Westport approves the implementation of portable classrooms at Coleytown Elementary School

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Graphic by Mia Bomback ’25

Westport approves a 2-year lease with Aries Building Systems LLC. for two portable classrooms at Coleytown Elementary school in hopes that the classrooms will help to alleviate overcrowding at the school. Over the past few years, as a result of migration to Westport due to COVID-19 as well as other factors, CES and Stepping Stones Preschool, which is housed in the CES building have seen major increases in enrollment.

Westport approved the installation of a portable classroom at Coleytown Elementary (CES) for $148,000 to address concerns of overpopulation at the school. The classroom, approved on Wednesday, May 25, is expected to be installed at the start of the upcoming 2022-23 school year. 

School officials proposed the addition of two portable classrooms for Coleytown Middle School to the Board of Education (BOE) in early January. While CES has a growing population of 448 students and 82 faculty members, it also houses Stepping Stones Preschool (SSP), whose increased enrollment poses concerns about overpopulation at CES. Over the past 5 years, CES has seen enrollment increase by 20%, while SSP’s total capacity has grown from about 35 students a few years ago to between 70 and 75 now, Elio Longo, the Westport Public School District’s Chief Financial Officer told Katrina Koerting of CT Insider.

After approval from the BOE in late January, the Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Finance, the Representative Town Meeting and the Zoning Board of Appeals all signed off on the addition, before the selectwomen, Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore approved the proposal on Wednesday, May 25. Approval from the selectwomen was likely the last step needed in the process, though some speculate that there is a chance the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection or the local health district might have to sign off on it. 

“The modular classrooms will provide additional space for CES classes without having to resort to additional repurposing and sharing of classrooms, offices, and other spaces to address staff and student space needs,” BOE member Liz Heyer said. “The Board was [happy to] support the Administration’s recommendation to install [the] classrooms.” 

The initial proposal intended for CES and SSP to each gain one portable classroom. At least one of the two modules originally proposed was approved to be used by CES for music instruction. 

“Everyone wants to do what is best for our students,” Sirowich said, “and we do think that this solution is the best option at this time.”

The modular classrooms will provide additional space for CES classes without having to resort to additional repurposing and sharing of classrooms, offices, and other spaces to address staff and student space needs,”

— BOE member, Liz Heyer

Westport has leased the classrooms from Aries Building Systems, LLC. The one confirmed classroom is refurbished from 2016 when it was last used at Holland Hill Elementary School in Fairfield.

CES Principal Jana Sirowich is optimistic that the addition of the classrooms will help to create more space at the elementary school.

 “The additional classrooms are needed to accommodate the growing class sections,” she said. “Next year, without the portable classrooms, the building would not have enough space for all of the classroom spaces needed in an elementary school.” 

She is confident that her staff in the music department will be able to adapt to teaching in the portables.

 “The CES staff is incredibly flexible and creative,” Sirowich said. “Teachers have been wonderful about sharing spaces and working together this year.” 

The portable classrooms will be used by the music department. Specifically, the orchestra and band teachers will teach lessons to fourth and fifth graders in these classrooms.

The portable classrooms are a temporary solution to a much larger problem at CES. 

“The Board is still exploring long-term options for CES & SSP. One possible long-term solution considers moving the SSP program to a potential newly constructed building that would house both Long Lots Elementary School (LLS) and SSP on the current LLS property,” Heyer said. 

But for now, the CES and Stepping Stones are relieved to see attention paid to the issue.