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Sliney School: A Charming Dilemma [POLL]

What’s to become of Branford’s former high school if it’s no longer fit to be an elementary school? The Ad Hoc Facilities Committee explores options; what are your ideas?

It was built in 1929 as Branford’s High School and must have been state of the art at the time. Today that’s not the case.

is so antiquated that principal said the PA system installed when the school opened varies so much in decibel levels that some teachers almost have to cover their ears. Others she said are going, ‘Can you please turn that up a little bit?’”  Iwanicki-Smith addressed members of the town, the and the earlier this month. The facilities committee who meets once a month is touring the school district's buildings to evaluate the properties.

Though upgraded in the 1950s, Sliney’s PA system has not been updated since and doing so could be an expensive challenge if it required drilling through the walls, explained Iwanicki-Smith.

Schools Facilities Director Mark Deming said about 40 percent of tests taken from Sliney come back positive for asbestos. Because of this, he told the group at the meeting in late August, the entire building is treated as though it has asbestos. Just to stick a drill into the wall to hang something as simple as a corkboard costs $300, he said.

The solution has been to use glue or tape to mount boards and other classroom essentials to the walls and to run wiring into and around classrooms through wall mounted tracks. There is no danger to student health if a teacher was to stick tack in the wall, Deming assured Nancy Kendrick, school PTA president.

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One fourth-grade classroom has a SMART Board, said Iwanicki-Smith and a rolling computer lab offers tablets to teachers for use, but technology is another reason many agree Sliney is not up to date. Drilling SMART Boards into the walls is not an option, she said. In addition to technology, Iwanicki-Smith notes that classroom space, parking and poor facilities are also issues of the school (see list below). 

While just about everyone at the meeting held at Sliney School in one of only two rooms with a window air-conditioning unit agreed that the school is not adequate for students, the decision about what to do is not an easy one to make. 

“I think this building has a lot of charm but it’s probably not suitable for elementary students,” said AD Hoc Facilities committee member. Adding, “The bottom line is that this school is not what we want it to be for our district; you can go to every single building and have that same discussion.”

Nelson cautioned the members to make a decision about Sliney’s future with the whole district in mind. He suggested all elementary schools be surveyed to find if their classes and their facilities meet their needs before advancing on a decision about Sliney

, AD Hoc Facilities committee member and RTM representative said to the group,  “It would be challenging for me to say, ‘Yeah, let’s build a new school.’ It would be hard for me to give relevant comments without having more data.”

BOE Chair Frank Carrano assured Milici that once the group had helped make some suggestions as to what to do with Sliney, a coast analysis could be made between renovating Sliney or building new.

“There’s a lot of people who love Sliney and I can’t say that enough,” said Iwanicki-Smith. “As much as they want it renovated, there’s a lot of push back because they don’t want it renovated because of the history the building has.”

In touring the space, Iwanicki-Smith mentioned to Patch that there’s a certain feeling the school gives off from its architecture and old-fashioned charm. Before the group she said, “When you come into the school there’s a feeling here that’s just wonderful.” But she also said, “What was the school really designed to do and is it the best environment to teach elementary school children?”

did a lot of listening about Sliney School and noted that it, along with and , is a property that needs attention. The charm aspect of Sliney, he said, is not a selling point for him. “Is that what we tell kids who come through our school? It’s really, really charming?”

Most were in agreement that something needs to be done about the four-level former high school that is not fit for elementary students but Nelson pointed out that perhaps turning an asbestos-rich building back to the town might not be an attractive thing either.

Nelson said, “Our recommendation as a committee is to say we need to do something with Sliney but I’m not sure what.”

The facilities committee at for a tour of their space including a look at the .

Do you have a suggestion about what to do with Sliney? Take our poll and then leave a comment.

Main Issues with Sliney School according to Iwanicki-Smith

Technology

Asbestos walls make it hard to update the school to have more modern technology.

Space

Some teachers feel classrooms are not big enough. There’s not enough storage.

Parking

There are only 10 parking spots behind Sliney School.

Facilities

The library is now held in a large classroom and does not meet the school’s needs. There is no media center because the library is too small.

The school gymnasium is located in the basement of the school does not have good air circulation.

The plumbing needs to be flushed often due to an odor issue.

Air conditioning: there is one window air conditioner in the faculty lounge and one that is used in the nurse’s station.

Lack of faculty bathrooms

Lack of student bathrooms near the cafeteria

Playground is only large enough for half of each grade to use; the other half takes turns playing across the street at Hammer Field. 

SolarPete September 04, 2012 at 11:35 AM
When I went there we always played at hammer Field so no big deal there I think they need to get a federal grant to have all the asbestos removed being those kids might be breathing it now. Gut the building and turn it into a condo unit for the poor and older folks. U should have built long ago schools back in the neighborhoods like their were in the 60s No need for buses as kids would walk to school
John September 04, 2012 at 12:29 PM
I feel that all too often we just throw away old buildings that have wonderful history to build new. There would not be such an expensive renovation ahead of us if issues were attended to on a more regular basis. Why do the people in charge of maintenance let a building get into this condition in the first place. Would you flush your home plumbing often "due to an odor issue" or would you find & fix the source of the odor and cross it off the list of repairs needed as soon as it cropped up. It seems the pattern is: 1) Let things get really bad. 2) Do a study and decide its too expensive to fix. 3) Throw it away and build a new one. 4) Begin letting the new one fall apart to start the cycle over.
Jane September 04, 2012 at 12:39 PM
The former High School, now Sliney School was designed by Robert W. Foote of New Haven in 1928. One part of the building was added in 1938 and the entire building was remodeled in 1979 when it became Sliney School. At that time there was public sentiment shared by public officials that the school should be saved.
Lisa September 04, 2012 at 01:07 PM
The new police and fire stations are lined with pink granite while my 5 y/o is breathing in asbestos at Sliney.....Sounds like someone in town hall needs to get thier priorities straight!
Alana Joli Abbott September 04, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I think a new building sounds necessary... although Sliney really deserves to be renovated into something else. I'm trying to think of other old school buildings that have been renovated in other towns -- maybe an additional building for the Parks & Rec department to expand into, after renovation? Maybe offer it for sale as a historical building and see if a business could move into it and renovate it? As for new location for a school, it seems like the section of town out by the YMCA has open land for sale. It's certainly not centrally located, and it would change the districts around, but that seems to be where the space is.

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