Board Of Ed: 6th Graders Will Attend Elementary Schools

For the past 3 months, Westport educators and town officials have wrestled with the closing of Coleytown Middle School, due to mold.

Last night, the Board of Education released this statement:

The Board of Education thanks everyone who came out to our board meeting on Monday night. We appreciate all of the comments that were shared on behalf of parents, students, teachers and members of our Westport school community. As a board, we truly appreciate the passion that we all have for educational excellence in our town.

We also appreciate the words of our first selectman, Jim Marpe, who made it quite clear that he and his administration are behind us all the way, supporting the Board’s decision, as well as supporting us in our long-term plans moving forward. We are fortunate to have such great support.

As a result of all the input the Board has received, including listening to those in attendance on Monday night, the input of our Community Advisory Committee, numerous public sessions and substantial email messages and conversations and the recommendation of the Dr. Palmer, superintendent of schools, the Board of Education deliberated and voted to have all 6th grade students attend school in Westport’s current elementary schools commencing with the 2019-20 academic year.

Long Lots is one of Westport’s 5 elementary schools. It opened in the mid-1950s as a junior high,

With this decision, we as a town are working to ensure a smooth transition for our teachers, administrators and, most importantly, our students.

The Board of Education also voted to form the “CMS Task Force” to explore options for returning Coleytown Middle School to service and to make recommendations to the Board of Education. The Board of Education will name the members of this task force in early January.

The Board of Education additionally affirmed its commitment to completing an academic and facility vision by the end of September 2019.  This will be called the NextGenEd initiative and will start in January, 2019.

With these actions, the gears are in motion for Westport to continue to provide the high level of academic excellence now and for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Palmer will be following up with additional information regarding some of the details of the next steps.

The Board of Education thanks our fellow community members, the employees of our schools and town for their continued, valuable support and ideas.  Westport is a town that places great value on the education of each and every child in our community and that is our focus as we move forward.

Mark Mathias, Chair
Jeannie Smith, Vice Chair
Elaine Whitney, Secretary
Karen Kleine
Vik Muktavaram
Candice Savin
Neil Phillips

24 responses to “Board Of Ed: 6th Graders Will Attend Elementary Schools

  1. Congratulations to the Board of Education for the decision made for Westport sixth grade students to return to the elementary schools commencing with the 2019-20 school year. With all the various interests in our town pushing one way or another this was not an easy decision but it was the rational one.

    Thanks to those of you on the BOE for all of your time and effort on this most important decision for the welfare of the children and families of our town. Thanks also to Jim Marpe and his administration for your full support.

    Now some very important work and decisions lie ahead.

    Pete Wolgast

    • This was no rational decision.
      The Board voted on a non-plan.
      The K-6 “plan” that they decided on wasn’t even the one that was presented as being up for adoption.

  2. It’s very understandable why this move needed to be considered in light of the mold problem that developed at CMS. However, a number of town members are very concerned about the “fine print” related to this “short-term solution,” specifically that 6th grade theater classes were originally proposed to get cut as part of this decision. It was feared that “BMS” and “CMS” 6th grade after-school productions might not happen either at one of the town’s venues. I saw no reference to either issue in this BoE release.

    Sixth grade is a pivotal year for providing an opportunity and lighting a spark for many students that carries through the remaining middle school and high school years.

    The 8th grade theater class was cut several years back and should be re-instituted; it was a mistake to remove that elective as an option.

    The benefits of theater extend well beyond the realm of theater: public speaking, thinking on one’s feet, creating and defending a point of view, etc. regardless of the academic and career paths students take. Each student that is part of tech, pit and / or acting, earns a sense of accomplishment, practices improvisation, and learns teamwork in a manner at least equal to sports teams. Project management, collaboration across teams as well as many other life skills are learned in a fun and real way.

    Education leaders in this town should be finding ways to make the BMS, CMS and SHS theater programs even stronger, not cutting the already limited options.

  3. Great idea – when I grew up elementary school was K -6. Junior High was 7-8. Bedford is beautiful, well build and a great venue for our teens. My only concern is that when 6th is moved back to elementary school that those students are provided with the science, computer, and specials labs that they now have

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Chip Stephens SHS '73

    What’s old is new K-6 worked for years and will work again. Its the quality of the teachers and the flexibility and resiliency of the students that will see the plan work. Add to that, our facilities that are way above the average and compare to the best in the country that will allow this to work well despite all the kicking and screaming that will ensue.

    • With all due respect, Chip, have you been inside all of our facilities recently? CES and to a lesser degree LLS( at least to the naked eye), are certainly not “way above average” and do not “compare to the best in the country” in terms of their physical plants, which are poorly designed and badly maintained. Not to mention that CES has never upgraded its un-air-conditioned and poorly ventilated multi purpose “gymnatorium.” Ask anyone who has been to any school event there if they thought they were in a “way above average” facility. All town leadership, including P&Z, needs to understand that the days of deferring have to be over in terms of our investment in the actual physical plants our excellent education system is housed in. Yes, great teachers and a relevant and challenging curriculum are key to it all. And spending on technology, for academics and encore studies is also important. But having a plan to inspect, assess, maintain, modify, and yes, potentially rebuild as needed our physical plants is imperative for the future of Westport. Perhaps it’s not glamorous, but the lesson of CMS should be internalized by all of our town boards. In the tumult of having to choose between solutions that both offered severe drawbacks, let’s not forgot or dismiss the reasons this choice was forced.

      • Elizabeth Thibault

        Amy, this is 100% accurate, and probably kind. We’ve just recently been inside CES for basketball games, and I was shocked and horrified at the state of the school. It is ugly, poorly maintained, and very outdated in the appearance and condition of the facilities. It really upset me to see the state of the building, especially considering how nice and modern others like Bedford, Staples, and even GFS are.

  5. Arline Gertzoff

    I applaud the decision of the Board of Ed.I am a product of the Westport Schools K-6 7-9 10-12 My best math teacher the late Ray Walsh taught Math in a portable at BJHS .The river had not been dredged so the whole place smelled.The great teachers prevailed and we learned.We also had to deal with the bomb scare stuff regularly.They can work it out.My only gripe is CMS issues go back many years ago and should have been addressed long ago.Maintenance needs to be improved for all the buildings and should be a priority

  6. Michael London

    This could be the right permanent solution. Sell CMS and reinvest in the existing schools to do something more ambitious like creating zero energy buildings to provide a healthy environments inside and out….very feasible and huge savings in the middle and long term.

  7. Can someone tell me if Westport has 2 maintenance departments? One for the schools and one for the town?


  8. Stephanie Bass

    Sounds like a well considered decision.

    Going forward — who was supposed to tell us that the mold problem was serious? Would addressing it in a more timely manner have saved the community money? And we would not be in our current position?

    Are they still in charge going forward? Is there any accountability? What is different in how we handle this in the future? Is a smart, knowledgeable person in charge of all mold issues in our school system?

    • It isn’t well considered. It’s the opposite. The Board voted 5-2 to go with K-6, but there was no true definition of what that meant other than grades K-6 go to the elementary schools. The Board didn’t even vote on the K-6 plan that was presented.

      The superintendent Coleen Palmer was supposed to tell the Board about the structural problems that lead to the mold problems. She continued to neglect to inform the Board and then downplay any information that she did convey.

      She’s still there. It remains to be seen if the Board continues to support her. Some members of the Board seem to think she can do no wrong, and support her every position, no matter how many times she changes it.

  9. Are all El schools currently K-5? When we went it was K-4

  10. I’m sure that K-6 was a great idea when the buildings could actually hold that many students.
    K-6 now will require children walking out to trailers to have classes. Some classes will be taught off of carts being rolled into rooms. Some classes will be taught by video conferencing.

  11. Yes Bart they are separate the school is separate from the town

    • When will Westport get real about the costs to have multiple departments doing the same task? How much longer will this go on and we watch as problems like CMS happen? Anyone remember Kong’s Highway?

      Is it just the belief that the residents of Westport will just pay higher and higher taxes to maintain duplicate organizations?

      Why is the BofE off limits to structural changes?

  12. Stephanie Bass

    2nd request:

    …can someone tell me who screwed up and how the future will be different?

    • Nobody will be held accountable other than the Westport tax payer that will pay for the mismanagement.

  13. Don L. Bergmann

    I repeat my suggestions previously conveyed to Dr. Palmer and the BoE. We have declining enrollment, a need for some redistricting, an existing commitment by the BoE and Dr. Palmer to effect structural changes in our educational undertakings and the burden of minimal State funds and issues as to annual BoE operations spending increases. Possible solution: CMS should be eliminated, our elementary schools should be first through sixth, all Pre K and K children should be located at Coley El, with an addition to that building (or a new Pre K and K facility found or constructed), and BMS should serve all seventh and eight graders.
    Don Bergmann

  14. 1. Redistrict the town.
    2. Grades 6-8 go to Bedford and one of the elementary buildings. Or 7-8 go to Bedford and 6 goes to one of the els.
    3. Grades 1-5 use the remaining four elementary schools.
    4. preK and K, using rented spaces, go to the Young Learner Academy format.
    5. The reconstructed/new building is built on the CMS site. (It would be nice if the redesign/design has a lot of wiggle usage).
    6. The Young Learner Academy moves into that building.

    By doing it this way, redistricting only needs to happen once. The els are not overcrowded. Rental space is easier to arrange for the needs of Pre-K/K.