Dear Mr. DeSantis:
In response to the presentation by staff from Turner Construction, King + King Architects, and Appel Osborne Landscape Architecture at our January 19, 2017, general membership meeting, the Executive Board of the Huntington School Parent-Teacher Organization respectfully submits the following comments and questions regarding the proposed renovations for Huntington School.
We are very pleased to hear that the existing issues with accessibility and ADA compliance will be addressed in our school. The addition of an elevator in a central location, with access to the basement level, is crucial. The proposed reconfiguration of the front entry to provide accessibility and to create a secure entry for visitors through the main office will be significant improvements over the current situation. We are also very glad to hear that carpeting will be removed from classrooms, and that bathrooms and locker rooms will be remodeled.
While these are all very welcome and much-needed improvements, there are some issues remaining that we feel were not adequately addressed in the proposal that was presented. These issues are listed below by topic.
Indoor environment and safety
- Indoor climate control MUST be addressed. The current environment is detrimental to student learning, with extreme heat and humidity at the beginning and end of the school year, as well as an uncomfortably warm environment in many classrooms throughout the winter.
- Huntington School has hosted multiple elementary schools for summer session in past years and some sections of the building are essentially unusable during the summer months. In addition, with some discussions both nationally and locally of school running year-round in the future, we believe it is short-sighted to eliminate air conditioning from the renovation plans.
- We understand that budget limitations may preclude the inclusion of air conditioning; however we would appreciate additional information about the overall cost breakdown and a comparison to the potential cost of air conditioning.
- If air conditioning is truly infeasible, then some alternative should be developed for addressing the extreme heat, humidity, and lack of air circulation in the classrooms. Ceiling fans, windows that reduce solar gain, and windows with large opening areas may be able to address these concerns. Please explore these options and offer design alternatives that will create an indoor environment that is conducive to learning.
Site design and circulation
- Please explain how the current design for the bus lane, parent vehicular circulation, and staff parking modifications was developed. What alternative designs were considered, and why were those eliminated?
- Please provide more details about your assumptions for the number of buses serving the school each day, the volume of vehicles using parent pick-up/drop-off areas, and the number of students walking to school. Have you factored into these calculations the potential for the district to reduce the walking radius?
- Please clarify how drop-off and pick-up procedures will function with the new layout. How will safety be ensured for “walkers” that will have to cross through the new bus lane, as proposed? Where will parents (not in vehicles) be expected to wait outside for their students who are “walkers”? How is traffic expected to flow through the parent vehicular area?
- The area in front of the school on Sunnycrest Road is wider than the adjacent blocks, yet it is signed as a no parking zone. How will your proposed plan address this inconsistency? Either the “no parking” zone should be enforced (and the sidewalk extended in front of the school to restore Sunnycrest Road to its proper width), or this area should be incorporated into the plans for pick-up/drop-off.
- Concerns remain about the quantity of staff parking. Staff parking projections should include additional staff such as foster grandparents and student teachers.
- We are happy to hear that the playground will be included in the renovations. Please clarify whether this will entail all new equipment, or simply refurbishment of our existing equipment.
- The equipment is outdated and graffiti is a continuous problem. The vandalism is likely due at least in part to the location of the playground, which is an isolated corner with no public view. Ideally, we would like the playground relocated to a more visible, public location for safety and to make this a community asset. Was this explored? If so, please provide more information on why this option was eliminated.
- If the playground must remain in its current location, then the access “alley” (next to the pool) should be improved and made more inviting and secure.
Interior space requirements
- What are the enrollment projections for Huntington school and how were those developed? We are currently the largest K-8 school in the district (at 930 students based on NYSED 2015-2016 enrollment data), and there is no extra space in the building to accommodate any growth.
- Do all of Huntington's classrooms meet current NYSED size requirements?
- Our students deserve a separate cafeteria and auditorium. Our cafeteria is inadequate for the number of students; we have students eating lunch as early as 10:30 a.m. (only 1.5 hrs. after they are given breakfast!) and as late as 1:30 p.m. H.W. Smith school received a new auditorium and two cafeterias; we deserve the same.
Bathrooms, locker rooms
- Please clarify the extent of renovations in the locker rooms, especially in the pool area. Lockers are in dire need of replacement. Toilet stalls and shower stalls also need to be renovated.
- If Huntington School will continue to be a polling place for elections, it would be useful to have a bathroom near the gym that is easily located by voters and poll workers.
- The proposal seems ambitious to complete during the summer break. At the January 19 meeting, there was a passing reference to the work continuing over two summers. Please clarify the anticipated construction timeline. Is there a contingency plan for students if the work isn’t completed by September 2018? Is the use of swing space being considered and, if so, where?
The presenters on January 19 alluded to various options that had been considered, but dismissed. Yet none of these other options were presented to the school community for review and comment. A meaningful public involvement process should allow the school community to weigh-in on the prioritization of needs for our building, review various design options, and provide comment on those options, ultimately leading to a design solution that reflects the community’s goals.
The Huntington School PTO Executive Board submitted an initial list of priorities to the Joint Schools Construction Board in August 2014, in response to public meetings held at that time. During the 2015-2016 school year, we made multiple inquiries to the Facilities Department about the status of the project and the potential opportunities for parent and community input, yet the January 19 meeting was the first direct contact that we have had with the project team. The project should not be rushed now to make up for a lack of public engagement over the past year.
We are excited that Huntington School will receive much-needed renovations in the near future. As noted above, we feel that the needed renovations go far beyond the proposed renovations and urge you to consider, to the extent feasible, expanding the renovation plans at Huntington School. As the largest K-8 school in the district, improvements at Huntington School are a sound investment in the future of our city.
Thank you for your attention to our comments.
Huntington School Parent-Teacher Organization 2016-2017 Executive Board
Leeann Wiess, President
Ann Yarka, Vice-president
Angie Vigliotti-Martinez, Treasurer
Emily Pascale, Treasurer
Meghan Vitale, Secretary
Joanne Harlow, Principal, Huntington School
Jaime Alicea, Superintendent, SCSD
Linda Mulvey, Chief Academic Officer, SCSD
Nader Maroun, City of Syracuse Common Council, 5th District
Joint Schools Construction Board