Tree Removal Debate Dominates Bogota School Board Meeting

The latest meeting of the Bogota School Board was dominated by a debate concerning the removal and replacement of trees in the local park, as part of renovations that include the installation of a new turf on the school fields. The meeting also touched on other issues, such as the confirmation of two HIB cases at Steen School, the addition of a new fourth-grade classroom, the implementation of vape detectors, and an upcoming districtwide redistricting process.

The central point of discussion during the meeting was the planned removal of trees in the local park, due to the installation of a new turf on the school fields. The dialogue was sparked by the report presented by the arborist, Miss Elizabeth Stewart who recommended the removal of several trees in the park due to their poor condition or potential risks.

Specifically, the debate focused on the number of trees recommended for removal, their impact on the park’s environment and the process of professional evaluation of the trees. Member of the public, Daniel Fi, expressed surprise at the selection of Stewart as the Board of Education’s arborist, believing her to also serve as the borough’s arborist. He queried whether the weeping willows along the park’s side were among those recommended for removal. Stewart clarified that while some weeping willows were in fair condition, others had issues and were not deemed safe for a park area.

Superintendent Kennedy added that the original plan for tree removal came from the architects, and the arborist was brought in to provide a professional evaluation, which resulted in the updated plan. The number of trees recommended for removal in the original plan and those identified by the arborist were not the same, leading to further discussion.

The debate escalated as another member of the public, Lisa Koh, urged the Board of Education to walk the fields with the arborist after the new year for further discussion. Board member Robert Alvarez questioned the specifics of tree removal, while another member, Mrs. Harper, expressed concerns about the impact of tree removal on the park’s environment. Stewart provided insights into the condition of the trees, stating that out of the 36 trees she inventoried, 29 were recommended for removal due to poor or dead condition.

The discussion also delved into the broader context of the park’s renovations, with board member Marco Navarro highlighting the significance of the fields for the community, particularly for children’s recreational activities. He stated, “It’s good for the town, it’s good for the kids, and I mean to make it more complicated over a few trees, I just think we need to allow for the change.”

In addition to the tree removal debate, the meeting also acknowledged other issues. Superintendent Kennedy confirmed two HIB cases at Steen School, announced the addition of a new fourth-grade classroom and the implementation of vape detectors in the high school and middle school. He also mentioned the upcoming districtwide redistricting process.

The meeting also touched upon updates from student representative Ashley P, who highlighted various student activities and events. Furthermore, there was an acknowledgement of the achievements of various school teams and a show of gratitude to the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) for its contributions.

The board bid farewell to John Ortega, a board member for the past three years. His unique perspective and contributions were acknowledged, and he expressed gratitude for his service and the growth it brought him. Lastly, the meeting acknowledged the appointment of a new vice principal for Bogota High School and discussed ongoing initiatives such as band uniforms and upcoming fundraisers.

Did we get something wrong? Let us know.
Damian Kennedy
School Board Officials:
Frank Miranda, Bisi Ruckett, Idalia Alvarez, Marco Navarro, Susan Cruz, Robert Alvarez, Trina Rivera Olivo, John Ortega, Jose Chavez

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