Parents get preview before West Shore Middle School opened today

Parents got a preview of West Shore Middle School Wednesday in preparation for the start of the school year today.

West Shore Middle School, which has been undergoing a remodel/renovation project for the past several months, opened for the school year three days after the other schools in Milford began their school year. The first day of school for the district was Monday, Aug. 28. The first day of school for West Shore was today, Thursday, Aug. 31.

The three-day delay in opening insured that all of the classrooms were ready, and gave teachers, secretaries and custodians time to to complete their final tasks before students arrived Thursday morning. The extra days also allowed for the required city inspections.

Kenneth Hayes, assistant principal, greeted parents and students as they poured into the school Wednesday evening for their preview of the building. He told them the area might look like a construction site, but that it is a school building ready for the school year to start.

And while the outside of the building and grounds looked a little like LaGuardia Airport, with many signs of work underway, Hayes pointed to the positives.

“Look at the hallways,” he said. “Everything is impeccably clean.”

“We are a school and we are ready for the first day,” Hayes added. “It echoes what this side of town is all about — west is best.”

State Rep. Kim Rose was on hand Wednesday evening, helping to pass out wristbands to students. She agreed that the look of construction outside was a little intimidating. “I pulled up, and it was like ‘yikes’,” Rose said.

But, a former member of the Planning and Zoning Commission who works for city offices in Bridgeport, Rose pointed out that the building has received its certificate of occupancy, meaning the building is safe to open.

“And I’m thrilled to see so many parents here, and children ready to return to school,” Rose said.

Inside the classrooms, there was definite indication Wednesday that there is construction going on. But boarded-up windows and walls in need of touch ups in some of the rooms were overshadowed by the posters, pictures and other colorful marks of a busy classroom. In one room, the words “visual,” “kinesthetic” and “auditory” stood out on a wall, drawing attention from signs of building renovations elsewhere in the room.

The project, when it is totally complete, will leave the school with a new media center, new entryway, gym, band room and stage, chorus room, two new science labs, two new art rooms and a new computer room, plus updated windows and lighting.

Principal Paul A. Cavanna said the construction work is on schedule, even though some people thought it would be farther along by now. The school needed 25 available classrooms to open for the school year, and it had 26.

“Construction began in March 2017, so there was never an expectation that all work would be completed at the start of this school year,” Cavanna wrote in a letter to parents before school opened. “Sufficient renovation would be completed, however, to begin the school year, and that is being achieved. Regarding construction from this point forward, it will continue after school begins, but almost all of the work is on the other side of the building from the classrooms. We are working hard to minimize the impact on our students’ education.”

Debbie Grillo, a Spanish teacher and eighth grade team leader, was getting her room set up and greeting students Wednesday evening. She wasn’t deterred by the look of incompleteness in many of the classrooms and outside the building.

“This building is the best I’ve seen in 20 years,” Grillo said, adding that the necessities to start school were in place.

Parent Bridget Lawless said she felt safe and is confident her seventh-grade daughter will be safe in the school. Lawless has been with the school six years as her children have attended West Shore, and while she said the music room definitely needed a makeover, she didn’t sound convinced that the building needed a major overhaul — mostly because she believes the people inside the school make it what it is.

“What makes this school is the faculty,” Lawless said.

Still, she looks forward to the work being complete. Her daughter, Sabrina, agreed, saying, “I think it’s going to look nice when it’s done.”

Sabrina said construction work started at the end of last school year and it wasn’t distracting. So she doesn’t foresee ongoing construction distracting students from their school work this year.

Construction is expected to be complete in 2018, bringing the school on par with East Shore and Harborside middle schools.

And so, despite the construction, the school year has begun at West Shore.

“To teach is to touch a life forever,” said Spanish teacher Barbara Lynch, and she doesn’t expect that sentiment to be any different this year just because the school building is getting an overhaul.