Board looks for solutions after Coleytown update
WESTPORT — News that Coleytown Middle School may not be open by August 2020 left Board of Education members wondering of potential solutions.
CMS Building Committee Chairman Donald O’Day gave his update on the state of the remediation project at the education board’s meeting Monday night.
He assured the board there were reasons to believe the school could still be safely habitable by the start of the 2020-21 school year.
“By no means are we raising the white flag,” O’Day said.
To reach that goal, he said several options are being researched, includng staging parts of the project or potentially adding more costly double shifts to get the work done faster.
O’Day said the most important thing was ensuring the project was completed.
“We’ve made it absolutely crystal clear that we are not going to get the building to good enough. The building is going to be repaired,” he said. “It’s going to be done right. This doesn’t mean it has to be opened in 2021, it could still be opened in 2020.”
The update comes after a recommendation by firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. to “re-clad” the entire shell of the building.
With numbers for additional costs expected in the coming week, O’Day suggested a special meeting between his committee and the BOE on or around June 19.
Several board members voiced their concern with the timeline, saying from the beginning it may have not been feasible.
“I said publicly many times I never had confidence in this timeline,” Candice Savin said, adding the news was almost identical to what was presented by their original consultant KG&D Architects.
“They told us this would be a time-consuming project almost identical to what your committee is saying,” Savin said. “Our reliance on KG&D was reasonable and has came out to be accurate.”
Savin said she did not think the board or town has considered all its options. This could include taking money from Coleytown and putting it toward an addition at Bedford, or turning Coleytown into a school for all fifth- and sixth-graders in town.
“I’m not sure we have enough kids for two middle schools in town,” Savin said.
BOE Chairman Mark Mathias also voiced his displeasure with the original timeline.
“We were put into a time box,” he said. “What could we do if we didn’t have that time box? ... That’s kind of a big question I’ve always had.”
Neil Phillips echoed Mathias by saying the process had been “held hostage” by the August 2020 date.
BOE Vice Chair Jeannie Smith said time needs to be allotted to get all the stakeholders in town in one place. In particular she is looking to have to have her board, the Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting members all come together to be on the same page.
“We are all a team,” Smith said. “We need to work together to come up with possible solutions that the town will get behind and keep the kids in mind first.”
The Board of Education’s next meeting is on June 10.