Bencivengo: Fully Fund $35.9M in FY 2024 for Old Greenwich School Renovation

Open letter to the Board of Estimate and Taxation from Jen Bencivengo, Principal at Old Greenwich School

I am writing today to respectfully request your support for the full funding of $35.9M in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget for the Old Greenwich School renovation as reaffirmed by the Board of Education on March 16, 2023. 

As the proud principal of Old Greenwich School, I know intimately the needs of our building, students, staff and community.  I can also confidently assure you our Old Greenwich community is unequivocally in support of the preservation and renovation/alteration of our iconic school building.  This project, as defined by Educational Specifications unanimously approved by the Greenwich Board of Education on October 21, 2021, will:

  • Create a safe, secure, and accessible building for students, staff, and the community
  • Provide adequate instructional spaces to meet current and future enrollment needs
  • Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for an accessible school building
  • Adhere to current fire safety protocol through a comprehensive sprinkler system
  • Ensure better energy efficiency and air quality through new HVAC systems, mechanical systems, and window replacements
  • Permanently resolve storm water management and groundwater flooding issues

Community Response

This week our building committee and architecture team from Silver, Petrucelli and Associates held a parent forum to discuss with parents the scope of our project, next steps, budgetary implications and elicit feedback and questions. The overwhelming majority of parents were emphatic about their desire to preserve our school building. There was zero interest in a modern replacement project.  Additionally, the parent community was clear in their request to have students maintained in the current school building throughout the renovation with no need for busing students, modular classrooms, or relocation. The Old Greenwich School community is described as Rockwellian in nature with the vast majority of students and parents walking or biking to school each day.  Parents voiced the importance of maintaining this aspect of our culture and reinforced the importance of gathering as a school community on our plaza throughout and beyond the project’s stages of development. 

As a doctoral candidate and educated consumer of research, I would be remiss if I didn’t ‘do my homework’ on the requirements of all Federal and State regulations and recommendations inclusive of the Americans with Disability Act and their implication on our necessary renovations.  Most notably, while an elevator would meet a need in our school, it by no means meets the requirements delineated by the ADA and universally agreed upon by architects of both buildings and laws when addressing public school accessibility as identified below. 


Chapter 2 of the Guide to ADA Accessibility Standards notes, when a public school chooses to alter any of its facilities, the spaces being altered must comply with the 2010 Standards. “An alteration is defined as remodeling, renovating, rehabilitating, reconstructing, changing or rearranging structural parts or elements, changing or rearranging plan configuration of walls and full-height or other fixed partitions, or making other changes that affect (or could affect) the usability of the facility.”  

Similarly, section 202.4 of the code requires any area deemed a primary function inclusive of the nurse’s office, main office, single use spaces such as art, music, media center and other individual classroom spaces be made accessible to and for all.  These primary functions would also include one classroom at each grade level be made fully accessible for students and adults inclusive of entry door width, accessible classroom sinks, adequate space for access to coat/bag storage and emergency exit from the classroom. 

The law also indicates that 60% (rounded up) of the primary entrances to the school are required to be accessible.  Therefore, as we have 2 primary entrances, our main front entrance up the grand central staircase and gym door entrance, 60% of 2 is 1.2, and rounded up per the law, would require both entrances be made fully accessible for all users. 

Fire Safety

The National Fire Prevention Association notes, “Sprinklers reduce the impact of fires. Compared to reported fires in properties with no automatic extinguishing systems (AES), when sprinklers were present, the civilian fire death and injury rates per fire were 89 percent and 27 percent lower, respectively. The rate of firefighter injuries per fire was 60 percent lower.” Which presumes at this time, the students and staff at Old Greenwich School are 89% more at risk for fire death as a school lacking universal sprinkler systems for fire safety than that of schools with comprehensive sprinkler systems. 

Air Quality/HVAC

Indoor air quality, ventilation, and centralized heating and cooling became a paramount discussion throughout the pandemic.  In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes, “EPA studies of human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times — and occasionally more than 100 times — higher than outdoor levels.  These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern, because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. “

For the purposes of this guidance, the EPA states the definition of good indoor air quality (IAQ) management includes:

  • Control of airborne pollutants;
  • Introduction and distribution of adequate outdoor air; and
  • Maintenance of acceptable temperature and relative humidity.

Notably, for purposes of our school renovation project, the EPA states, “Good Indoor Air Quality contributes to a favorable environment for students, performance of teachers and staff, and a sense of comfort, health and well-being. These elements combine to assist a school in its core mission — educating children.”


While discussions of declining enrollment have occurred publicly of late, this is not the case at Old Greenwich School.  In fact, our enrollment is rising and continues to rise.  Our current kindergarten class exceeds 70 students and requires 4 sections. Similarly, the anticipated projected enrollment for next year’s kindergarten will also exceed 70 students.   As such, we require 4 sections of both Kindergarten and 1st grade for the 2023-24 school year, resulting in the need to repurpose our Science Lab into a 1st Grade classroom to meet growing enrollment needs. 

In closing, I respectfully request the BET adhere to the recommendation of the BoE request for full funding of the Old Greenwich School Preservation and Renovation building project in FY 24. On behalf of our OGS Community, I appreciate your consideration and immediate attention to the needs of our historic and beloved school building without delay.  

Jennifer Bencivengo
Proud Principal
Old Greenwich School