While Bedford Central school board members couldn’t reach a consensus on whether to renovate or replace , they agreed on one principle: only go with a plan that has community support.
“I can’t imagine the board would want to move forward on a plan that is not supported by the community,” said school board President Susan Elion Wollin.
The board members got a chance at their Wednesday meeting to review some updated proposals and cost studies that were prepared by the district’s Capital Planning Committee and by architecture firm KSQ. The plans were revised in response , including asking for a look into whether or not it makes sense to tear down West Patent and replace it with a brand new school.
The committee came back with essentially three scenarios. One would be the a regular Option A, which the committee originally recommended in its original June 1 presentation to the board and is a massive renovation of the core academic spaces, known as “pods.” This one would cost about $27.57 million.
The second scenario is called an “enhanced” Option A, which would involve the same work as that model but also include extensive renovations to cafetorium and library spaces. Specifically, the cafeteria/auditorium would be expanded from 300 to 400 seats (a 5,300-square foot addition), along with dedicated student bathrooms outside of the pods. The library could get, although this plan is still conceptual, 1,150 square feet in additions to allow for age specific spaces. Under the conceptual model unveiled by KSQ, one space would be for grades K-2 and include a storytelling assembly, while the other would be for grades 3-5. The scenario also includes a possible early childhood care center, which could be placed in two possible locations. The total bond cost for the enhanced version is $32.93 million.
The third and most radical scenario examined is building a new school. The cost of doing so, however, varies greatly based on what capacity would be considered, from a low cost of more than $35 million for a 350-student building, to more than $71 million for a 700-student school. For comparison purposes, the committee put more focus on the cost of a 450-student school, which roughly the same capacity as the current building. That cost would come out to more than $46 million.
The committee, however, does not recommend building a larger school for the purpose of closing another elementary-level building and taking on its students. In that case, while $1 million in annual savings would benefit the district, debt service on the new building would range from $2.5 million to $3.5 million, depending on its size. A lengthy environmental review – possibly a year or more – along with “cultural change” from losing a school were cited as other factors in why the committee does not support such a change.
Coupled with a renovation to Fox Lane Middle School’s science labs and a cafetorium expansion ($15.84 million) and a series of “Priority 1” infrastructure projects for the district’s other schools ($19.05 million), the total bond costs are estimated at $62.46 million for Option A, $67.82 million for the enhance Option A and $80.96 million for building a new West Patent with a 450-student capacity.
Also, the committee and KSQ suggested it is feasible to incorporate environemntally sustainable aspects in the proposals. The biggest suggestion, given West Patent's history of water table and moisture problems, would be to integrate water mitigation measures on the site with the students' curriculum.
Unlike West Patent, there is a clearer consensus on the middle school proposal and the Priority 1 fixes. The committee also reaffirmed its support for the middle school project.
With such high price tags, board members worried about being able to sell the bond proposals to the voters.
“If we don’t have support for this, we’re dead in the water,” said board member Eric Karle.
Board member Graham Anderson, who originally suggested having the committee look at building a replacement for West Patent, was concerned about whether voters would support any of the scenarios. The situation comes down to selling a vision for the school district and work on the school, he argues.
Fellow board member Jennifer Gerkin was the only one to come out with a definitive opinion on any of the proposals, expressing her preference in not building a new school. However, she went on to say that she is open to changing her mind if there’s enough community support for building new.
Going forward, the board members will hear from the community about what type of capital improvements they would support when a Dec. 5 Future Focus meeting is held at the Fox Lane High School cafeteria, at 7 p.m. There is also a community survey underway to gauge public support for capital projections, along with how large of a bond they would be willing to back.
West Patent includes students from parts of Mount Kisco, Bedford Hills, Bedford Corners and New Castle.