Last night the presented their to the . More than 50 parents and school staff were in attendance to support the Board of Education as well as two PTA moms charged with finding funding to remedy the at .
PTA President and Member Nichole Cipriano addressed the Board of Finance noting that she was another parent in a 40-year history hoping to have the sound issue fixed at WIS.
“At the beginning of the year it used to concern me that there were 27 students in a fifth-grade math class… but then what I realized is that it was really like having 90 students in a class. This is an open classroom… it’s four different teachers teaching four different subjects to 90 kids in one big room. It’s beyond a difficult learning environment. We know that; we’ve heard that for forty years,” said Cipriano who has a fifth-grader at WIS.
“It doesn’t matter how fabulous the curriculum is or how much the curriculum costs, if they can’t hear it, it doesn’t matter.”
While the parents supporting an unofficial request for $250,000 for sound proofing the 1970s-era school were impassioned in their delivery, the BOF noted there was no specific request in the presented BOE budget for such renovations.
BOF Chair Joseph Mooney asked, during ’s presentation if he and the BOE could come back to the BOF April meeting with some more defined plans in order to progress any discussion of funding plans for renovations. Both boards agreed to the terms with plans to re-open the discussion during the BOF’s late April meeting (meeting date and time to be posted).
Hernandez noted to the BOF that after going out to bid, the BOE had approved a $6,000 expenditure for the engineering firm Silver Petrucelli to create a schematic for the from , to the old industrial arts wing of the middle school. The money from the study would be coming from the 2012-13 BOE capital budget line, BPS Renovation/Design/Build for $35,000 found on the Debt Issuance and Bond section of the budget. Silver Petrucelli is expected to have plans back in several weeks, detailed Hernandez.
There are no current numbers assigned to completing a move of the central offices. In the BOE capital budget there is $214,000 slated to be requested in 2014 for WIS to install walls and create private offices in admin but the plans for that are not assigned to the BOE move.
Of the $35,000, Hernandez said to the BOF, “We also hope to use some of those funds to start looking at some sound evaluation at Walsh Intermediate School. It has been somewhat of a concern and we are starting to look at that but we are also very mindful that we want to look at that in the context of a broader solution as well and we’re working closely with the town on that.”
BOF member Jennifer Aniskovich was quick to ask Hernandez if in using those funds would he have some solution by September of this year?
After explaining that members of the newly formed Parent Advisory Committee had assigned the East Harford-based BKM Technology Group to walk through the school and evaluate an estimate for soundproofing, Hernandez added that there were no firm plans for WIS at this point as they were still waiting to evaluate a quote from BKM, which had just arrived yesterday afternoon. There is a preliminary cost of renovating classrooms at $6,000 a pop under the BKM plan.
Though the BOE was unaware of BKM’s specific findings at the time of the meeting, parent Katie Ross who spoke with Cipriano, stated that about $250,000 would be needed to make WIS renovations. The $6,000 for 25 open classrooms would be used for electronic white noise systems, acoustical ceiling tiles and five sound baffles per classroom. An additional $100,000, Ross estimated, would be needed to hire audiologist to measure the decibel level, prepare bid documents to reduce that level to the greatest extent possible, bid the project, cover project costs and contingency and add soud baffles or clouds to the common areas like the cafeteria.
“Based on this budget,” Aniskovich furthered to Hernandez, “however far you come, there’s no way in the coming school year you can make changes.”
Later in the meeting, Aniskovich stated that she had been a substitute teacher at WIS 20 years ago and found the issue of sound as much of a problem then as it is now. “I just want to be clear, for me,” she stated, “that is a much bigger priority than the Board of Ed office move.”
BOE Chair Frank Carrano responded: “I don’t disagree with you but I do hope the town would realize there are equal needs there.”
Hernandez added, “This is an emerging issue and as a superintendent, I want to be brutally honest, this isn’t about central office verses sound, these are two issues that when thought through very deliberately, very methodically, require our attention. We will give it due diligence and we will address it but I also want to address it properly. I am confident that given this issue, the way it has emerged, it will be addressed but I also don’t want to pit different aspects of our school system against each other because it starts to erode what we strive towards.”
“For a lot of people…” Aniskovich responded, “it’s been an emerging issue for 20 years.”
Mooney made the final call stating that during the April meeting, the BOF would hear the item again. “We don’t know what the magnitude or scale is here… $100,000 or $800,000? Unless you have some game plan, we’ll probably hold off until you have some more information."
Branford's Finance Department Head James Finch clarified that at the April meeting, the BOE could present their request. If the BOF agrees, they would ask Finch to seek a bond resolution, which provides an appropriation (legal authority to spend) and a revenue source (bond proceeds). "The cash would come to the town from investors who purchase the bonds and the Town pays the investors back through the debt service appropriation," explained Finch.