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Large Crowd Turns Out to Weigh in On the Future of Greenacres

GreenacresSchoolThough School Board President Lee Maude began the public comments section of the May 16 school board meeting by asking alarmed parents to refrain from "hyperbole, exaggeration and rhetoric" about the risks of proposed construction at Greenacres School, by the time the meeting drew to a close at the stroke of midnight, it seemed that the Board had been swayed by these same parents, and as a result, decided to change their course.

The room was packed with many residents who had previously come before the board to urge them to save Greenacres field and a newer group of parents with young children who currently go to the school or will be there during construction.

Many of them had emailed the board and Lee Maude assured them that all members of the Board review every letter they send in. She said, "In the last two weeks we got many, many letters about the Greenacres School. The Board will consider all points of view. The ultimate decision will be made by a bond referendum after a thorough examination of the facts by the board. We will also take into account the debt capacity of the district..... We have a lot to think about .... We will not base our decision on how many letters we receive from one side or the other. We have received many letters about the dangers of construction. Please know that the safety of children is our utmost concern. Many of the letters have made assertions about the hazards of construction debris ... We have received many letters that are alarmists and warning us of litigation."

There were two lengthy periods for public comment and you can watch the four hour meeting in its entirety here. Below are comments from some new voices who raised concerns that we had not previously heard:

Thomas Giuffra identified himself as a resident of 14 years who is an attorney who specializes in lead paint litigation. He said he has a five year-old who will start school next year. He said that kids ages 6-10 years old are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning, not from eating lead paint chips but from breathing lead dust. He said, "I don't want my son to pay the price. Look at the literature, it's no joke."boardmeeting

Dr. Katherine Miao of 51 Walworth Avenue said she had not previously gotten involved in the discussion because her family was not affected one way or the other. However she told the board, "I was concerned when I learned that the children would be inside the school." She referred to the Doll and Peto Report written by scientists at Oxford University in 1985, which analyzed the health risks from exposure to asbestos. The article says there is an exponential risk based on the age of the child. A child has 32 times the level of risk of developing cancer from asbestos exposure then their grandparent. More recent literature from Vanderbilt published last year, validated these results and said the risk may even be higher. She said, "I want the safest possible thing for the children."

Tony Corrigio of Brite Avenue said he is the father of three kids who will be in the construction zone. He asked the Board to reconsider option C. He said the footprint of the new building could be smaller and provide more green space. "These kids deserve an equal and safe opportunity to get an education here." The cost of the trailers for option B1 was taken out of the bid." Kids will have a materially higher likelihood of being exposed to a construction accident or mishandling of hazardous materials." Construction is the fourth most dangerous activity, the second most deadly activity in the U.S. You are dealing with electricity, fire, gravity, chemicals. You don't do it under the same roof where there are little kids. To knowingly subject kids to that level of risk is immoral."

Paulina Schwartz of Oakstwain Road quotedclassroomsize Board President Lee Maude at a March meeting where the board voted to take Option C off the table. Maude said, "it's what the community wants, but I just don't know about the kids over the next 40 years."

Schwartz presented her findings on the classroom sizes in the B1 option. She said that in some classrooms, kids are now sitting on the floor as there is not adequate room for desks for all the children. According to Schwartz, these small rooms will not be expanded during the renovation. Some of these classrooms are as small as 611 square feet. She said that the renovation would meet model program standards by providing new large classrooms for the older kids. However, in her view, the youngest children, who need space to move around, would still be stuffed into inadequate classrooms. She said, "Spending $40 million and getting a gym with no windows with the HVAC in basement? You should be nervous. You should give this community the best you have which is a new school."

Many more echoed concerns about safety, the disruption during construction and argued that the Board should not spend $40 to put a band-aid on the old school.

Also in the room were those who remain passionate about keeping the school where it is, and retaining the blacktop and the open field for both the school and the community. They said that the district has done many construction projects over the years without putting children at risk. They voiced concern about the expense of a new school and wondered if other neighborhoods would also ask for a new school.

Meredith Gantcher of Brewster Road, who was one of the leaders of the "Save the Field" campaign said that parents have "valid concerns." She said, "in light of the panic and alarm" she asked the board to educate the community about the hazards. She argued that kids at the high school would also be at risk during the upcoming renovation and said the "office move" at Greenacres was done with everyone's support. She asked the Board to respond to "rumors and heresay."

Madeline Hauptman asked the board about the water table at the field and questioned whether building there would impact the environment. Mike Greenberg said that if the original school were demolished, all the materials would blow all over the community and pose the same risks as a renovation. Marnie Gelfman said that "Option B1 remains the right choice." She said, "I sympathize with parents who do not want their kids in school during construction. However other renovations took place in occupied buildings without incident. I have confidence that the contractors will follow the law. The total net cost differential is a staggering $60 million. Option B1 is a responsible compromise."

There were two periods of discussion among the board and Dr. Hagerman during meeting. Below are comments made by board members at both times.

In a discussion with the board about next steps, Dr. Hagerman said that they would ask architects KG&D for several iterations of Option C to maximize green space. He wanted KG&D to explore making the new building more "stacked" or vertical and to consider different places to site the building on the field. He wanted to determine how a smaller gym and the elimination of the cafeteria would affect the price. Board members asked for an apples-to-apples comparison of what elements would be in option B1 versus Option C. along with temporary accommodations for Greenacres children if the renovation option was chosen. He said that it was important to make a timeline for the decision and to also bring the wider community into the discussion.

Art Rublin said, "These are school grounds ..... questions should be focused on the kids and what's best for the kids of Greenacres. .... I do think that a new building is not only better for the kids – and I don't think it would necessarily be more expensive in the long run."

Suzanne Seiden said, "I think we need to discuss the principles behind our decision. For me, Greenacres is the priority. The decision should be tax neutral. There is a fairness issue. Other schools have gotten a lot. We must check historical context within which to view this."

Scott Silberfein said, "I appreciate the process. It is incumbent upon us to do an iterative process on Option C. We need to get the facts. I would like to know what can be taken out or changed. We also need to see a version that includes trailers. We need to see how much that really is."

Pam Feuhrer posed questions about financing and energy efficiency said her "frustration with B1 is the small classroom sizes." She asked if that could be changed. She added, "I am concerned about the availability for capitol for the rest of the district for the next 15 or 30 years.

Chris Morin said, "It seems to me we want to know what the new building will cost and what the renovation will cost

Lee Maude said, "Having watched KG and D move from B to B1 ... we have not pushed them on C. What about a 3 story – not a 2 story building. I need to educate myself. I don't have all the facts. What about the water level on the field? I learned allot about the perils of asbestos and lead. And if we do B1, do we need to rent a temporary school for 2 years and is that feasible?

She concluded saying "Big decisions are messy."


#28 Yessi 2016-05-20 14:03
Obvious outcome: the project, whether new building or renovation, will be delayed.
In the end, both 'save the children' and 'save the field' crowds will win. No renovation dangerous materials to children in school, the field will be there.
Such a win-win! This debate will be left to homeowners who move here starting in 2020
#27 The other districts 2016-05-20 09:24
For the rest of the districts to support the bond will come down to: 1. final cost for Greenacres and 2. what do they get.
If they don't get anything (all bond will be used for Greenacres) there is zero chance the bonds will pass (as Tom Hagerman said in the wrap up).
As far as cost for Greenacres, what is it worth: paying $40m+trailers to band aid something that will keep coming back to ask for more, or starting something new that can cost (say $50m or less for Option C1?) where we are done for many years to come?
Trying to make this an issue of "my grass is not so green" is just your self reflection...
#26 Scarsdale Resident 2016-05-20 07:13
A lot of vocal folks in Greenacres keep focusing on their own neighborhood, exclusively. Edgewood and Fox Meadow are also extremely old. The families whose children attend those schools are aware enough to realize that their school buildings are pretty substandard in numerous ways. Having said that, those kids get a great Elementary School education. All the older buildings need work, and the newer ones need maintenance and improvement. And, more importantly, brand new doesn't necessarily mean better. The long-term outcome depends on the quality of the design, materials and workmanship. Many of the folks on the BOE are personally familiar with building design and construction - and have had their families live in their older homes while their homes were updated. Many of the older buildings in Scarsdale are far nicer than the spec houses that go up looking like McMansions. Folks advocating for a new school don't understand how expensive it will be to pay the Architects to design a new building that "everyone" approves. All you have to do is drive around Greenacres, and you can see that most people in the neighborhood have never actually paid an Architect to design and administer construction for a custom home. It is costly $$$$$$$. Lastly, it is dangerous to assume that the rest of the village will vote for one new school versus updating ALL the schools. It is the entire school district that is valuable to the folks who move in from Manhattan and around the country/world, and we move here because the folks who live and work here are pretty amazing!!
#25 Edgewood? Fox Meadow? 2016-05-20 01:32
Just wondering what this means for the families in Edgewood and Fox Meadow? Our kids go to an older school with small classrooms and outdated facilities. Do we get new schools too in this bond??
#24 Greenacres mom 2016-05-19 22:30
Quoting Storefront Lawyer:
I find the idea of litigation if the Board and Administration go ahead with the B1 proposal to be preposterous. Who are you going to sue? On what theory?

If B1 or a similar renovation project goes ahead, it only goes ahead because the public passes the bond referendum supporting it. So are you going to sue all registered voters in Scarsdale who supported the bond, lol?

If B1 goes ahead, are you going to try to get an injunction stopping construction on the grounds that it is inherently dangerous? Good luck with that. Instead of making stupid, baseless threats of litigation, why don't you read up on safe removal of hazardous materials during building renovations.

Please stop name calling. It doesn't make you smarter when you calling other people " stupid". It's the opposite. Grow up & accept the truth.
#23 Community Spirit?? 2016-05-19 18:20
I am glad to see the Board at least entertaining a new build. I believe it will be less costly in the long run and is definitely the right thing to do (and I do not have any children at the school, not will I). To those who say that the district will not support spending much on Greenacres, they need to remember that QR is a relatively new school. All the other schools will receive different levels of improvements - commensurate with their needs. If they are not receiving as much as Greenacres in the upcoming bond, that is because they fortunately are in better shape. The reason Greenacres is in line for a new school is because so little attention was paid to necessary updates and even basic maintenance over a period of many years. Now it is the broader community's turn to support Greenacres. The school needs so much now to bring it up to the 21st century because it was ignored for so long. I am glad we have a Board that is charged with looking out for the entire district. If we did not have the school board, this divisive village would never approve any expenses unless they or their children were going to directly benefit. Sadly, there is little community spirit in Scarsdale.
#22 Option C1 2016-05-19 17:35
Going ahead with Option C the way it is presented right now is not realistic, but the architects need come up with more alternatives that can: 1. reduce the cost 2. still build a school with right size classrooms and spaces.
Just look at the table in the article and see how many of the classrooms most needed to be improved aren't touched. You can't spend $40m and get such a low outcome.
#21 another Greenacres parent 2016-05-19 17:27
Quoting confused:
Is the new school even a real option given the costs and the fact that all the schools in Scarsdale need imporvments? Dr, Hagerman also said the bond will never just be for Greenacres. The astronomical costs will not pass. Lets find a safe way to renovate even it is finding another building or trailers to house the students for a year or 2. Let's be realistic please. Neighbor against neighbor needs to stop.

It is surprisingly expensive to renovate an old building. Building a new school will actually cost less over time. Hopefully the new C1 proposal that they will come up with will cut some costs. The prices will end up being very close and you get so much more with new school and so much less maintenance is required. If we do B1 you can guarantee that Greenacres will need to be in every future bond. If you build a new school Greenacres is done for 30 years.
#20 confused 2016-05-19 16:44
Is the new school even a real option given the costs and the fact that all the schools in Scarsdale need imporvments? Dr, Hagerman also said the bond will never just be for Greenacres. The astronomical costs will not pass. Lets find a safe way to renovate even it is finding another building or trailers to house the students for a year or 2. Let's be realistic please. Neighbor against neighbor needs to stop.
#19 Compromise 2016-05-19 12:56
Quoting Option C:
I thought everyone spoke well at the last meeting and it was a nice discussion. In my opinion, Option C is very much the best option unless you are one of the houses that will be directly affected by the new school. Would still be nice if those supporting option B1 (like the lady that stood up and talked down to everyone while listing her past PTA accomplishments and how smart and analytical her husband is without mentioning she lives right across the street from the field) would simply say that their houses will be adversely affected and they don't like it. Maybe then we can discuss an option that would be acceptable to them and not harm their homes and at the same time not waste everyone's money and put kids in danger in the process. As an aside, you can argue for whichever option you would like no matter what your motivation, but to say that concerns regarding health and safety are not warranted or are alarmist or otherwise not valid is just insulting and to tell parents they should not be worried about their kids when your kids are not the ones that are going to be in danger is just plain wrong and you should be ashamed (or to compare being in a construction zone with hazardous materials to feeding your kids ice cream at home like one person did). That's like telling a parent of a 9 year old that they should not take the extra precaution of putting their kid in a secure car seat just because the NHTSA says that they are not required after the age of 8. Not your place to tell a parent whether or not they should be extra cautious with their child since you will not be the parent that has to deal with the consequences if something goes wrong. For those of you that make this argument, I just wish for you and your kids and your grandchildren to someday be put in the same situation where a mob looking to protect their views and back yards does so at the potential expense of their health and safety (and maybe then you will look back and realize that the parents of Greenacres were very much entitled to be concerned for their kids).

I think it's a misconception that only those surrounding the park support B1. There are many many residents of Greenacres that have spoken out in favor in B1, many of whom do not live adjacent to the field. I believe in restoring Greenacres School and updating it to modern standards and maintaining the field which is a valuable amenity to the neighborhood and the entire District. Lets focus on a compromise that addresses the health concerns of parents that will have children in school during the renovation. If that means we use trailers during construction lets fully explore that option.

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