In an effort to accommodate students in Greenville and Seely Place schools with learning differences, Director of Pupil Personnel Services Joseph Schippa outlined a plan to transition qualifying special ed students from a hybrid schedule to full day, in-person instruction beginning in January.
“We’re going to look at these things in an individual way,” said Schippa, who described gradually phasing in special education students, including those with an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
Those meeting certain criteria would receive instruction through special classes, integrated co-taught classes, or classes with a consultant teacher direct (CTD), whereby a special education teacher works with them in a general classroom setting.
A second phase of the process would determine which children would require the support of a 1:1 aide, a shared aide, and/or related services such as speech therapy or occupational therapy.
The district did not provide the current number of special ed students but referred to a New York State Education Department link, which indicated Edgemont enrolled 226 school-age students with disabilities in 2018-19.
Currently, there are more special ed students at Greenville School than Seely Place School. Seely Place School Principal Eve Feuerstein said larger spaces such as the lunch room, art room, music room and homerooms at Greenville School could accommodate on-site special ed students.
“This will be an opportunity to bring small groups together in one larger space to meet their learning needs within the school building.”
At Seely Place, children would attend special ed class in regular classrooms or resource rooms. Fifth and sixth graders would participate in synchronous learning where possible, with extra time allocated for in-person or remote services.
Parents would have the option of bringing students home for lunch and having them return to school for the second part of the day.
Greenville Principal Jennifer Allen described other special ed provisions for students in grades 5 and 6, who could be called from their homerooms for necessary support services and activities on-site or would receive remote services based on their IEP goals.
Allen said students would be provided Chromebooks and noise canceling headphones in case they are engaged in activities in a large space with other students.
Special ed on-site accommodations would begin the first two weeks of January, “probably in a staggered fashion by grade” said Mike Curtin, director of curriculum and instruction, adding that families will be contacted with details, some of which are still being worked out.
“We’ve adopted an incrementalist approach, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned this year it’s that unanticipated consequences kind of rule the day in this environment.”
The district is continuing its conversation about K-2 students returning to campus full day, “but we thought the special education students were the highest priority, so we tackled that first,” said Curtin said, adding the district is seeing a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, with students and teachers quarantining the last few weeks, making it difficult to forecast which resources and spaces would be available.
With a continued emphasis on good fiscal timing, district administrators and the school board resumed discussions about the construction of additional classrooms and infrastructure upgrades throughout the district’s three schools.
“We are crowded. And our space is not consistent with our high-ranking academics,” said Superintendent Victoria Kniewel. “Nor is it what people expect when they move here.”
Based on studies of current space utilization, enrollment trends, the district’s five-year capital facilities plan, in-person forums and conversations with parents, community groups, faculty and staff, the bond proposal addresses renovations in a two-part contingency proposition to be voted on by the community on May 18.
Proposition 1 addresses the lack of instructional space at Greenville School and Edgemont Jr./Sr. High School and antiquated mechanical infrastructures at Seely Place School. Proposition 2 addresses vehicular and emergency access, parking and cafeteria expansions at all three schools, but can only be passed if both Proposition 1 and 2 yield a majority “yes” vote.
Bonds are commonly used to finance large capital projects. The district’s debt roll-off in 2023-24 from a previous bond used to enhance the “E” building, will coincide with the time when payments would start for the district’s proposed expansion and upgrade. Debt roll-off and low interest rates were cited as factors that would lessen the new bond’s year-to-year impact on taxpayers.
At EHS, a shortage in classrooms has resulted in program and curriculum decisions that reflect available space instead of opportunity, said Assistant to the Superintendent for Administration Bryan Paul.
To that end, Proposition 1 includes the addition of 22,000 square feet to the “A” building and could accommodate 14 classrooms, a possible second floor, and opportunities to cluster junior high students. The annex would provide 169 square feet per student, a 16% increase, but one that is still below the average in southern Westchester and the nation.
Director of Facilities John McCabe said the “A” building has moisture, ventilation and indoor air quality issues. He recommended a complete renovation of those systems and said the finishes and fixtures of the classrooms there are “well beyond useful life and fall short of providing Edgemont students with suitable program space.”
Indoor air quality, ventilation and air conditioning have also been concerns at Seely Place School. Many young students suffer with allergies and asthma, and McCabe said, “environment affects learning.”
At Greenville School classroom space has been at a premium, necessitating shared spaces and affecting program decisions and class size. Proposition 1 calls for the addition of a 7,700-square-foot wing with approximately five classrooms and room for expansion.
A discussion about Proposition 2, which includes strategies for modifying vehicular and emergency access, parking and cafeteria expansions, will take place at the next meeting of the Edgemont Board of Education on Jan. 12.
The final cost and budget allocation for the proposed renovations will be announced before the board adopts the bond resolution on Feb. 23.