Wednesday, December 08, 2021

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Education

Westport Enrollment Projected to Decrease

By Jarret Liotta

Regardless of a new apartment units eventually coming online in Westport, a consultant told the Board of Education tonight that enrollment numbers will continue to drop for at least the next five years.

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Karen LeDuc and Donald Kennedy of New England School Development Council share students enrollment projects. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

Donald Kennedy of the New England School Development Council projects Westport student enrollment will decrease by 483 students through the 2023-24 school year, having been steadily dropping since 2012-13, when it topped at 5,753.

It currently stands at 5,438.

“We are projecting about a 100 annual decline of the K-12 students … or over five years a 483 decline in the total of the district,” Kennedy said.

Superintendent Offers Options on School Crisis

By Jarret Liotta

See detailed memo on options HERE
(pdf)
See Turner memo HERE (pdf)

Westport Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer today presented a range of options to deal with the future of displaced Coleytown Middle School (CMS) students after this school year.

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Members of the new Community Advisory Group (CAG) listen to presentations. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

They included designating one of the five current elementary schools a middle school, or finding a separate townwide preschool and kindergarten facility.

Palmer shared more than a dozen options and variations with the newly appointed Board of Education (BOE) Community Advisory Group (CAG), which met for the first time late today at Town Hall.

Its mission is to advise the BOE and elected officials on long- and short-term use of facilities as they pertain to educational goals and strategies, and to assess current school facilities in the wake of the closing of CMS.

BOE Names New Members of Community Advisory Group

By Jarret Liotta

Moving quickly to generate feedback, the Board of Education officially put the Community Advisory Group into place Thursday night with the aim of getting consensus on how the town should respond to the crisis at Coleytown Middle School (CMS).

Though several slots are still open, the group is scheduled to hold its first public work session Sunday at 5 p.m. in Town Hall, at which time a series of possible options will be presented by Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer regarding the future of CMS and its students.

Among the members in place are teachers John Horrigan of CMS, who is also co-president of the Westport Education Association, and Jeanne Bowles of Saugatuck Elementary School (SES). Both are also Westport residents.

The three PTA members included Elena Caggiano, representing Staples High School’s PTA, Lee Goldstein, CMS co-president, representing the middle schools, and Amie Peck, PTA co-president at SES.

Storm Causes Modification of BOE Session

Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer today sent the following email to parents:

“Due to the pending storm, all student after-school and evening activities are canceled for this evening, Thursday, November 15, 2018.

“In the spirit of not delaying the formation of the Community Advisory Group, the Board of Education will hold its 7:30 p.m. meeting this evening with a modified approach. The meeting will be convened using a conference call line available to the Board and members of the public.

“The Board will reschedule the first agenda item, Update/Discussion on CMS/BMS/SHS, but will continue with the second agenda item, Vote on Membership of Community Advisory Group.

RTM Approves $400,000 for CMS Mold Remediation

A $400,000 Board of Education request to help cover mold remediation costs at Westport’s Coleytown Middle School (CMS) seemed tame compared to what the future might hold -— up to $70 million for a new, mold-free school.

But the lower cost did not mean a rubber stamp from the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight. Several members offered caveats and suggestions to the school board before the legislative body approved the appropriation by a vote of 30 to 0 with 2 abstentions

“I really hope you will make it a priority to do a full study of all the facilities,” said RTM member Wendy Batteau, adding that the town should not be taken by surprise with mold issues at other schools.

Batteau echoed a suggestion made earlier by RTM member Seth Bronstein.

Plans Firmed for BOE Advisory Committee

By Jarret Liotta

The Westport Board of Education (BOE) and administration moved ahead today on formation of a townwide advisory committee to deal with the closure of Coleytown Middle School (CMS) due to air quality issues.

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Today’s meeting heard from Adam Rosen (l), BMS principal, James D’Amico (2nd l) SHS principal, and Kris Szabo (r) CMS principal. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

A morning Town Hall meeting of the board’s Finance and Facilities Committee (FFC) formed a recommendation to the full board on makeup and charge of the new committee, to be called the Community Advisory Committee (CAC).

At the same time, it heard from teachers and parents that the temporary measures involved in moving almost 500 students from CMS to Bedford Middle School (BMS) and Staples High School (SHS) are “not working.”

The town has received numbers for extensive remediation of CMS starting at $25 million, as well as a price tag of up to $70 million to construct a new building.

Board of Ed Updates Community on CMS

The Board of Education today sent the following email to community members on the issues affecting Coleytown Middle School (CMS), which was closed in September because of air quality issues:

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Feedback sought on Coleytown Middle. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Dear Community Members,

Our school district is undergoing an unprecedented situation. Seven weeks ago the Board of Education voted to move students out of Coleytown Middle School and educate them at Bedford Middle School and Staples High School. The board acted quickly to hire both the architect and industrial hygienist to provide third-party evaluations of the condition of the building.

We are sending this communication to the community in order to let you know what actions are being taken by the board to address this situation in both the short- and long-term.

On Monday, Nov. 5 the Board heard a report from KG+D Architects about their assessment of Coleytown Middle School. KG+D offered very preliminary cost estimates of three options to remediate or rebuild Coleytown Middle School ranging from $25 to $70 million. The report is available for viewing at: http://bit.ly/KGD-CMSReport-2018-11-05.

Information Sessions Set on CMS Problems

Westport school officials have set up meetings this month for parents to update them on problems on shuttered Coleytown Middle School (CMS).

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A photo of the CMS roof from the consultant’s report. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) KG+D Architects photo

In an email to parents, Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer said the first will take place in the Bedford Middle School (BMS) auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. before the Board of Education meeting on Monday, Nov. 19.

Two other sessions have been scheduled for parental feedback on remedial options on Tuesday, Nov. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Long Lots Elementary School Auditorium and on Wednesday, Nov. 28 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Westport Town Hall Auditorium.

“The goal is to have a decision for 2019-20 in place before the holiday recess in December,” Palmer said.

Architecture Firm Estimates Fixing CMS at $25M to $70M

By Jarret Liotta

UPDATE A potential price tag of up to $70 million has officially turned an education-related problem into a townwide issue with news that Coleytown Middle School (CMS) — shut down in September by air quality issues — might have to be replaced.

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Erik Kaeyer, principal of KG&D Architects, gives a presentation to the Board of Education tonight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

The Board of Education voted unanimously tonight to form a townwide ad hoc committee to include officials, parents, teachers and taxpayers without children in the schools to determine the best course of action and make a recommendation to the superintendent of schools.

It was a standing room-only crowd in the cafeteria at Staples High School, with well over 100 parents in attendance to hear the report from Mount Kisco, New York-based architectural consultant KG&D. Its representatives outlined extensive damage to the inside walls at CMS and a roof that is not properly draining water.

While it’s not official, there is evidence that the school — which is closed for the duration of the 2018-19 school year — would require at least another year or two for renovations, and up to five years if the town decides to build a new one.