It’s Time to Fund the Feasibility Study at Riverside School

Submitted by Carey Bisbee (Greenwich PTA Council Facilities Committee Member) and Clare Johnson (Riverside School PTA Co-President)

Riverside School is the place where our children learn, grow, play, and forge lasting friendships.  It is a 90-year-old neighborhood gem that, thanks to its quality pre-war construction, has good bones and a charming façade.  However, it is a substandard facility.

Every school day, more than 500 students and staff members enter a building that is inaccessible (without an elevator, among other violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act), undersized, outdated, and lacking basic safety features such as fire sprinklers.

Just this year, the school had to relocate 26 fourth graders to accommodate an injured classmate on crutches who was unable to reach his homeroom – and Art and Music rooms – on the second floor.  The school also came exceedingly close to not having enough classrooms for teachers delivering core instruction.  Stretching 2nd and 4th Grade class sections to, and in some cases beyond, the district’s recommended max helped avoid that outcome.  Unfortunately, it is already a reality for some of our specialized instructors who teach in vestibules or other shared spaces because dedicated classroom space just isn’t available.

The building’s accessibility, capacity and safety issues were documented more than six years ago when the district’s Facilities Master Plan was being developed.  What’s more, they existed to such a degree that

Riverside was identified as one of three schools with the highest priority needs.  Building improvement projects at the two other high-priority schools (Old Greenwich and Julian Curtiss, which we have wholeheartedly supported), are now underway which means that after years of waiting, Riverside is next in line for a comprehensive renovation that is sorely needed.

The first phase of the Riverside School renovation project, a $150,000 feasibility study, is in the town’s proposed FY25 budget.  However, concerns such as timing of the project’s construction phase (which the First Selectman omitted from his 5-year Capital Improvement Plan to meet BET guidelines) have prompted some to question whether it makes sense to fund feasibility at this point in time.

In our view, placing an emphasis on a later phase of the project that’s hard to predict or quantify – without a building study and ed specs in hand – seems shortsighted.  If anything, this makes a feasibility study even more necessary and urgent so that the scope of the work needed to properly resolve the building’s issues can be ascertained, and the corresponding costs better quantified.  In turn, the town can better determine how funding of this project can be timed within the context of its capital plan.

Given the amount and seriousness of the building’s shortcomings, the question isn’t whether the Riverside School renovation project gets done, but rather when.  And at six years and counting since the Facilities Master Plan assigned high priority to resolving these issues, the time to lay the groundwork for this project is now.  To that end, we ask that the BET approve funding for the $150,000 feasibility study as per the BOE and First Selectman’s fiscal year 2024-25 capital budget.


Carey Bisbee (Greenwich PTA Council Facilities Committee Member)

Clare Johnson (Riverside School PTA Co-President)