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Parents Express Concerns About Safety, Noise and Traffic Flow During Construction at Greenacres PTA Meeting

ConstructionDustScarsdale10583 was not permitted to attend the Greenacres PTA meeting about the bond proposal on September 27 – but we asked a few parents in the audience to provide a recap and here is what they shared in their own words:

There was a strong turnout at the meeting and Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey, the architects and construction manager presented the same plan as they did at the Sept. 11, 2017 meeting of the Board of Education and took questions afterwards. They noted that the building committee had been meeting and that some things on the plans had changed, but for the most part, the plans were unchanged. They continued to try to play both sides of the "this is a major upgrade" versus "no, we are not doing that much in the building so the timeline isn't an issue."

Water and Sanitary Piping: For example, in response to a question about the old pipes (that will not be replaced during the construction) they indicated that the pipes would be upgraded when they fix/add bathrooms ... (at a later date). They also said that during the first summer they would be upgrading the electrical in the old classrooms and acknowledged that some of this work would be in the ceilings -- which is more labor intensive.

Traffic and Safety: Stuart Mattey acknowledged that traffic and challenges with drop-off/pick-up would be exacerbated by the construction and possibly after the project was complete - but punted to the building committee to address those issues. Parents expressed concern about the noise and heat during the construction and the fact that it will not be possible to open the windows in the classroom during the construction. In fact, windows were open last night in the school and it was a sauna in there. People were soaking wet from sweat. The construction managers acknowledged that noise is going to be a problem and recommend that they use a noise monitor to track the noise level.

A question was asked about traffic and safety issues and how they are being addressed by both the plans for after construction (specifically about the results of the promised traffic study and how these issues would play into the design) and traffic during construction because their will be no access to the building from Huntington during construction at all. No response was given to whether a traffic study has been ordered or completed. The administration considers this a "logistical" issue for the building committee (Mattey did say they were looking at parking.)

The administration continues to say that the safety logistics will be worked out in the future and punted a lot to the building committee. It was not clear how much attention the board/administration will pay to the building committee's recommendations if those recommendations don't align with their plan. They explained that no interior work was planned for when the kids would be in the building but, again, said that they did not have any contingencies for delays because they don't experience delays in their projects.

Facilities Manager John Trenholm brought up the high school construction that is going on right now with the kids in the building and said, "See ... it can be done with the kids there." When I asked if that was the plan, he explicitly ignored me.

Role of the PTA: The PTA made a statement saying that while they are advocates for the children in a general sense, they see themselves more as conduits of (the district's) information rather than as advocates to ensure this project is safe and/or worthwhile. While this is disappointing, to be honest, I understand where they are coming from. They joined the PTA to help support the school and enrich the educational experience at the building - not to shepherd through a difficult construction project. Having said that, there is a real vacuum when it comes to advocacy for the kids in the process because the PTA won't serve that purpose.

Parents expressed concern that there was no way for the PTA at-large to communicate with the PTA representatives on the building committee and the PTA feebly said that people could email them by getting their email addresses off SchoolBee, when they were challenged to make their contact information available. The PTA never sent out a communication about who was on the building committee - it just left it to people to look at the presentation from the Board Meeting, which listed their names. Most people who aren't tracking this closely have no idea that the building committee is meeting or that they have (nominal) representation on that committee. Parents have no idea what their PTA reps are doing on the committee or what positions they are taking.

Construction Equipment: Parents expressed concern about the location of the construction equipment staging area next to the playground -- with blacktop for play on the opposite side of the staging area and behind the staging area field space. Effectively the staging area has been placed directly in the middle (because it is right across from the construction site then) and they are expecting children to play all around it.)

One parent pointed out that this is a safety concern in supervising children when some are on the playground and others on the other side of the site, as well as the obvious issue of just having children actively playing around a construction staging site. She noted her own children often go in opposite directions even after school when outside on the playground/blacktop so it would effectively cut off site around the staging area.

Modular Classrooms: Many parents implored the architect and district to guarantee the kids safety by moving the kids off site. Parents seemed skeptical that the project could be done in 15 months with work on the main building only in the summer months. Even architect Roger Smith was concerned and commented that the eight modular classrooms will be on site in case there are delays.

Mr. Smith (the architect fro BBS) said that he thought that some modular classrooms were prudent because of the proximity of the 4th and 5th grades to the construction of the addition. He also said that the modulars are very nice and that, in his experience, teachers don't want to move back into original classrooms at the conclusion of the projects because the rooms are so open, climate controlled, well-lit, etc. One of the mothers who had been a big advocate of Saving the Field said that the AC units on modulars are so loud it's worse than construction...no one seemed to take that all that seriously.

Some parents were concerned about the modular classrooms. Roger Smith said that teacher love them and often describe them as their favorite classrooms. They are quiet, roomy, and have air conditioning. While he did not suggest moving the whole school to trailers he suggested that the current eight room structure proposed should be included in case of issues.

There was a question raised about the size of the field and the amount of space that would be required to completely relocate the entire school into trailers on the field. We were told that the field is six acres. An acre is about 44,000 square feet. A trailer school constructed in Needham, MA was 35,620 square feet and included 30 classrooms.

Noise and Dust: Other parents were worried about noise and pointed out that they said that they would stop construction for state testing-- but that they were more concerned about instruction being negatively impacted than testing. Parents did not appear to care about performance on state tests.

Bond: The other important take-away was that the PTA appeared to be concerned that a no vote on the bond would mean that "money goes away". This just isn't true.

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