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Hopes for WIS Sound Attenuation Stymied For Now

Schools superintendent asks architecture firm to review sound proofing plans and give educated guess if they will pass state modification before being sent off.

Branford parents have waited months to find out if the would back their efforts to have sound proofing installed in the 1970s-era – a school with virtually no walls.

They waited yet another hour at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting to learn that efforts as many as 10 classrooms in fifth-grade wing of the school are not happening before the 2012-13 Aug. 29.

“Basically they put us off more,” said a frustrated Ross. “All this time – month after month,” she said.

updated Ross and her cohort, Cipriano, about the potential sound attenuation as promised but did not deliver the news they were hoping to hear.

Instead, Hernandez told the parents, the audience, and the board, that before a request for modification regarding the plans to remediate the sound issues of the fifth-grade wing were sent to the state, he wanted the architecture firm Silver Petrucelli & Associates to look at a code compliance report and the schematics drawn by , to see if there was even a likelihood that the school district would be granted the green light for modification (see Acentech's plans attached).

Back in May, Acentech presented plans to create rooms at WIS; their schematic was applied to the fifth-grade wing at WIS according to school facilities director Mark Deming. Deming said their plan could be applied to other areas of the school as well. Because Acentech is not an architecture firm, the BOE was charged with finding an organization to draft official schematics to send to the state bulilding department. Silver Petrucelli & Associates, the same firm hired to complete schematics for the from to WIS, was chosen.

In the process, , and toured the school to evaluate the possibility of renovations.

Heffernan said he was apprehensive to approve any plans the day of the tour. He said he told Hernandez: “We strongly suggest you get a code consultant.” Heffernan added, “I didn’t want to tell them to meet some fire code regulation and in turn create a violation of some other regulation I am not aware of such as, I don’t know what the requirements of the state department of education classroom size are.”

Deming confirmed that the BOE had Chris Laux, former Connecticut State Building Inspector (1998-2008) who now sits on the board of the Connecticut Builders Association, come to WIS as a code consultant to evaluate compliance.

Deming explained that currently there's no code for WIS' open school setting. Erecting classes, like those posed by Acentech, would create hallways and a need for egresses where there are none now, he said. "It's creating the need to create hallways," said Deming.

In creating these hallways, it could be possible that state building or fire codes are not being met thus creating a need to send the building plans off for a variance. Deming said everything is still in the review process at this point.

At this time, Hernandez said the recommendations from the code compliance officer have been passed on to the architecture firm. If the firm, in their “expertise” does not think the state will grant a variance, he told the group at the meeting, he does not think moving forward is the way to go.  

“Right now I have asked for Silver Petrucelli to give me what they believe, before we submit it to the state, the likelihood of us receiving a modification,” Hernandez addressed the group.

“If they say absolutely not, I say we don’t do it. If there’s even a remote chance, I think there’s a point in moving forward.”

After hearing this, Board of Education Chair Frank Carrano said he was surprised that the plans had not already been sent to the state.

“I was under the false impression that we already had a document that was going to be submitted to the state,” Carrano stated.

Hernandez said he expects the architecture firm to have drawings complete in one to two weeks. The state review, he added, could take as long as six weeks or as quickly as four weeks.

Patch called Silver Petrucelli for an update on the BOE’s plans but was unable to immediately speak to the architect assigned to the job as that person is on vacation.

There is no cost associated with the state’s review of a modification request.

Rising up from the Ross and Cipriano began their battle to remedy the sound issue at WIS through a citizen’s petition, which had more than 300 signatures. When asked what she plans to do next if the sound remediation is tabled, Ross said, “We haven’t thought that far yet. Go back to petitions. I don’t know.”

SolarPete August 17, 2012 at 11:38 AM
hey folks y not think outside the box and build temporary screens like the ones the Japanese used in their homes for walls Make them sound proof and fire proof to keep the sound inside each area and they can be removed at other times This way there is no need for any big costly changes and no reason the Fire chief and the rest of the school board to drag there feet. Put their butts in a class room while they are hearing other teachers They don't seem to care cause they never had that school. Or reinstate the jr high school and close this school
Alaina August 17, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I'm all for having some sort of soundproofing in the WIS classrooms. I attended class there when it was BIS and as a hearing-impaired student, I found the classrooms to be particularly challenging spaces in which to learn. In fact, I had a soft-talking teacher in 5th grade math, Mrs. Santamasso. I sat directly in front of her and could never hear a word she said. I did just average in her class, and as a result, I never moved to the AP math class, as I'd advanced in every other area. This followed me throughout my school career and into college where I was still taking math classes as a result of not just being moved ahead. Anyway, I think there are a variety of reasons to soundproof the rooms. A student's attention can be challenging to obtain in a quiet classroom where all conditions for learning are optimal. Distracting and noisy chatter from surrounding rooms makes learning all the more difficult. For students with hearing problems, noisy classrooms can be very frustrating places. Soundproofing the classrooms is certainly a good idea and it's long overdue. I had a conversation with my audiologist about the WIS space and she was totally shocked to hear about the learning environment and wanted to get involved with this effort as well. Keep up the great work and under no circumstances should your efforts be tabled permanently. Please continue to work through the code issues to find a solution to this important issue.
Just asking August 18, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I said it before and I'll say it again...take away their cell phones, Iphones, etc. I'm so sick of seeing 10, 11, 12 year olds walking around with cell phones in their hands. What the heck do they need a cell phone for? Beyond ridicules. These parents should be ashamed of their behavior too.
Broke Dick Dad August 18, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Walsh intermediate school is an embarrassment. Totally unacceptable. Our CMT scores are, too. For those of you who went to Walsh and "turned out fine", could you have turned out better? Could your experience have been better? The long standing inaction has got me thinking about moving out of town before my kids get to that age. Oh wait, can't sell my house in this market.

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