Coleytown on track for 2020 opening after $32M remediation

WESTPORT — The Coleytown Middle School Building Committee was met with praise as they detailed a $32 million plan to remediate Coleytown Middle School and have it open in time for the 2020-21 school year.

Town officials and parents attended the committee meeting at Staples High School Wednesday night to hear the news. This comes after initial reports the renovation could take longer than expected.

“There was an approach we could take to Band-Aid fix it. We elected to not do that. We elected to fix Coleytown the right way,” CMS Building Committee Chairman Donald O’Day said.

Coleytown closed in September following air quality issues and mold being discovered in the building. Students at the school were then placed at Bedford Middle School for this school year.

Cost estimates for the remediation project include $22.3 million in construction, along with $5.8 million in contingency and fees, for a total construction cost of $28.1 million.

Estimates also included a “soft cost” of $2.5 million, which included moving and storage costs, special testing and various other fees. There is also a cost of $1.2 million for alternative options requested by the Board of Education, including air conditioning in the gym and locker rooms, gym wall upgrades and more security.

Newfield Construction also estimated that building a completely new school would cost $75 million, as the Board of Education wanted to research all possibilities. BOE Chairman Mark Mathias gave his praise to the committee for their work following the presentation.

“Thank you all for what you’ve done to advance this,” Mathias told the committee.

Renovation work for Coleytown is expected to be completed by mid-August 2020, barring issues. O’Day said there were always outside factors that could cause delays, such as weather, but he was confident things would go according to plan.

According to a presented timeline, O’Day said by mid-April a final decision would be made on whether or not the school would in fact open in August 2020.

On Thursday night, the commitee will make a presentation to the Boards of Education and Finance, and members of the Representative Town Meeting. Funding bodies will make a decision on the costs on July 16.

Other major dates listed in the presentation included the approval of construction documents on Oct.4 and the awarding of contracts on Nov.28.

O’Day noted a minor issue could be cladding of the building continuing into September. However, he said this would not impact the school opening in August.

“It’s not going to be on the interior. The interior is going to be check every box we’re supposed to do and more,” O’Day said. “But work has to continue on the outside based on the current schedule as we see it.”

First Selectman Jim Marpe said he couldn’t be prouder of a town committee following the presentation.

“It’s a committee that has demonstrated the strength of Westport and the quality of it’s volunteer base,” Marpe said, adding the presentation provided a set of data the town could have confidence in.

“It will allow the funding bodies to make the difficult decisions that lie ahead, but make those decisions with confidence in information that will support them,” Marpe said.

Westport resident Robert Harrington said the presentation represented a proud moment for Westport.

“This is not just preparing the school, this is not just doing the best we can. This is finally after a long, long time, finally taking the bandaid off the Coleytown Middle School building,” he said.

The timeline and work presented went beyond both cynics and optimists of the project, Harrington said.

“This is finally putting Coleytown Middle School on par with Bedford once and for all,” he said. “This community needs to get behind this.”

CMS PTA co-chairs Susan Hermann and Lee Goldstein thanked the committee for their work following the presentation.

“This far exceeds our expectations. It’s like Christmas in June,” Hermann said. “You’re the best friends Coleytown could have ever had.”