Byram Resident: New Leb “Plan B Makes No Sense at All

ball field or Town Green in Byram

Letter submitted by Judy Crystal, Byram

Please consider carefully the (probably) unintended effects of your decision regarding the New Lebanon School.  While I am sad that the “elephant in the room” will not be addressed and, therefore, the proposed school must be outsized in an attempt to meet the state determined proper ethnic mix, I understand the political difficulties and accept the creation of a large magnet school.

However, the proposed scale and Plan B setting of a new school building makes no sense at all.  The architect’s rendering ignores the east/west orientation of the building, which will insure the proposed “campus” will spend half the school day (more than half in winter) in darkness.  Think slippery not green and welcoming.

The size as shown in their plan will dwarf the currently airy children’s section of the library, rendering it dark and dreary.  And, the parking, as stated in the plan, makes no sense –  which should be visible to anyone who visits the library.

I’m afraid that shortsighted, perhaps politically motivated, individuals are manipulating the parents whose loud cries I have heard on several occasions.

First of all, an operating school next to a major construction site is an accident waiting to happen.  This should be clear to anyone who has ever raised a child.

What fun to sneak around barriers on the walk from school to home – or to the library.  And the noise as construction begins will offer constant distraction!  I believe the children will be safer in modular buildings or unused space in other schools.  Surely our buildings department have learned enough from the Hamilton Avenue fiasco to ensure that modular classrooms can be maintained safely.

As I understand, the children will vacate the current school building for two years.  This is not a lifelong sentence.  Should a grade be integrated in another Greenwich school it might raise the comfort level when those students meet again at Greenwich High.  The current school building has been in use for a half century.  Let’s think about two years in that time frame.  Or in the lives of the children involved.  And…we’re not talking about bussing kids to Bridgeport.

As to the “walk to school” contingent, I urge you to visit the area at the times of morning arrival or afternoon dismissal.  It is a concept honored more in fantasy than reality.  Count the cars!

I will not address the insanity of isolated “playing fields” located close to I-95 and hidden from view of the neighborhood.  Lighting the area only makes it more visible to those driving by on the highway…an invitation?

Finally, please think carefully about giving in to those who yell the loudest.  There are good people who truly believe they are right, but there are others who manipulate fears and ignorance to achieve personal goals.  It is time to rebuild the New Lebanon School.  It is too small.  It is outdated.  It is in the right location.

Thank you for the time and effort you are giving to this project – and to future generations.

  • Lucy

    There are some misleading and contradictory comments made in this letter. Firstly, the exact location and design of Scheme B has not been determined. The current rendering is not final. In fact, the architect has not been hired to design the building, nor has it gone through P&Z and all of the other agencies. The actual design process will take a year and will be vetted by many groups and offer many opportunities for public input. This rendering was created as part of the feasibility study simply to determine which area of the property would be most suitable for a new school. There are numerous opportunities to change the design coming. Further, I cannot understand how a building on the field would dwarf the library while a building higher up on the hill, the same distance from the library and the same square footage, would not. Regarding the “walk to school” comment, there certainly are parents who drive, but there are dozens who walk their children to school. I’m not sure how this applies to the writer’s argument. Another issue is the idea that the new fields would be isolated if put in the location where the school currently resides. The current playground is pretty darn isolated. And using the same argument, doesn’t that make the school itself too isolated? I’m also curious about the idea that if the fields are visible from the highway, they would be an invitation to who….criminals? Operating a school next to a construction site is fairly common in this world and I find it strange to assume that the town would make modulars so much safer after past experiences, but would leave a construction site so poorly secured that children would find their way in. Finally, the belittling statement that we New Leb parents are being manipulated by politically motivated parties (who?) is, frankly, one of the stranger conspiracy theories I have heard to date. I hope that the letter writer will take the time to review all of the studies, B0E and BoS meeting minutes and videos, and articles in the local press before weighing in on this topic. There has been a long and measured process in place for well over a year, with public forums, BNA meetings, and plenty of other opportunities for discussion and input.

  • Karen Ball

    Last time I checked (at the meeting June 9), the ballfield location did not include slapping the new school in the library parking lot – so no, this will not turn our lovely children’s section of the Byram Schubert library into a dark, drab unwelcoming area. As Lucy said, we have many, many possible options for design once we choose the site.
    As I said in the meeting, moving children is an very expensive solution that has its own consequences for the children, parents, and staff. This goes directly against what Title I schools needs most – continuity and increased opportunities for family connection and support. As a taxpayer, I object to spending millions on busing and modulars when it is not necessary. I do recall the Ham Ave debacle of modulars had a $2 million or so price tag – plus moving costs both ways for all of the furnishings and materials. There are our short-term reasons for choosing Plan B over Plan D.
    Long term, having a brand new facility with new fields will be far more attractive to the entire town of Greenwich. If New Lebanon’s status as a magnet school is supposed to help with the state-mandated solution to our racial imbalances, then it need to be able to accept more children — and have parents from other areas of town WANT to have their children attend school here. As for the comment about the “isolated ‘playing’ fields” being built “in view of the highway” — when I looked at the renderings, what I saw was a cleaned-out ravine area with a continuous barrier of trees and greenery between the field edge and the highway. If I am not mistaken, I did also hear the architectural consultant say at the meeting that sound barriers along the highway were part of the plans. Even if those barriers are half the size of ones that have ben built along 95, we’ll be perfectly safe. There are not going to be children running into traffic, and murderers and drug dealers are not going to be scaling the barriers to bring their dastardly business into an open field, with or without lights. And yes, the entire town’s population of children who play sports will benefit from having more fields to practice and play games on. We have to dig up and remediate the current ball field anyway according to the state, so we might as well consolidate the operation and dig the foundation while we’re at it.
    As to the “elephant in the room” – the one that you actually avoided addressing was the most important to me, and I don’t even have children at New Lebanon. Every other school in town has multiple options for evacuation. New Lebanon is situated at the top of a hill with one way out — out the front and down the hill. While that was fine in the 1950’s, in our current harsh reality, this is absolutely unacceptable to keep students and staff in a physical situation where they have such limited options to defend and protect themselves during emergencies. Placing the school on the ballfield location allows for multiple avenues of evacuation and escape. It is frankly irresponsible not to move the school site when we have the opportunity and ability to do so.
    I support Plan B – for our children, for our neighborhood, and for the entire town.

  • Sharon Beasley

    In addition to the inaccuracies of this letter the author appears to be putting a lot of energy in to figuring out how to stop or slow down change in Byram. See also her letter to the editor in early March criticizing the Byram Pool Project, which appears to be equally full of in accuracies. Byram needs some major improvements including a new school on a desirable space which adequately meets the education specificiations, a new pool and full sized sports fields. Wouldn’t it be nice to move on from the status quo and do something right for this community?