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Tuesday, March 26 News

Task force to assess viability of returning to Coleytown next fall

WESTPORT — While the Board of Education moves forward with a plan to keep town’s sixth graders in the elementary schools next year, it has also staffed a task force to assess the viability of returning to the currently defunct Coleytown Middle School next fall.

“The reason for the CMS task force is that while we’ve looked at the long-term plans for CMS, there’ve been a number of people saying it might be possible to reoccupy Coley for the next academic year,” Board of Education Chair Mark Mathias said.

After the BOE closed Coleytown in September due to concerns about ongoing issues with mold, the board hired Mount Kisco based KG+D Architects to investigate what it would take to remediate the building. In November, KG+D presented the BOE with solutions for Coleytown, with estimated costs ranging from $25 million to $70 million.

“KG+D’s was a long-term perspective. We did not ask them about whether there were some interim solutions that may get Coleytown back, even on a partial basis. Not only had townspeople said there might be another option, we also had professionals who said there might be other options,” Mathias said of the BOE’s rationale for forming a CMS task force.

The task force has seven members appointed by the BOE, all of whom are residents and many of whom currently serve on the town’s Maintenance Study Committee.

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CMS Task Force Members:

-Jay Keenan

-Vanessa Valadares (Chair)

-Joseph Renzulli

-Russell Blair

-Lois Roberts

-Ward French

-Sri Puttagunta

“These people are all engineers, architects, and people that know a lot about buildings,” Mathias said, adding the task force will present to the BOE in January on its findings about the possibility of reopening Coleytown in the fall.

On Wednesday, the task force met for the first time and elected Vanessa Valadares to chair the group. Valadares works as a project engineer for the city of Norwalk, according to her Linkedin profile.

At the same time, elementary school parents parents, notably from Long Lots Elementary School, have spoken out at BOE meetings with concerns the school will be overcrowded when the sixth graders remain on the elementary school campuses later this year.

The BOE is preparing open bidding for a company to add two to three portable classrooms to each elementary school, and all schools will meet fire safety capacities for each building and district maximums for class sizes, Mathias said.

The Board of Education will next meet on Jan. 14.

Sophie Vaughan|Reporter, Westport News

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