The Scarsdale Board of Education approved an environmental quality review of the plan for Butler Field lighting March 11. But the board said it planned to finalize a donor recognition policy and a memorandum of understanding with Maroon and White booster group before taking any further actions.

The proposed plan is to install new lights at the Scarsdale High School field to improve safety and provide options for extended use for games and practices.

In a previous presentation to the school board, Scarsdale Schools athletic director Ray Pappalardi said the current gas-powered rental lights are loud and add to the overall light pollution.

Pappalardi has heard over the past three months from Butler Field neighbors concerned about light pollution, traffic, littering, and parking on the street.

In response to the concerns, Pappalardi has researched and consulted experts. His findings indicated the new lights would have no additional impact on the community.

While the village ordinance prohibits noise from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., typically field usage ends at 7 p.m. during the week and 5 p.m. on weekends, with the exception of football home games, which occasionally run until 9 p.m, and boys and girls soccer. Community usage lasts until 8 p.m.

To address other concerns, Pappalardi proposed to conduct an evaluation through the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process, which costs about $1,250. SEQRA will determine if the project will have significant adverse environmental impacts.

Since the cost for the SEQRA is not covered by the current school budget, the school board suggested funding it through donations from Scarsdale’s Maroon and White athletic booster association, which has offered to raise about $800,000 through private donations and donate an additional $200,000 for the purchase and installation of the permanent LED lights.

School board members expressed different opinions on donor recognition, but agreed the donation benefit should be to the public.

School board member Leila Maude said no one should have a bigger voice than anybody else just because they donate.

But Nina Cannon supported finding an appropriate way to recognize donations. “We welcome contributions from people who care about the school,” she said.

A draft donor recognition policy will be based on templates from other school districts that have dealt with similar situations. The board plans to discuss the policy at the next meeting on March 25, before continuing to work on the lighting project.

New visitor monitoring system

This spring, the Scarsdale school district will implement a set of security procedures, including a new visitor monitoring system and lockdown drills.

The enhanced security procedures are part of the effort launched last year to address community concerns about the effectiveness with which the district handles emergencies.

The new visitor monitoring system will scan each visitor’s driver’s license or similar piece of identification and run the information through the national sexual offender database and local security alerts. The system will also access additional information, such as custody documents, as a further background check before a visitor is allowed to enter the building. The Scarsdale Board of Education will work on specific guidelines for restricted access for any parents in the criminal database.

The staff assigned to monitor safety checkpoints will also verify a visitor’s destination with teachers and the visitor’s pass will expire after six to eight hours to make sure it can’t be used for another day. To expedite the process and avoid interruption of classroom activities, people on the preregistered list will get access right away after their identification is checked. The security staff will generate a report of visitors on a daily basis.

The mandatory procedure is to make sure people who have a questionable background are prevented from gaining access to the building.

As for the lockdown drills, the goal is to help students and staff build “muscle memory” for emergency exit procedures, especially in cases when the normal exit might be blocked. Evacuation and fire drills will be implemented across Scarsdale schools starting April 24. Meanwhile, security staff members are being trained for emergency response, including disaster recovery tabletop exercises, briefings for specific events, and discussions of safety and security improvements.

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