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Board of Finance discusses Long Lots rebuild project

The+Westport+Board+of+Finance+hears+presentations+and+questioning+from+the+public+on+the+proposed+renovations+to+Long+Lots+elementary+school.+
Talia Moskowitz ’24
The Westport Board of Finance hears presentations and questioning from the public on the proposed renovations to Long Lots elementary school.

The Westport Board of Financeheld a meeting on Monday Dec. 11 to further discuss the plans for rebuilding Long Lots Elementary school, a project that is scheduled to commence this coming fall. 

The Board of Education and Superintendent Thomas Scarice answered public questions regarding the educational aspects of the build. The Westport Police Department, Building Committee and Parks and Recreation Department all spoke and took questions from the public regarding the project as it pertains to their fields. There were no final decisions made. 

Lee Caney, a member of the Board of Finance, started off the meeting.

Lee Caney questions the Westport Police Chief, Foti Koskinas, on the safety features of the new school and construction site. (Talia Moskowitz ’24)

“The Long Lots building project is on a tight schedule in order to have shovels in the ground by fall of 2024, and our board will need to vote on the appropriation for the design of the school in early January,” Caney said.

The Board of Education first answered questions from the Board of Finance and from the public. Leigh Goldstein, chair of the Board of Education, first spoke about the decision to move Stepping Stones pre school to Long Lots from Coleytown Elementary.

“Coleytown, by definition, is too crowded,” Goldstein said. “Already teachers are in closets. [Stepping Stones is] a gem of a program; it is life changing if you talk to any of the families of the students who have been there. It’s not because of the facilities. It’s because of the people inside the building.”

Board of Finance member Jeff Hammer questioned the BOE on the bracketed $100 million cost to build the new school. 

“The $100 million cost is a gargantuan number for our town. We really need to understand the drivers of cost,” Hammer said. “On a spectrum of super luxe to bare necessities, where are we coming out here?”

Superintendent Scarice said that the proposed educational specifications were modest and provided the school with the necessities. 

“You aren’t finding spectacular new parts of a school. These are basic features of our schools,” Scarice said. “Your classroom, your special education, occupational therapy, a nursing center, a library, you’re not finding these grand auditoriums and multisized field houses. They’re modest ed specs in the world of education.” 

The $100 million cost is a gargantuan number for our town. We really need to understand the drivers of cost.

— Jeff Hammer

Police Chief Foti Koskinas also answered questions and gave a presentation about the safety of the proposed school and current community gardens on the Long Lots property.

“Working closely with our superintendent, we have found that two thirds of our schools in the US actually have physical barriers with gates to get into the school,” Koskinas said. “That is the norm as we are seeing schools being built.”

Rich Hightower, member of the Board of Finance, asked Koskinas about the actions that could be taken by the police force to ensure the safety of Long Lots from potential outsiders at the community gardens. 

“If you were to design a security program for that element specifically, what could that look like?” Hightower said. “What would be a reasonable range of changes that you think would allow for your satisfaction that it is the most secure it could be, especially as a parent of young kids?”

“My recommendation, and it’s in conjunction with my entire team, would be that the gardens, just like other facilities, would not be accessible during school hours.” Koskinas said. 

The Finance Board met until 1 a.m., hearing from parents and other members of the Westport community. They will reconvene in January to vote on the proposed renovations to Long Lots. 

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Talia Moskowitz ’24, Web Managing Editor
Whether she serves as president and founder of the ASL club and or inspires as a captain of the girls’ soccer team, web managing editor Talia Moskowitz ’24 enjoys to lead.  “I love being a part of the Staples community,” Moskowitz said. “I’m on a bunch of sports teams and involved in a bunch of clubs, so I just love being engaged with the school.”  Moskowitz joined Inklings because she loves to write. However, that is not what convinced her to return year after year.   “Seeing your article posted online can make people feel really good about themselves,” Moskowitz said. “I love to be a part of that.”

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