The first day of school at Coleytown Elementary School. Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020
WESTPORT — At least one modular classroom will officially be coming to Coleytown Elementary School to address the increased enrollment in the district’s preschool program, Stepping Stones.
The selectwomen unanimously approved the 48-month, $148,000 lease with Aries Building Systems, LLC on Wednesday for the modular classrooms. This is likely the last step in the approval process though there is a slight chance the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection or the local health district might have to sign off on it.
Officials said it was unclear as of Wednesday if either agency would also have to approve it since the units wouldn’t have bathrooms or water, and the number of students and teachers in the program isn’t increasing. They said there is always a risk but likely only minimal since neither DEEP nor the health district said they would reject the proposal and the units can moved if needed.
“It sounds like the risk is low and the urgency is high,” said Selectwoman Candice Savin before suggesting the selectwomen proceed with the lease.
Elio Longo, the district’s chief financial officer, told the selectwomen on Wednesday that the enrollment in the preschool program has grown from about 35 students a few years ago to between 70 and 75 now.
While some safety concerns were raised during the approval process, the classrooms were ultimately approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Longo said all of the funding has been approved, too.
School officials proposed adding the two modular units back in January to address the growing enrollment in the preschool program, currently housed at Coleytown Elementary. The increase in students had already been flagged as something for the district to focus on several years earlier, given the amount of available space in the district’s facilities.
Officials are now looking at incorporating the preschool program into the Long Lots plans as they consider renovating or building new.
In the meantime, the district plans to address the space issues by adding the modular classroom, which Longo said wouldn’t be used for regular classroom instruction.
“Rather, it will be used for music or instrument instruction or art instruction,” he said.
The district received the Aries bid for the refurbished portable classroom at the end of February. At the time officials said it not only came in much lower than originally budgeted, but its close proximity allowed for a fast turnaround to ensure it would be in place for the start of the 2022-23 school year.
It was last used at Holland Hill Elementary School in Fairfield.
Officials expect it to be installed within 90 days after the final approval, according to comments at earlier meetings.
Katrina Koerting covers the environment, Redding, New Milford and surrounding towns for The News-Times. She joined The News-Times in 2015 after spending a few years as a reporter in Virginia.