In a presentation emphasizing collaboration, fiscal responsibility and a focus on excellence, Superintendent Victoria Kniewel and Assistant to the Superintendent for Administration Bryan Paul updated the community on the district’s plan for remedying its aging and inadequate infrastructure and reimagining the space needed to accommodate student enrollment that is near or at capacity.

“The current infrastructure is outdated,” said Paul at the board of education meeting livestreamed Nov. 10 from the Large Group Instruction room. “Space within the buildings has been maximized to address short-term needs, but the reality is that current student population and forecasted enrollment exceed our buildings’ capacities.” 

 After the first public discussion on space utilization in 2018, the district commissioned an advisory committee, architectural studies, study groups and surveys to ascertain the feasibility of a fully autonomous middle school in a separate building. But due to cost concerns prior to the onset of the pandemic the plan was “scaled back and slowed down,” said Kniewel, but will continue to strive for dedicated space modifications for grades 5 and 6 at the elementary schools and 7 and 8 at the junior high school.

 Space utilization, measured in square feet per student, is significantly lower than at neighboring schools. In Edgemont, that number is 146 square feet per student compared to Ardsley at 205 square feet. Greenacres Elementary School in the Scarsdale School District offers 93% to 127% more square footage than either Seely Place or Greenville Elementary School.

“Overutilized spaces put a big strain on the programmatic and scheduling decisions that are made and doesn’t allow for year-to-year fluctuations of enrollment,” said Paul.

The required makerspace needed for designing and building STEAM projects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) is also lacking, as is adequate dedicated space for science labs and general classrooms at the junior/senior high school.

Contingency bond vote

Along with Edgemont’s annual budget vote scheduled to take place May 18, the community will hold a contingency bond vote with two propositions. The first proposition addresses space deficiencies at Greenville and Edgemont Jr./Sr. High School and antiquated mechanical infrastructure at Seely Place. The second proposition, which is contingent on the first, addresses vehicular and emergency access parking, and cafeteria/server expansions at all three schools.

The district expects to receive state aid on building projects, estimated around 30% or less.

“It’s a little early, but one thing we know,” said Paul, “is that interest rates are incredibly low right now. It doesn’t mean they’ll hold all the way through to the acquisition [of the bond], but we’re starting at a good place right now.”

Discussions will continue in greater detail, including construction timelines and the financial structure of the bond, through Jan. 26. The board will vote on whether to adopt a bond resolution on Feb. 23. Detailed information on the bond proposal can be found under Quick Links at Edgemont.org.

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