Sliney at Renovated Branford Hills?

The Board of Education (BOE) wants to see Sliney Elementary School move to a new home across town, but a town-appointed building committee will make the final call.

At the last full meeting of the BOE on May 15, the board unanimously voted to recommend renovating and expanding the former Branford Hills Elementary School to create a modern facility for the next Sliney School.

Branford's other elementary school buildings, Tisko and Murphy, were once similar in size and scope to the 1950's-era Branford Hills School until they were renovated and enlarged in the 1990s. Named for former first selectman John B. Sliney, the current Sliney School occupies a classic brick school building across from the Town Green and serves pre-kindergarten through grade four students. Sliney School was originally built as Branford High School and has been in use as a town school building since it opened in 1929 at 23 Eades Street.

At the May 15 meeting, the BOE also voted unanimously to recommend immediate major renovations to Walsh Intermediate School (WIS). The building was constructed using an experimental "open classroom" concept in 1972.

The next step is for the BOE to ask town officials to form a building committee, which will have jurisdiction over any school building projects, said Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez.

Although the BOE backs the choice of moving Sliney to Branford Hills, the building committee could make other choices, including deciding upon completely new construction or other ideas not yet explored, said BOE Chairman Frank Carrano.

"All we're doing is to make a choice of the three options which were presented" to the BOE, said Carrano. "This vote is only to follow up on our citizens' review committee and the recommendation that Silver/Petrucelli gave, and send that out to the town. I'm sure there will be hearings and a lot of discussion about the possible options."

The need for changes to WIS and Sliney have been the subject of discussion and discovery by the BOE over the past year, with input from a citizens' review committee. Recently, architectural firm Silver/Petrucelli completed a feasibility study of both facilities for the BOE.

The study gave costs for renovating WIS "as new," as well as options for renovating and upgrading the existing Sliney School building, or moving Sliney School to a renovated Branford Hills School building. The firm estimated the combined cost to renovate WIS and either fix or move Sliney would be approximately $120 million, after state funding reimbursements (see related story at www.zip06.com/branford).

"I know there was some initial shock relative to the numbers," said Hernandez. "Those are very preliminary numbers, very early on in the process."

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