Portable classrooms at CES attempt to alleviate overpopulation


Graphic by Alex Gaines ’25

Coleytown Elementary School (CES) is adding two portable classrooms to its property in order to address spatial concerns due to the growing populations of both CES and Stepping Stones Preschool (which is located inside of CES).

Two portable classrooms have been proposed to be added to the Coleytown Elementary School (CES) building, costing the Westport Board of Education approximately $750,000. This is a beginning step in the Board of Education’s (BOE) larger goal of renovation and improvement of educational facilities.


Growing Student Community

Assistant superintendent Mike Rizzo proposed the modular classrooms on Jan. 24 to mitigate overcrowding after a 20% increase in enrollment at CES in the past five years. The next five years foresee a further 8% of growth as new families enter the Westport community. 

While CES has a total capacity of 448 students, the building also houses Stepping Stones Preschool (SSP). With SSP also growing in population, the district decided to take action. SSP itself should not be impacted by the portable classrooms.

“The board sees it as a temporary solution to address the growing enrollment at Stepping Stones Preschool […] while we evaluate and figure out the best long term solution for [the] preschool,” BOE member Liz Heyer said.

Though the portables were originally intended to divide Stepping Stones between the main building and the modulars, the BOE decided this would be more detrimental to the preschoolers’ development than the current plan. 

“The school is […] bursting at the seams [a little bit],” BOE member Dorie Hordon said. “Adding the modulars will relieve some of the space issues […] at Coley.”


Logistical Complications 

CES principal Janna Sirowich claims that the portables will be used primarily for general music classes—including band and orchestra lessons for fourth and fifth graders, as the portable classrooms will be located close to these grades’ classrooms inside the building. 

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

Various teachers at CES have declined to comment on teaching with the portables.

Because of supply chain issues, the portables are anticipated to arrive 24 weeks from their order. While the BOE approved the purchase of the portables on Jan. 24, they’re still awaiting their design, the bidding process and approval from the Board of Finance and the RTM. With hopeful ordering of the modular classrooms by April 2022, they estimate the probable earliest time of actual implementation is January 2023. The BOE estimates the earliest time of implementation is January 2023

“The goal would be to have it in time for the start of the school year in September,” Heyer said. “But it’s possible that it could take longer with all of the supply chain issues that are going on right now.”

Following an interim plan, staff members such as Sirowich, the literary coach and the orchestra and band teachers have sacrificed their spaces for smaller offices and classrooms to accommodate the growing student population. 

“While it is a challenge in the short term, the fact that the enrollment at Stepping Stones is growing is really a great thing,” Heyer said. “We would love to be able to accommodate as many students as we can.”


Long-term Objectives

Hordon compared the situation at CES to that of Long Lots Elementary school, as Long Lots is facing structural issues, possibly necessitating change or rebuilding.

“[CES] and the modulars are part of a larger question of how we’re going to utilize all of the buildings,” Hordon said. “It fits into a more holistic plan of the buildings.”

Sirowich agrees that the extra space created by the portables gives the town additional room in formulating a long-term plan for SSP. While the two school communities have been intertwined for 25 years, she believes the preschool may need its own building or location.

“We would love to stay with Stepping Stones, but I don’t think it’s possible with our growing enrollments at both schools!” Sirowich wrote.

While the process of proposing and implementing the portable classrooms is facing some difficulty, parents of Coleytown students remain hopeful.

“I think if [the portables are] used the right way, it would be a good solution,” Lauren Goldshore, parent of a Coleytown fifth grader, said. “I trust the district […] Whatever they decide, I think they’re keeping our kids’ best interests in mind.”