By Jarret Liotta
Though things have been moving smoothly with the Coleytown Middle School (CMS) refurbishment, how COVID-19 could impact the construction schedule remains unknown.
“The message that I wanted to put out was that, as of today, the schedule is still showing that we’re going to open as of September 1st, for the fall semester if you will, at Coleytown Middle School,” Don O’Day, chair of the CMS Building Committee, told the Board of Education (BOE) tonight.
“With the challenges we face form the coronavirus … we need to look at where we are on a very regular basis,” he said, noting he would give a report at every BOE meeting going forward.
“Right now what I’m telling you is we’re still good to go,” he said.
O’Day noted, however, that the governor of New York state had, in fact, shut down all construction projects that were not deemed essential.
“We all know that a lot can change in a day or two,” he said, with Connecticut’s future in that regard an unanswered question.
Reactions and restrictions due to the virus, he said, could potentially touch the project in terms of the supply chain and the workforce in particular.
“As of now there really is only one issue that’s a potential problem,” he said, involving the Pennsylvania-based glass supplier for the new school windows.
“As of today there is no real challenge for supplies and materials that hasn’t been addressed,” O’Day said. “It doesn’t mean that won’t happen in the future.”
“It’s something that’s being watched carefully,” he said.
Issues with the workforce, he said, have already proved more problematic, with certain tradespeople — which he did not specifically name — having had large numbers of absences over the past three weeks.
“The health and safety of everyone working on Coleytown Middle School is our top priority,” O’Day said. “It’s my top priority.”
He said the August deadline was important, but “I’m not going to do it on the back of anybody getting sick.”
Meanwhile about 50 tradespeople continue to work in the building, with around 150 expected on the site each day over the summer.
O’Day said that while it was easier for those outside to maintain the prescribed distance, inside things were more problematic.
In terms of the building not being open, Superintendent of Schools David Abbey said contingencies were under consideration.
“We’ll have a backup scheduling plan in place just to be safe,” he said. “The big issue for us would be our hiring.”
Fortunately, he said, Westport is a sought-after district for potential employees, so it would not be as hard to do hires closer to the beginning of the school year.
Abbey noted the portables currently being used at Bedford Middle School could also be made available if additional classroom space was needed.