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What Should be in Bedford Schools Bond Vote?

Bedford school district officials want to know what should be included in major bond vote slated to be held in March. If all possible items were to be in it, early numbers show a roughly $75.6 million price tag.

Voters in the Bedford Central School District will be asked early next year to vote on a major bond referendum to renovate several schools. The question for district officials, however, is what items should be included in a package that could come with a steep price tag.

Seeking to get input from residents, the district's Community Investment Program (CIP) scheduled two information sessions Tuesday at West Patent Elementary School. The school itself happens to be the largest item being eyed for the bond vote, with a possible cost of more than $35 million. It could include gut renovations for its main wings and library, an addition to the cafetorium and possibly establishing an early childhood center.

The scope of every improvement being considered for possible inclusion in the vote leads to a large price tag, with current estimates coming in at roughly $75.6 million. However, the numbers are still preliminary, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Betz.

The district has an ambitious timeline for the next three months. The goals, going forward, are to present results of various surveys being conducted, both by phone, online and in the community session. A specific capital plan would be recommended to the school board on Dec. 19, while the board would vote on whether to put it up for a referendum at its Jan. 23 meeting. Building tours are eyed for February and March, with a vote eyed for March 12.

"Those numbers haven't been scrubbed," by an independent cost estimator or construction manager yet, Betz told the crowd. Since the district has not decided on the list of items to include for a vote, the price tag could come down.

The proposal, potentially, could include renovated science labs and a cafeteria addition for Fox Lane Middle School, roof and window replacements, and heating and ventilation upgrades for several buildings.

All schools in the district would see work of some sort, including Fox Lane High School, Mount Kisco Elementary School and Pound Ridge Elementary School, which received major additions paid for by a bond vote approved in 2002 to address rising enrollment. According to Betz, this means things that were not addressed in the prior vote. Examples include work on the high school's library, theater and gym floor.

The high school has several other major components being considered for inclusion, such as replacing the turf field and fixing the track (estimated to cost about $3 million), along with the water piping system. Betz noted that the piping is original to the campus, which was constructed more than five decades ago. The possible price tag for that item, however, is unknown.

From feedback of some folks in the audience at the morning meeting, which included parents and municipal officials in the district, there was a desire to have what is essential versus what is discretionary.

Anne Kronenberg, a Bedford resident, was skeptical about having an early childhood center included at West Patent, feel that it is not essential.

"That is free pre-school," she said at her table. She also did not feel that expanding West Patent's foot print made sense, and with the district not increasing in enrollment as a factor.

"This to me is a nice to have, not a need to have," she said.

West Patent Principal Vera Berezowsky, while not taking a specific position on having an early childhood space, noted that it can be more costly to provide remedial support to children who did not receive an adequate early education prior to kindergarten.

Becky Simkhai, a Bedford Corners resident and West Patent parent, agreed with Berezowsky, and said in an interview that pre-school is "absolutely an important part of getting our kids ready for kindergarten."

Linda Dishner, a Bedford resident, noted that if you are going to have something new, then it should prepare kids for a changing curriculum.

Mount Kisco Village Manager James Palmer, who is a village resident and serves on a district committee for the plan's process, said his table felt that there should be consultation first on getting private funding for the turf and track work, and that while sustainability should be considered, it should not necessarily impede going with infrastructure that is more affordable.

For some attendees, there was a desire to get more information for some parts being considered. One table wanted clarification about the proposed early childhood cente, expanding West Patent's cafetorium and the possible installation of some air conditioning at the high school.

Mount Kisco Village Trustee Jean Farber felt that there needs to be “a lot more details” shared with the community and that what is being discussed now is about broad subjects.

As the district moves further along its timeline, public interest in the bond vote has increased, Superintendent Jere Hochman confirmed. In contrast, earlier on in the process, which included initial scenarios discussed in 2011 and early 2012 meeting, feedback was quieter, Hochman explained.

Tom Auchterlonie December 10, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Hi Sal, Based on my coverage of this issue, here are my answers: 1. The district argues that its physical plant (ie. WPES, FLMS) has major parts that are past their life expectancy and need to be replaced. They've been talking about this for quite a while, notably since a capital planning committee came out with a very early scope and cost estimate in June 2011: http://patch.com/A-jcJQ 2. The final package (what goes into the bond and its cost) have not been released yet, and numbers have not been vetted fully, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Mark Betz. Stayed tuned on this item, as the administration will present a recommended package to the school board later this month at a meeting. After an early-January public hearing on the proposal, the school board is expected to decide on what package to put up for a referendum at its Jan. 23 meeting. 3. No public vote has been taken yet. The district's goal is to hold a referendum on March 12. Voters will get to decide on this.
Blaue Vogel December 10, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Preschool is not essential for getting a child ready for kindergarten. That's a parent's job, not something that should be costing the already overburdened taxpayer. By the way, how a building "looks" has no influence on learning. What goes on inside a classroom does, and that's up to the teacher. Enough already!
hank j December 10, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Tom, can you help to elucidate what the real plan is for the WPES proposed reno? The district admin is saying there are no solar panels as part of the bond plan, but the Record Review writes that there are. If the district sells off the WPES land, and builds a new green building, can't they get some grants etc to help with that plus proceeds from the sale? Also build in such a way that it will work for capacity needs of today, and the flat predicted enrollment. If things bottom out later on or there is a large increase, a new space could be built in such a way to plan for easy future add ons or bump outs as the district calls them. What WPES parent wants their kids exposed to whatever may be inside of that water laden building once they start reno, and have their kid in a rented trailer part of that time too? Holding out in that old building while a new one is ready to go, and no interference with learning (dust, noise, other exposures, and moving in and out of trailers) sounds like a really good thing to consider while waiting for a new state of the art facility! Is it true that the district could really never have considered this as an option? It seems to logical.
hank j December 10, 2012 at 02:36 AM
agree, and in NYS it is not even required for kids to have to go to kindergarten. there are some great organizations out there who are helping parents already and those that need this help for their kids can hopefully seek it out in community centers, churches etc. not in our public school space
Tom Auchterlonie December 10, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Hank, thank you for commenting. Talk of adding solar panels was discussed at a June meeting, when the capital planning process was earlier on: http://chappaqua.patch.com/articles/green-modern-are-themes-for-big-bedford-school-overhauls However, I do not see it included in the district's more recent list of fixes for WPES: http://chappaqua.patch.com/articles/what-should-be-in-bedford-central-s-bond-vote#photo-12452209 With regards to folks asking about the possibility of replacing WPES with a new school on the Fox Lane campus, I'm not aware of any study for that scenario, nor am I aware of any parts of the campus where one could be built without taking away something that's already there for the students or district.

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