In the end, Adriana Ospina put it succinctly. “I just want to clarify, I had no other option. This is the only road I can take,” she said, after two votes were taken.
The first vote was to refer Scheme D, to build a new school on the site of the existing too-small, antiquated school, for Municipal Improvement (MI) to the Board of Selectmen.
The second vote was to refer to the Board of Selectmen a vote on MI status to locate modular classrooms at Western Middle School in order to accommodate New Lebanon School students during construction of a new school on its existing site. It was noted, locating modular classrooms at nearby WMS will preclude busing the children to under-enrolled schools up to 30 minutes away, such as Parkway School.
Mrs. Ospina stated for the record, “I did not vote for site D because I had an option. The selectmen made very clear that the only site they will approve is site D. It is in the interest of our kids to move forward.”
Unlike the previous three meetings BOE and BOS meetings where plans for New Lebanon School was on the agenda, Tuesday night was neither passionate nor crowded.
Though rows of chairs were arranged in concentric circles around a conference table set for the eight Board of Education members, Peter Gisolfi & Associates architects and Greenwich Schools Superintendent McKersie, and although there were two uniformed Greenwich Police officers visible in the doorway, the fight was over. The passionate groups of parents waving signs favoring “Scheme B” were gone.
In attendance were a few residents from Byram and a few New Leb parents. Selectman Drew Marzullo arrived in his GEMS uniform around 7:30, after the public hearing had concluded.
Byram resident Karen Ball did however, voice her disapproval. “We don’t have to pay for busing or modulars with Plan B,” she said, acknowledging that Scheme D will mean relocating students, either in modular classrooms nearby or by busing them to under-enrolled schools in Town.
“I went back and looked,” Ball said. “It was $3-million-plus to use the modulars for Hamilton Ave School,” she said of the price tag for temporary classrooms that housed students during construction of a new school in Chickahominy that spanned several years.
“And it was another $1 million to remediate them to use them again for Glenville School,” Ball said of the price tag to remove mold found in the modulars. “That’s a lot of money that could be used in much more constructive ways,” she said.
Ball urged the Board of Education to factor in human coasts of Plan D as well as how much money it would cost.
“Basically, Hamilton Ave’s test scores went to the toilet after the modulars,” Ball said. “The more support and continuity we can give these kids, the better,” she said, with a nod to the fact that New Leb is a Title I school where more students need services.
“I want you to focus on what’s best for the children. Not just what’s best for the Selectmen. For — I can’t understand, whatever political reasons they have against Plan B. But we’re relying on you, the School Board to do what’s best for kids in the next 50 years,” Ball said.
The Superintendent said that the bottom line is the children will have a new, high-quality school. “I’ve now been in this District long enough to have been in the room with New Lebanon parents who are crying out for a new school,” he said. “And while some sites would have been preferred, I commit to you, for the administration, that we will work as fast as we can for a high-quality facility for the children of Byram, and the children of New Lebanon School.”
“Now we have a site, and now we have a goal…I promise the parents that we will stay focused on this through the whole process, and really get the best school and the best facilities,” said Board of Education chair Barbara O’Neill.