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Planning and Zoning Committee approve Long Lots construction proposal

Long Lots Elementary School was originally built in the 1950s as a middle school
Ayaan Olasewere ’25
Long Lots Elementary School was originally built in the 1950s as a middle school

Throughout the years, Long Lots has educated thousands of kids, leaving behind lifelong memories. Many high schoolers fondly remember playing soccer games in the lower fields, swinging on the swings in the playground and playing on scooters in the gym. Since the 1950s, it has been a place of learning and happiness for many. However, multiple inspections have highlighted the aging infrastructure that necessitates the need for a new school building.

On Jan. 22, the Planning and Zoning Committee approved the Building’s Committee Long Lots proposal. The goal of the proposal is to build a new building for Long Lots Elementary School and Stepping Stones. The committee hopes to start the construction before the end of 2024, and they hope to have kids in the new Long Lots for the fall of 2026.

The rebuilding of Long Lots comes after multiple experts labeled the school as being in significant disrepair. 

The bones of CMS were in better shape, so they could just renovate it,” First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker said, “but that’s not the case for Long Lots. The school is over 50 years old; it’s not in good enough shape to renovate.”

While a designer has not drawn out the new project, there is a rough image of what the new Long Lots campus will look like. The lower soccer fields are going to stay where they are, and the multi-use field on the upper level will move to where the gardens are now. The garden is going to get pushed further back against the boundary. To summarize, from the main entrance the layout will be the parking lot, then the multi-use field, then the garden. However, it still hasn’t been decided exactly where the school is going.

The best part of it is we’re going to have a new school for 700 kids for generations to come.

— First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker

“The next phase [is] to hire somebody to design everything,” Tooker said. “But how we think it’ll work now is where the current school is will be the playground area and [the playground area] will be behind the new school.”

While the gardeners like the fact that the garden is staying at the school, they don’t like that the current plan involves a smaller garden that is going to be moved further back against the trees in the process of building a new school. They believe that the other fields could be maximized in another way so the garden area doesn’t need to be taken.

“We have meticulously managed this land in an organic fashion to produce some of the finest soil you’ll ever find for growing conditions anywhere,” Westport Community Garden Chairman Louis Weinberg said. “All that we’ve created is conducive to not just soil productivity, but also to drainage, absorption of stormwater, and an ecosystem that supports high quality biodiversity. Destroy the garden and you go back to zero.”

The proposal went in front of the Board of Finance last week, asking for the money to hire a designer. After that, the same request has to be approved by the Representative Town Meeting. Once both bodies approve the request, they have to go out and hire a designer firm, architecture firm and all the construction firms.

“So the money gets approved by two separate bodies,” Tooker said. “Then we go out to the architectural and design community and ask for them to bid on doing the work and we hire the one we liked the best and who we think is going to do the best job.”

Once the firms are hired, it will probably take around six months to design the building, according to Tooker. Throughout the process, they’ll have multiple meetings, constantly sharing updates and the best recommendations for things such as parking and environmental measures. The committee wants to have a net zero building; this means they want the building to be fueling itself. 

“We would have hopefully have solar, geothermal wells; it’ll be as energy efficient and as sustainable as we can make it,” Tooker said. “This is such an environmentally focused town, so it would be really important to have a brand new building that really represents sustainability at its highest level.”

Overall, everyone is eager to create a sustainable elementary and preschool that will promote the learning environment that these kids deserve.

“The best part of it,” Tooker said, “is we’re going to have a new school for 700 kids for generations to come.”

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About the Contributor
Ayaan Olasewere ’25, Web Features Editor
Web Features Editor Ayaan Olasewere ’25 knows how to commit to a passion, whether it be journalism or sports.  “I swim competitively” Olasewere said, doing “mostly sprint events like 50 free or 100 free,” and she first learned to swim at only 18 months old. Perhaps journalism might be a passion she commits to as well, as she wishes to bring to light “a lot of the interesting things and events and issues happening in our community,” she said.   She also feels that many are “not as known or not as public, so I wanted to bring that to attention.”

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