Long Lots School
Long Lots Elementary School on Hyde Lane is nearly 70 years old.

By Linda Conner Lambeck

WESTPORT — The wheels have been set in motion to build a new Long Lots Elementary School on its existing Hyde Lane property. 

Where the building will be constructed on the site remains uncertain.

The Board of Education voted 6-0 Monday, with one member absent, to authorize Supt. of Schools Thomas Scarice to prepare documentation necessary for a state grant application by June 2023.

The proposed new Long Lots could cost between $80 million and $102 million, depending on its size, officials previously indicated.

Remaining on Hyde Lane, but where?

With the board’s endorsement, school district officials can work over the summer on environmental site studies, including drainage, as well as educational specifications and other grant application requirements.

Board members and some neighbors of the property also asked that a more thorough review be conducted of the location of the new school on the property.

“I couldn’t be more excited and supportive — a new shining school,” said board member Robert Harrington. “This is a once in a generation opportunity. We want to make sure the location is appropriate.”

Neighbors, who have appeared at several meetings to voice concerns about the potential placement of the new school, share those sentiments.

Zack Resnick, of Meadowbrook Lane, said he is 100 percent in favor of building a New Long Lots and not supportive of renovating the existing building.

But, he added, “My desire is for the new building to be situated and built in the most practical, least problematic way for all the stakeholders.”

An architect has determined it is not cost effective or practical to repair the aging school and instead identified two locations on opposite edges of the property where a new structure can be built while the existing school remains in use.

One of those locations, athletic fields on the northern portion of the property, is favored by Scarice.

Resnick and others want more study to determine if an upper field and parking lot at a higher grade on the property and farther from the property lines might support a school.

Centering the school on the property to the extent possible should be explored, Resnick said.

Resnick also suggested, in addition to engineering studies of drainage and water run-off, there be a landscaping plan to buffer and screen the new school.

A promised traffic study, he added, should be done while school is in session, not during the summer.

Scarice: All concerns can be addressed

Scarice said he would return to the school board with a more detailed account of the studies that will be conducted. One study, he said, would determine what measures are needed to ensure proper drainage, which has been a concern voiced by neighbors at earlier meetings.

“Nothing is insurmountable that we can’t address in those areas,” Scarice said.

He anticipates forwarding the project for town officials’ review in the fall once the district has a more specific price tag.

Earlier this month the board was told a new school of up to 108,000 square feet could cost up to $102 million to build. It would be built large enough to include Stepping Stones Preschool, which is currently at the Coleytown Elementary School campus.

Board Vice Chairwoman Liz Heyer said the board may need to go to the Representative Town Meeting sooner to establish a building committee.

Heyer also asked for a deeper look at the placement of the building.

“Nothing is set in stone yet,” Heyer said.

Harrington said he doesn’t want to see the district settle for a plan to build the school on the lower playing field if an area that might sacrifice parking lots is more appropriate.

Edie Anderson, a Hyde Lane resident, said she is not opposed to a new school, but strongly objects to the current placement plan. She lives next to the property line where the new school might go.

“My main concern is that there seems to be a rush to focus on one possible site before others are evaluated,” Anderson said.

She called the neighborhood environmentally sensitive, and said the fields where the school might be placed provide a buffer from water runoff.

“Why put a brand new building on the wettest possible place before exploring putting it in a better place?” Anderson said.

Elsa Morgan, co-president of the Long Lots PTA, meanwhile, thanked the board for taking a first step toward building a proper elementary school. The current structure was built in 1953 as a junior high. Classrooms lack storage. The kindergarten classrooms lack bathrooms. The place, she said, is bursting at the seams.

“Long Lots students deserve better,” Morgan said.

Linda Conner Lambeck is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Westport Journal. Learn more about us here.