$400K approved for Coleytown mold cleanup; parents demand timeline for remediation
WESTPORT — The Board of Finance wrote its first check for the latest episode in Coleytown Middle School’s battle with mold.
The board voted unanimously to approve $400,000 from the general fund for mold remediation at Coleytown at its Oct. 3 meeting. Elio Longo, finance director for Westport Public Schools, said mold remediation costs have reached over $800,000 this year, while the district has received $562,367 in insurance claim proceeds for Coleytown.
The board did not put up a fight to hand over the money, rather finance Chairman Brian Stern told Superintendent Colleen Palmer he and the board were partners in the effort to fix Coleytown. The school’s sixth and seventh graders were relocated to Bedford Middle School and eighth graders to Staples High School two weeks ago, after air quality and mold concerns prompted an evacuation.
Meanwhile, at a Monday night Board of Education meeting, parents were not as agreeable as the finance board, instead chiding the BOE for its lack of a more permanent solution.
“Your timeline is incomprehensible. We thought you would be talking about how you’re moving forward tonight. We didn’t think this was going to be another discussion about how in four weeks you’ll start talking about it,” Coleytown Parent Teacher Association Co-President Lee Goldstein said.
“If you can call it, if you can determine no one’s going back to Coleytown for the duration of the school year, then we can move on as a larger community, as a town, to the question of what to do about the building — fix it, rehab it, how to get to the real problem. ... But what we’re hearing is you're still unsure. You’re all still entrenched in this position that everything is fabulous, there’s a little mold here and there,” Goldstein said.
The BOE has enlisted the help of five outside consulting groups, including an industrial hygienist and air quality experts, to analyze Coleytown. It is waiting for the results in order to make further decisions, such as whether to rent portable classrooms for Bedford, should the relocation be longer than the four weeks currently authorized, BOE Chair Mark Mathias said.
“I see three options. No. 1: at the end of the authorization for the four weeks, the school is deemed safe and the kids move back. No. 2: we extend authorization for the kids to stay at Bedford and Staples for some longer period of time. No. 3: we simply say the kids are going to stay where they are for the rest of the school year. All of these are based on the information we have at the time we make a decision,” Mathias said, adding that decision will come at the board’s next meeting on Oct. 15.
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