Thursday, March 23, 2023


BOE to Mull Over CMS Plans

By Jarret Liotta

The Westport Board of Education on Monday will consider the future of the now shuttered Coleytown Middle School (CMS) and how best to configure it in Westport’s school system. Image
Range of options up for discussion. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

With an eye to getting it back online at the earliest in September 2020 at a cost that could exceed $20 million, educators are looking at a range of options.

A draft report published in advance of the Monday meeting says one option to best balance the current sixth through eight grade model is to redistrict approximately 120 students from Long Lots School (LLS) and 19 from Kings Highway School (KHS).

Two ways to avoid any redistricting would be to create a townwide grade six academy at CMS or a townwide grade five-six school.

Among the materials under scrutiny Monday night will be three new “scenario” projections from consultant company Milone & Macbroom.

The first of which — Scenario 10 — looks at moving Stepping Stones preschool from Coleytown Elementary School (CES) to LLS, and subsequently balancing enrollment at the elementary schools.

With an increase of 113 seats at CES after the preschool is moved, Scenario 10 suggests moving 19 KHS students from the Stoneboat Road neighborhood and 82 LLS students roughly centered in the neighborhood south of Cross Highway on either side of Roseville Road, to CES.

Scenario 10 also calls for 37 students from LLS who live roughly around the western end of Long Lots Road up toward North Avenue, to then attend Greens Farms School (GFS).

Amounting to redistricting 7 percent of the elementary students in town, the consultants see this scenario — in conjunction with the creation of a grade six academy — as the least disruptive among redistricting scenarios aimed at balancing the elementary schools.

“If (the) district were to house 6th grade at Coleytown Middle School there would be additional capacity for education programs or administrative space,” the report said.

In Scenario 11, which hypothesizes CMS as a 540-student six to eight school — more in balance with the numbers at Bedford Middle School (BMS) — 10 percent of the K-5 students would be redistricted in order to balance the “feeder pattern” of the elementary schools to CMS and BMS.

Along with that same group of 82 LLS students in the Roseville and Cross Highway neighborhood going to CES following moving Stepping Stones to LLS, 49 LLS students roughly around the Whitney Street area would start going to Saugatuck Elementary School (SES).

Also a total of 70 SES students from the neighborhoods around Richmondville Avenue and Evergreen Parkway would respectively switch to KHS and CES.

“A balanced Middle School feeder pattern results in an enrollment imbalance in the elementary districts,” the report said, with KHS then being at close to 94-percent utilization, and CES at 92 percent, while GFS would only be at 75 percent.

Scenario 12 would change the feeder pattern so that all students from CES and LLS would attend CMS, while KHS, GFS and SES would go to Bedford.

This plan keeps building utilization under 89 percent for all the elementary schools, and while it requires no redistricting at the elementary level, 44 percent of Westport’s middle school students would be relocated.

As the BOE grapples with the decision of how CMS will look when it finally reopens, there are other considerations competing.

A research review by the Connecticut Center for School Change gave some seemingly conflicting thoughts on what is the best way to configure grades.

With the qualification that research is “imperfect and incomplete,” the review takes note that transitions tend to have negative consequences on students, and that traditional middle schools have a negative impact on students.

It says, however, there is no guarantee that any configuration will be better than another, with elements like instructional practice, leadership, and school climate among the key factors in determining student success.

Before its ultimate decision, the BOE will likely be asking the CMS Building Committee to incorporate a range of renovation enhancements to the project before designs are finalized.

A list of priorities submitted by Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, via a survey of CMS teachers and administrators, asks for a range of items.

Among them are prioritized security enhancements, including additional interior cameras in the building, as well as various upgrades at the main entrance; redesign of the library/media space, including a video production center, projection system and various space and furniture enhancements; gymnasium renovations that include mechanical walls, air conditioning, and new lockers; and renovation to the six science labs, including electrical and plumbing work, new furniture and tech updates.

Other considerations requested include redesign of music, theater, art and STEM space.

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