October 18, 2018  |  

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A Fine School

Published Sep. 13, 2017

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During two Board of Education meetings in March and May 2012, the demise of the Walsh Intermediate School (WIS) reputation began. A small group of parents complained about the open space arrangement they felt affected students’ ability to learn. Anecdotal reports cited that sound tended to travel, so teachers and students could hear other teachers. Some testing suggested adding sound dampening materials. The complaints persisted; the reputation of our middle school as a good school declined. Short-term effects were negligible, but the long-term effects may have led to Branford’s most expensive capital expenditure.

That “sound evidence” has haunted WIS for years while having any negative incident wrapped in. Our direction now is renovating at a cost of $88 million—an impressive figure.

Peter Jackson, a Branford architect and a friend who has worked on school building projects, stated that WIS is at around 56 percent of student capacity and the physical condition is excellent; it lacks only a systematic re-organization of a floor plan and contains a much greater area than is necessary. He concludes a year of inconvenience would be preferable to a wasteful, extreme expenditure.

WIS functions as well as any Branford school. The present renovation funding assumes state monies. Connecticut is beyond broke. Contributions from the state are questionable. Branford’s taxpayers should not be liable for replacing expected state funding. We had a tax increase this year. Bonding those funds will still penalize taxpayers one way or another. Cost-effective alternatives need consideration and perhaps rethinking.

Question to consider: Has there been statistically significant dips of WIS student educational outcomes relative to other Branford schools? No, that has not happened. WIS is a fine school.

Tom Salvin

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