The Edgemont Board of Education heard concerns Dec. 11 from Superintendent Victoria Kniewel on space issues in the district. Though discussions on maximizing the use of the existing space in the schools began in 2016, Kniewel said simply, “The district is running out of space and needs to do something about it.”
“We’ve almost done too well of a job using the space we do have,” said Kniewel. “We’ve been doing it so well, I think people don’t know we are actually out of space.”
In an overview as an introduction to the report, Kniewel said spaces originally not meant to be used for instructional purposes, like the senior lounge in the high school and space in cafeterias and libraries, have been converted into classrooms to accommodate student needs.
According to the districtwide space utilization summary available online, Seely Place Elementary School is the only school that has experienced a recent decrease in enrollment, meaning the required number of classrooms went from 26 to 25. In this case, previously utilized classroom space was actually reassigned as a reading room and dedicated science lab. In addition to the 25 standard classrooms, the school also has a separate band, art and music room, and 11 smaller teaching and support spaces for needs like psychologists, speech, OT/PT, reading and special education. Though cafeteria space is currently minimal, the need to expand or reconfigure in the future will not be determined until the school sees if the decrease enrollment was an anomaly or will become a trend. Currently, there are 134 square feet per student at Seely, with the national average being 188.
Greenville Elementary School, on the other hand, saw an increase in enrollment, bringing all grades except sixth grade up to four sections as opposed to three. This is the first time the school has seen so many grades requiring four sections, and Kniewel said there are no additional classrooms, which has left them scrambling for extra space. Twenty-seven standard classrooms are needed, meaning rooms previously utilized for reading, special education and a dedicated science lab have been reassigned as classrooms.
A separate band room, music room and art room still exist and Kniewel said they are fighting to keep those spaces separate and dedicated so as not to impact the programs by limiting their space. Because of this need for additional space, smaller spaces have also been repurposed as instructional rooms, meaning there are only three smaller support spaces remaining for psychologists, speech, OT/PT, reading, ESL and special education services. Cafeteria space is also minimal and there is no room for the dedicated STEAM programs. Additional enrollment within the current space will result in increased class sizes or the loss of dedicated arts spaces with the addition of more classrooms. Currently, Greenville has 114 square feet available per student.
Edgemont Junior/Senior High School recently experienced an increase in enrollment as well — 986 in the 2019-20 school year, up from 932 in 2016-17— forcing the district to create a library classroom, convert the senior lounge to instructional space and use a portion of the cafeteria as a space that can be closed off with glass walls for teaching. As a result of not having enough space, Kniewel said there are currently four lunch periods with one starting as early as 10:42 a.m. Likewise, she said the school’s music program isn’t modeling the best audience etiquette when parents of one group of students need to get up and leave in the middle of a performance to allow the next group of parents to come in.
“We aren’t just lacking in classroom space, but also space in the cafeteria and auditorium,” said Kniewel.
There are currently 58 educational spaces on the campus, as well as a former photo lab and senior cafeteria that have recently been repurposed. There are also 34 full-sized general classrooms, 10 science labs, four art and music rooms, and 10 special and resource rooms. As a result of space constraints, the number of scheduled periods during the school day has been increased from eight to nine. Overall room usage is at 87%, while general classroom usage is at 96% and science lab usage at 100%. Though there is currently a dedicated band room, there is no dedicated choral or music room. Schedule flexibility is also greatly reduced, and each student has 148 square feet per student as opposed to the national average of 165 square feet per student.
With the enrollment in the Edgemont district continuing to grow year over year, the board said it plans to have more discussions on how to handle the influx of students within the limited space.
Several students were recognized at the school board meeting Tuesday, Dec. 10 for their acts of kindness and good citizenship within their schools.
Sixth-grader Maya Barmecha of Greenville Elementary School was recognized by Principal Jennifer Allen for taking up the cause of advocating for sidewalks near her school. She single-handedly prepared a slideshow and presented it to the Greenburgh Town Board, where she received positive feedback.
A group of fifth-grade students from Seely Place School were also recognized by their principal, Eve Feuerstein, for their self-led mission of volunteering to organize the Lost and Found. Each week, the students return items they recognize to students who lost them and, at the end of the month, unclaimed items are donated to local shelters.
The students recognized were Ryan Waxler, Elyse Blumberg, Zoe Robbins, Audrey Meruelo, Naomi Ascher, Joya Ishak, Gabriel Hwang, Rahil Kumar and Brendan Richmong.
The Edgemont Board of Education accepted multiple gifts at Tuesday’s meeting. They included a $4,620.72 gift from the PTSA for an Edgemont High School trip to Six Flags for physics students, a $1,050 from the PTSA for transportation for students from schools to “A Soldier’s Play” at the Roundabout Theater, a $1,400 PTSA gift for the chess club, a $285 gift from the PTSA for the programming club and a $1,550 PTSA gift for the EHS jazz ensembles to attend the National Jazz Festival.
The board also accepted gifts of $10,000 and $2,700 from anonymous donors for Edgemont athletics, as well as a grant from the Edgemont School Foundation of $400 for sensory materials.
The Edgemont BOE approved the retroactive or future appointment of several staff and faculty members. These included Nicholas Piacquadio as the modified girls basketball coach, Robin Juenger as a leave replacement school psychologist, Nathalee Young as a teacher aide and assistant winter track coach, and the retirement of teacher aide Joanne McAdoo.
Scheduled board meetings
The Edgemont School Board has scheduled it first meetings of the new year for Jan. 14, Jan. 28 and Feb. 11, all at 7 p.m. The meetings are held at Edgemont Junior/Senior High School in the large group instruction room.