Facing delay, Westport school board prepares contingency plans for Coleytown
WESTPORT — The plan to re-open Coleytown Middle School on Sept. 1 may likely face a delay because of the coronavirus.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable that Sept. 1 for opening day at CMS is still a likely scenario,” CMS Building Committee Chair Don O’Day said at a Board of Education meeting on Monday. “ I think the more likely scenario is a delay.”
Last summer, the Representative Town Meeting approved a $32 million plan to restore Coleytown after the middle school closed in 2018 due to massive mold problems.
But with social distancing guidelines now in place, O’Day said work has slowed at the site. Workers are afraid of catching COVID-19 and staff is taking extreme caution and quarantining themselves if someone is suspected of contracting the virus.
“Last week, only two of the 13 trades were actually on the job site for most of the days,” O’Day said, so productivity has fallen.
Newfield Construction, construction manager for the project, is expected to provide the building committee with a revised timeline in early May.
“I don’t know how long that delay will be and as painful as this is for everyone, I have to accept the reality that there are things that we simply can’t control,” O’Day said. “We can certainly mitigate the downside and we will, and we’ll do that everyday.”
Delivery of the new HVAC system for CMS is also experiencing a delay of several days, O’Day said.
In preparation for moving the school opening, the district’s administration outlined two tentative scheduling scenarios for the BOE: re-opening CMS sometime later in the fall, and a repeat model of this year with students from CMS at Bedford Middle School.
Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said moving the start date further into September or later meant teacher teams would work in reduced space and CMS students would keep with their team through the transition. The two school populations would also run separately within the building.
In the second scenario, students would be fully integrated, but both schools’ students could be given new teams and schedules if CMS students were relocated during the year.
Buono noted the first scenario had been laid out for Sept. 1 to Dec. 15, but felt that time period was too long.
“I think September and October, and beyond that, it starts to become questionable,” he said. “The impact just gets greater as time goes on.”
If the delay extended into winter break, Buono said he would recommend keeping the schools combined for the upcoming school year.
“We would blend the students from CMS and BMS as we did this year,” he said. “As you know, it’s not optimal, but it’s functioning very well in my opinion.”
While administration marked June 1 as the date for a decision, several board members said they hoped to make a decision earlier.
“This is just the beginning of planning for various scenarios, vetting them and having discussions about them so that we can make a well-informed decision when we need to a little later in the spring,” BOE Chair Candice Savin said. “This is just the first of these discussions we will be having.”
The BOE will discuss Coleytown’s opening again at its meeting April 27.