Letter: Administrative offices never part of new Westport school plan

Posted 11/6/19

To the editor:

On behalf of the Westport School Committee, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to Marilyn Pease’s recent letter to the editor regarding the future placement of the …

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Letter: Administrative offices never part of new Westport school plan

Posted

To the editor:

On behalf of the Westport School Committee, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to Marilyn Pease’s recent letter to the editor regarding the future placement of the school district’s central office administration.

In her letter, Ms. Pease suggested that the exclusion of the central administration office space was somehow overlooked during this process or that it may have been deliberately cut during recent meetings when the school building committee had to revisit the building plans due to the initial bids coming in higher than had been anticipated. Neither of these scenarios accurately portray the truth.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) does not support the costs associated with district administrative office spaces as part of its reimbursement program. In May 2015, the town received support from the community to engage in a feasibility study to explore options for relocating students from the Westport Middle School. In early 2017, after an exhaustive examination of three potential sites, several different grade configurations, and multiple new building options including renovations and additions to the existing high school and remediation and abatement of the existing middle school as well as the inclusion/exclusion of central administration office space, a decision was made and approved by the Board of Selectmen and School Committee to build a new, co-located grade 5-12 Middle High School on the site of the abandoned middle school.

This decision was made after discussion during the school building committee meetings, which are open to the public and available for public viewing on our local cable access stations. This was clearly communicated during the process. The School Committee engaged in dialogue multiple times during the feasibility process and was aware of the discussion and decision from the school building committee. At no time did either committee try to portray that the central office space was included in the building plans. While individual members of the school building committee, including myself, did express some hesitation about not including the central administration offices in the new building, it was eliminated as an option during the feasibility study process.

One can debate about whether or not it should have been included and why that decision was made by the school building committee, but the fact remains that it is not part of the new construction and was not intended to be part of this construction project, as the costs associated with including it in the building would have been borne solely by the residents of Westport and no relief would have been provided through the Massachusetts School Building Authority reimbursement program.

Currently, the Westport School Committee is discussing various options relocating the central administrative offices once the new building is complete. These options include using space currently available in the modular classrooms at the Macomber School (which would be a similar expense for the district whether we purchase them or return them to the vendor), leasing office space in Westport, continuing to be located at 17 Main Road pending a decision by the town building reuse committee on the future plans of the Westport High School building, or moving onto the site of the campground space that is currently being purchased by the town.

The district will incur costs with any of these options and those costs will not, and never were intended to be, reimbursed as part of the funding program with the MSBA.

Members of the School Committee will continue to provide oversight and support to the Westport Community Schools and will do so in an ethical, responsible manner that recognizes the school district’s role within a larger community organization. We are invested in doing what is best for the children and community of Westport and look forward to the opening of the Westport Middle-High School, which will serve as a resource for our community young and old.

Antonio Viveiros

Chairman, Westport School Committee

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