Westport school brass on the move this summer

Administrators moving out of old high school as town looks for direction on what to do with property

By Ted Hayes
Posted 6/18/24


CREDIT Ted Hayes

The old Westport High School has served as administrative offices for Westport Community Schools for several years, but that will end this summer.


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Westport school brass on the move this summer

Administrators moving out of old high school as town looks for direction on what to do with property


For the first time in many years, the old Westport High School on Main Road will be unusued once school starts again following the summer break.

Members of the Westport Community Schools administration will spend the summer moving out of their offices there and into various schools around town — a move the superintendent will save money and help re-establish an administrative presence that has been partially lost due to administrative reductions.

Officials decided to make the move following Town Meeting, as the school budget approved by voters left the district about $450,000 short of where superintendent Thomas Aubin said he’d hoped it would be. Moving out of the school will save the district about $90,000 per year in maintenance and other costs, he said.

“The budget requires us to be creative,” Aubin said Monday. “We’re going everywhere — we’re going to stuff people into offices as best we can.”

Though he admitted it’s not ideal and was forced by budget constraints, there are bright sides, Aubin and school committee chairman Evan Gendreau said. When the move is complete, the 15 administrators and office workers scheduled to move will be closer to the students they serve. In some cases, that’s essential, Aubin said.

“The elementary school last year only had a principal, with 500 kids. That’s not workable.” And “we’ve moved the assistant principal from the middle high school (who) is now assisting at the elementary school.”

Gendreau said that faced with the district’s financial realities, leaving the old school made sense, instead of finding other places to cut $90,000 from the budget.

“Our goal going into cuts is always to minimize the impact on student learning,” Gendreau said, noting that having administrators close to students is a benefit — “we’re running pretty thin with administrators because we can’t afford it.”

Though the offices will be closed, the district’s plan is to continue to use the school fields for sports, and the garage would be used for storage space.

What of the building?

The district’s departure comes after years of study by the town into what should be done with the old building.

The town’s Long Term Building Reuse Committee has been trying to come up with an answer for at least three years, and despite many studies and brain-storming, resident services and requests for proposals, the advisory board has not yet recommended a plan of action to the select board. Some residents want the town to move its administrative offices there. Others want to sell the property, and others want the town to raze the building and keep the land on which it sits.

Chris Thrasher, who chairs the committee, said a clearer picture could emerge next Wednesday, June 26, when he expects to entertain motions from members on what to do with the property.

He expects motions will be made to recommend a debt exclusion to fund the building’s demolition, a debt exclusion to turn the building into “a civic center, if you will, a place for town departments” to relocate to, or “mothball the building for now.”

“The town administrator and school department are working together to find solutions, but it’s fair to say the can has been kicked down the road for a long time, and with a lack of funding it continues to be a question that hasn’t an answer,” Thrasher said.

What’s clear to him and other re-use committee members, he said, is that “nobody wants to sell the land or the building. It’s the single largest parcel that this town still owns.”

“It’s just a question of what happens now.”

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