Submitted by Dan Quigley, Laura Kostin and Alan Gunzburg
Recently the Board of Education unveiled its FY21/22 operating and capital budgets. The capital list included $27million for a major expansion of and other upgrades to Julian Curtiss.
In 2017, the Board of Education commissioned a Facilities Master Plan to provide guidance on which capital improvements should be prioritized over a 15yr period. ADA compliance, air quality, security and general replacement value were identified as top priorities. However, the same three schools that the Master Plan deemed most in need of ADA compliance upgrades (Riverside, Old Greenwich and JC) are still without them.
Although the JC project includes ADA and Air quality upgrades, its $27million price tag may threaten its passage, thus putting the very urgent ADA and Air Quality needs at risk for further delay.
The BET does not have the ability to parcel out portions of a capital project for funding. Instead, they are asked to render an up or down vote on the project as it is presented. Because the BET cannot allocate funding solely for the ADA and Air Quality upgrades, if the project is not approved as presented it will mean another year of non-ADA compliance for Julian Curtiss. This is something we cannot afford to let happen.
If however, the BOE were to present a comprehensive plan that addressed the urgent ADA and Air Quality needs of our GPS system, its passage would be more likely, and it would represent a big step forward for our community.
As previously mentioned, there are other schools in urgent need of ADA-related upgrades besides Julian Curtiss and Old Greenwich. Riverside School, EMS, WMS and CMS are also in non-compliance. Also in need of these urgent upgrades is the Havemeyer Building. The lack of attention to this is a disservice to our students, faculty and family members with permanent or temporary disabilities. It also leaves us susceptible to significant legal risk due to our non-compliance with Federal Law.
At the Board of Education’s November 18th meeting, the BOE and the Superintendent were blasted by the parent of a wheelchair-bound child who is due to attend WMS next year. This child is unable to access the school without having to exit the building multiple times a day (in rain and snow) just to get to and from classrooms. The parent has brought this up year after year, yet these issues at Western remain unaddressed.
As a community we should focus on the urgent needs facing our GPS system, and in turn rebalance our priorities so as to address these issues first.
Another concern is the lack of focus on air quality in our public schools. According to the district Facilities Master Plan, air quality improvements are needed at several schools in the district including JC, Dundee, North Mianus, North Street, Parkway and Riverside.
Only JC’s air quality is addressed in this year’s capital proposal (Cos Cob is slated to get a new HVAC system, due to an acute HVAC problem). Both our students and faculty deserve the best possible air quality, especially in light of Covid.
As a reminder, it has been thirty years since the Americans With Disabilities Act became law. Isn’t it finally time to properly outfit our public schools with necessary ADA upgrades? When it comes to capital projects, our Board of Education and our community should make accessibility, inclusion and safety for all its top priority.
Dan Quigley – Republican
Laura Kostin – Democrat
Alan Gunzburg – Chair of the First Selectman’s Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities in Greenwich