bond vote before the end of the year.

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.

constructionbudget

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:

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.

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.

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