Scarsdale classroom photo

A typical classroom after the completion of summer renovations.

The Scarsdale Board of Education’s first meeting of the new school year Sept. 10 opened on a somber note, as the board recognized the recent death of Jeffery Michael Langsam and held a moment of silence in his honor. Langsam had worked as an audiovisual specialist at the school district since 2014 and was the districtwide AV technician prior to that.

The board also acknowledged the plans for addressing the anniversary of 9/11 in the schools on Wednesday. In compliance with a New York law enacted Sept. 9  the district said a moment of silence would be observed in the middle and high schools and age-appropriate conversations about the historic event would be held in social studies classes.

The board’s business agenda included a report on districtwide enrollment numbers, which has met expectations cited in the 2019-20 school budget. Enrollment is down only two students districtwide with 4,748 enrolled as of the first week, compared to the projected 4,750.

The district saw lower than usual kindergarten enrollment for the 2018-19 school year, but saw a significant uptick at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, bringing enrollment in that grade to 308, which is 37 more than the projected 271. Last year’s low kindergarten enrollment was speculated to have been due to real estate trends following the recently imposed cap on state and local tax deductions and a larger than usual number of families choosing not to enroll their children in kindergarten, despite meeting the age requirements.

This year’s larger kindergarten enrollment increase fit into the district’s specified class size of 22 students in grades K-3 and therefore did not require the addition of another kindergarten section.

The K-5 enrollment, projected at 2,000, was actually 2,064, with a slight increase in younger students attending Heathcote Elementary School due to the distribution of co-teaching classroom assignments. Because special education students also increased at Quaker Ridge Elementary School, a part-time teacher was added for daily push-in and pull-out support in upper grade levels to meet increased IEP requirements.

The middle and high schools also saw enrollment slightly above projected numbers. The middle school anticipated 1,143 students but welcomed 1,155, while the high school expected 1,531 and enrolled 1,539.

Staffing was on target districtwide.

Several new hires or professional shifts were noted, including the promotion of Quaker Ridge-based music teacher Jessica Elkhatibfrom part time to full time to teach at Quaker Ridge and Fox Meadow elementary schools, and the appointment of Emily Clark to Edgewood Elementary School to replace Julia Huang who resigned in June to take a position as assistant principal at Seely Place Elementary School in Edgemont.

Updates on construction projects around the district included the completion of the outdoor staircase at Fox Meadow School, replacement of water heaters in the middle school and repairs to boilers in the high school. Greenacres Elementary School, where construction continues on the addition that’s part of the 2018 bond project, saw 11 classrooms and six bathrooms renovated over the summer. A roofing project at Heathcote school was reported as 90% complete and an air quality test found and addressed 25 spaces in the district that needed mild adjustment. Remaining funds of the district’s $2.5 million improvement budget will go toward continuing projects, such as rigging to bring the stage in line with safety standards at the middle school which will take place during the December and January break.

The board discussed its protocol for handling written communications to the board, saying that all correspondence sent to the board must have a documented and published response by a board member to ensure transparency and prompt communication. Board members also expressed feelings that parents should have more opportunities to be involved with districtwide safety planning and noted that new pickup and drop-off procedures at the elementary level have proven successful. They also assured that any appointees to monitor safety within the schools, such as the front desk workers, would be trained on maintaining the friendly and welcoming demeanor of Scarsdale schools while still maintaining a proper degree of watchfulness for potential hazards. No members of the public chose to speak during either allotted moment for public comment.

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