Rebuilding confidence and trust in our school buildings

This letter was originally sent to the superintendent of schools and Westport Board of Education, and is being published here at the writer’s request.

To the editor:

I was disappointed with many parts of the meeting last night (Nov. 19).

It was particularly awkward watching the principals of BMS and CMS talking about their “schools.”

I applaud all the work they do. It was uncomfortable watching you all listen to them. People in the room could read between the lines and it’s clear they still have important frustrations with the status quo, despite improvements. At best they were being throughly professional and very diplomatic last night.

You have all done a fantastic job protecting and growing educational standards in our classrooms over multiple years. That issue is not on the table here. I want to be very clear about that.

This is about our school buildings and facilities. We need to learn the lessons of what happened here and how we got to this place.

This relates to all our school building and facilities — not just CMS.

We need to rebuild trust in our school buildings. Last night you collectively pushed out a decision to move ahead with a comprehensive facilities assessment, on all our schools. This doesn’t help rebuild trust. It may only be a delay for one meeting, but it is not good enough and is something that should already be in place.

I will now raise this issue directly with the newly formed Community Action Group.

I would explicitly like to request for certain documents be made public, should they exist. Full transparency in answering these questions will help the process here:

Any records, reports and tests relating to each school?

Specifically, has mold testing been conducted at all the facilities housing our children and teachers? If so what were the results?

More broadly, can you release all documents that will give us a clearer picture on the current facilities (and plan) across our district? This is critical in any event, but the CAG will be considering potentially moving additional children to some of these facilities.

These documents should all be placed on the WPS website. I appreciate there is already a lot of information posted on this site, but providing transparency, or being candid, about these specific matters will help us all.

The community needs to understand what has currently been done and where we stand today as it relates to all our school buildings. Many parents have questions specifically on mold. Others have broader questions that go well beyond mold.

When was a comprehensive assessment of our district wide school buildings last carried out?

What is the current district wide buildings and facilities plan?

If this information is not available, then you should be transparent with the community about it — and we will all move to get this information together. This will start to rebuild trust in our facilities.

This is a difficult time but the quality of our overall education programs are still clearly excellent. We must all rebuild confidence and trust in our school buildings to ensure this continues.

Thank you for your consideration in providing the community with the answers to the questions raised here. We may disagree on several matters but I truly respect the time and effort you all put into our schools on behalf of our children and the town.

Robert Harrington