Coleytown may not be ready for 2020 school start
WESTPORT — There was a collective gasp among Board of Finance members Thursday night when they learned for the first time that Coleytown Middle School may not reopen in time for the 2020-21 school year.
In an update, Donald O’Day, chairman of the CMS Building Committee, revealed the scope of the renovation and reconstruction work will be greater than the firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., previously indicated.
In particular, the firm is now recommending the entire shell of the building be “re-clad” for an unknown additional cost in a project already estimated to be in the range of $10 million to $20 million.
“With staging, I am more than 70 percent certain it’ll go OK, but I just don’t want to be overly optimistic,” O’Day said of the August 2020 goal.
Asked what the additional cost might be, he said, “I just don’t know.”
“This ain’t good,” BOF member Michael Rea said. “This basically is saying that our budget schedule is out the window.”
He said it felt like a “bait and switch,” with the finance board previously led to believe it was more manageable and cheaper, citing previous studies and data.
“The whole scope of this project has changed and I don’t have the confidence,” Rea said, that the cost couldn’t rise to “$20 million, $30 million or more.”
“I’m really confused and I’m kind of really disappointed. ... We’ve had studies on top of studies and now we’re hearing something completely different,” he said.
O’Day took offense with Rea’s phrase “bait and switch,” noting it implied a deliberate lie.
“That pisses me off a little bit,” he said.
“They said the scope of the project has expanded,” O’Day said of WJE, which had given a more hopeful assessment of the building than the original report by KG & D Architects, which he characterized as having “a sky-is-falling aspect.”
But, he said, “the patient was sicker than they thought. ... We’re just trying to fix a very broken school.”
“The cladding design and manufacturing time is significant,” O’Day noted, with the scope of the HVAC work also greater than previously estimated, and more lead time also needed to manufacturer the custom windows.
He suggested some solutions to hopefully still meeting the deadline, which begins with getting BOF approval before the end of June.
He said it may be possible to not re-clad the whole exterior, possibly waiting on the gym until after school starts. Also, he said, construction design plans could be started sooner, perhaps saving six weeks.
“Ready doesn’t necessarily mean complete,” Chairman Brian Stern said, noting there had to be some flexibility.
“Staging is our best approach,” O’Day said, “and there are things that can be staged (and) we can open the building safely.”
“If the outside of the building is no good, throwing metal on top of it doesn’t sound like a good idea,” said BOF member Sheri Gordon. “I have to wonder what’s going on under the chadding.”
Likewise, she said, parents may have concerns about the idea of it as a patchwork approach.
“The engineers and architects on our committee certainly agreed (that) it’s a pretty common approach,” O’Day said, noting there were barriers and treatments between the old walls and the new.
“I appreciate your words, but I am still not 100 percent convinced that this is something that will be safe and appropriate going forward,” Gordon said.