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Edgemont Bond 2024

Building Dreams

Forum at Seely Place Elementary School

Jan. 31, 2024

 

Panel:

Mariquita Blumberg, Board of Education President

Jennifer DeMarrais, Board of Education Vice President (a member of the Bond Committee), Heather Stern Board of Education Trustee (a member of the Bond Committee)

Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton,Superintendent of Schools

Bryan Paul, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Administration

Eve Feuerstein, Seely Place Elementary School Principal

John D’Angelo, Architect

Moderator: Dr. Amy Moselhi, Assistant Business Official and Treasurer

Audience: About 45 residents

 

Questions and Answers

 

Why do we need this bond project?

Bond 2024 is intended to advance a 21st-century education and an academic vision of continued excellence in the Edgemont School District. That process will begin with much-needed upgrades to our facilities that will ensure students are taught in safe, comfortable spaces that foster a love of learning.

 

What does the project entail?

The full scope of the Bond 2024 proposal encompasses approximately  $63 million to $67.5 million in improvements across the district, which include air conditioning, dedicated spaces for STEAM instruction, safety measures, athletic field upgrades, cafeteria renovations, and additional parking.

The forum held at Seely Place Elementary School focused on the approximately $8 million in improvements planned for that school. These include replacing and upgrading the end-of-life HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) in the new wing and adding air conditioning to classrooms, renovating and repurposing room 107 as a dedicated STEAM space, adding a parking lot off Ardsley Road, and renovating the cafeteria to allow food service in the school.

 

Why is air conditioning needed when it impacts only part of the school year?

Bond 2024  begins the process of delivering air conditioning to all instructional spaces district-wide. The Board is committed to reaching as many classrooms as possible through this bond, excluding gyms and all-purpose rooms (APRs), which require more extensive and complex solutions. Although the periods of excessive heat impacting teaching and learning have typically been contained to the first and last couple of months of each school year, the effect has become increasingly more problematic and is exacerbated in our older facilities. Our older buildings trap heat and moisture, causing classrooms often to feel sweltering in May, June, and September, with temperatures sometimes reaching 90 degrees. This is a significant portion of the school year, and the problem has been worsened by climate change. Improved climate control is thus essential to ensuring the health and well-being of our students and staff and enhancing the capacity for teaching and learning during those months with more challenging conditions.

 

What will the air conditioning cost? What is included in that cost?

The classroom-level designs have not been finished, and the exact cost has not been determined; however, it has been estimated to be about $60,000 to $70,000 per classroom. Estimates are based on the costs of projects in neighboring districts that recently received competitive bids for similar work. The costs would include the components, installation, and connection to the schools’ management systems and required electrical upgrades.

 

Why is AC in the district more expensive than what we install at home?

The higher cost of school district projects compared to residential projects can be attributed to various factors, including the regulatory framework, scale, complexity, and other elements involved in public construction. New York State General Municipal Law 103 and Education Law 105 impose requirements that districts must follow for purchases exceeding a certain threshold, requiring competitive bidding from vendors who meet specified experience and insurance criteria. Although the district awards bids to the lowest responsible bidder for its construction projects, only a limited number of contractors in this region are properly certified, licensed and insured, and they drive the price. The district is also forced to engage separate prime contractors for each component of such projects, which means it cannot take advantage of efficiencies that might be available in a general-subcontractor dynamic.

 

Will the increased air conditioning bring more ongoing costs?

Yes, although the units will be energy efficient, the increase in air conditioning is expected to result in additional ongoing energy costs; however these would be offset in part by the reduced use of dehumidifiers and air filters district-wide. Ongoing costs will be covered in the operational budgets.

 

The buildings have flat roofs. Can they support alternative energy infrastructure?

The district is committed to exploring renewable energy sources, and is always looking for ways to make its energy consumption more efficient and to lower energy costs. While alternative energy initiatives are not part of Bond 2024, the district recognizes that they could be considered in future projects, potentially through an Energy Performance Contract (EPC). Although the age of our buildings and existing HVAC equipment on our roofs implicate structural loading and capacity that have impeded the ability to leverage infrastructure-based alternative energy solutions up to this point, the Board remains committed to increasing the sustainability of the district’s energy consumption and is open to reexamining this option in the future.

 

What is the parking situation at Seely Place Elementary School?

The school currently has 74 spaces for a staff of 79. That leaves little or no parking for visitors, daytime events, and activities that draw families. Parking can be so challenging at Seely Place that many families rent parking spaces at Greenville Community Church, especially parents of students in the lower grades who must park and come to the building to pick up their children. Staff that travels between the three buildings have trouble finding places to park, making it hard for them to come do their work in the building. Cars often circle to search for open spaces, and sometimes park illegally, creating congestion that impedes access to the school. Principal Eve Feuerstein also shared that she sometimes has to leave Seely Place to hold meetings, knowing that the parking lot could not accommodate district employees from other buildings. Having additional parking would relieve these issues, and also facilitate families connecting with one another at pick-up and drop-off times, building on the sense of community and spirit that make Seely Place so special.

 

Why not lease spaces from Greenville Community Church?

Greenville Community Church offers parking spaces annually for rent, which many families utilize. However, parking issues persist even with those families parking at the church lot, and having the district enter into an agreement with the church would likely shift financial responsibility for those spaces from those individuals to the district without yielding a net positive impact on the number of available spaces. Furthermore, in time, a solution that relies on a long-term rental agreement would exceed the expense of adding the new lot. The district would have no control over this arrangement, which depends on the church continuing to be amenable to such a relatioship, and it would require ongoing agreements regarding the clearing of snow or ice as needed, and for the construction and maintenance of the path from the rental spaces to school.

 

How many spaces will the Ardsley Road lot add?

It would add 42 spaces. Another 9 spaces will be created behind the school.

 

What is being done about traffic safety concerns?

A traffic study was conducted by an independent consultant and the district partnered with the Greenburgh Police Department in March 2022 to address concerns over the congestion at Seely Place during pick-up and drop-off times, and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood. You can find the presentation on that study here: Traffic Study. Recommendations stemming from this report resulted in the district taking action to create a new three-lane traffic pattern by removing existing parking spaces adjacent to the ball field on Kennedy Way.

As a result, almost twice as many cars are now able to queue on campus, significantly mitigating congestion, and allowing traffic to flow more smoothly at the school.

The district works closely with the Greenburgh Police Department and Greenville Fire District on safety issues, and will continue to do so to address those related to the Ardsley Road lot.  In order to mitigate potential concerns, the Ardsley Road lot has been designed for parking only and is not intended as a drop-off or pick-up zone. The possibility of it serving as a staff-only lot is also being explored, which would mean that drivers parking there would enter and exit at different times than families would normally be coming and going, preventing additional traffic at peak times. The district is also grateful to the Edgemont Community Council (ECC) for its advocacy in this area, as Ardsley Road is a county road, and the ECC has successfully argued for the county to conduct a traffic study there. The district will work with the county to ensure factors relevant to the Ardsley Road lot and Seely Place School are taken into consideration when the study is done.

 

How many trees would be removed to create the Ardsley Road lot?

To create the lot, 31 trees would be removed, and 15 would be planted. This specific site off of Ardsley Road was chosen to minimize impact to green spaces, as the site sits where a tennis court had previously existed, so some of that land had already been cleared. Exploring further options to enhance the landscape design and maintain the natural aesthetic in this area would also be possible as part of this bond.

 

How can the public learn more about the various bond projects?

The district has established a Bond 2024 web page that includes details on the proposal and information on the process for approving it. The web page can be accessed at https://www.edgemont.org/2024-bond/.  Community members will find FAQs, along with all details that have been shared publicly, including presentations and videos, on this page. The district will continue to add information as the process moves forward.

There will also be ample opportunities for the community to engage directly with the Board in upcoming public forums, and to hear further details at future Board meetings. Those dates will be posted at the Bond 2024 web page as well.    

 

Have stakeholders been engaged as partners in the process?

Yes. The previously approved bond, which was reimagined into the current Bond 2024, was formulated with significant public input. Many parents, community members, faculty and staff shared their thoughts in person at community forums and meetings, and an online survey enabled all who wished to provide feedback to add their voices.

Since entering the district in 2022, Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton has likewise engaged many stakeholders on an ongoing basis to discuss needs and other concerns, which led to the commitment to air condition the district and to upgrade the athletic fields, as well as a re-commitment to the projects proposed in the original bond, including the dedicated STEAM spaces, the cafeteria renovations, and safety and security measures. A notable example of community involvement is Dr. Hamilton’s Ad Hoc Athletics committee, which offered valuable input that inspired a focus on district athletic facilities in the development of the reimagined bond . This collaborative approach underscores the district's dedication to transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to the voices of its stakeholders. As we move forward, future forums and meetings will continue to provide opportunities for the community to ask questions, better understand what is being proposed, and gain a sense of shared ownership in the development and execution of Bond 2024.

Future forums will be held as follows:

  • February 6 at Greenville Elementary School.
  • February 15 at Edgemont Junior Senior High School.
  • March 7 at Edgemont Junior Senior High School.

All of the forums begin at 7 p.m. The February forums will focus on improvements planned for the school hosting the session. The March 7 meeting will cover the full scope of the plan.

Members of the public can also ask questions and make comments during the Recognition of Community/Public Comments section of any Board of Education meeting; however, at Board meetings, the Board does not respond from the dais.  All questions will be captured and added to the FAQ.

 

What is the timetable for the Bond 2024 work?

The public will vote on the bond on May 21, with the school budget vote and Board of Education election.

The New York State Education Department would take about six months to review the plans. The district anticipates starting construction in spring 2025. It would continue through at least three summers.

 

Can the plan be altered without changing the timeline?

Significant changes would restart the process, including review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). An item might be removed from the plan, but any other changes could disrupt the entire process, which the district does not intend to do.

 

For other questions:

Watch for more public forums and Board of Education meetings. Also, continually check the bond webpage, https://www.edgemont.org/2024-bond. Many questions will be answered there.