EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 14, 2014

Major progress made on Salem school renovations

Contractors hammering away at Salem schools

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — It’s been a cold and snowy winter, but that’s not stopping contractors from completing major renovations at Fisk and Soule elementary schools.

They’re raising walls and roofs. The buildings are being enclosed, allowing contractors to work protected from the elements, Superintendent of Schools Michael Delahanty said.

“I’ve been very pleased with the work,” Delahanty said yesterday.

The $16 million project began last summer and isn’t expected to be wrapped up until late this summer, Delahanty said. Minor work is also being done at Haigh School.

While renovations at Soule are a week ahead of schedule, the news isn’t as good at Fisk — but the weather isn’t to blame, Delahanty said.

The discovery of extensive ledge and inadequate soil at Fisk have put the project at least four to six weeks behind, he said. Excavating was a challenge, and Delahanty said tons of suitable soil had to be hauled in.

Otherwise, the remainder of the work is on schedule, he said. Delahanty is hopeful the project can be completed over the summer before students return for classes. The schools serve students in kindergarten though fifth grade.

He estimated the work at the schools is about 15 to 20 percent complete.

“I’m not worried at this point,” he said yesterday.

The district has been keeping residents updated on the progress through its website, Sau57.org., posting photographs and detailed descriptions of the work.

The latest work at Soule includes raising walls and completing mechanical and electrical work. The new library, kindergarten, school entrance and administration area are being framed.

The roof of the new gymnasium is under construction. Utilities are also being installed and drywall will be put in next.

At Fisk, Delahanty said steel is being installed and new boilers were just put in. The building is also being framed and enclosed.

Concrete will be poured this week for the stairs and handicapped ramp at the main entrance. The concrete floors in the building are scheduled to be poured later this month.

Fisk principal George Murray and Soule principal Anna Parrill said they were pleased with the progress. They said the work being done by Bonnette, Stone & Page of Laconia has caused minimal disruption.

That’s because construction in some areas is being done before or after classes. Parrill said the crew arrives as early as 5:30 a.m. to get started.

“We’re very excited,” Parrill said of the project. “They try to do certain things during off hours.”

Both principals praised the students for being able to focus on their studies under less-than-ideal conditions. They have been sitting in classrooms with bare concrete floors since August.

At Fisk, many of the ceiling tiles have been removed so utility work can be done, Parrill said.

But students have really embraced the project, she said.

“They absolutely love it,” Parrill said. “They are very intrigued.”

Murray agreed.

“The kids enjoy being part of the progress,” he said.

Parents also are pleased with the work as well, according to Sherry Kilgus-Kramer, president of Strengthen Our Schools. Her two children are former Soule School students.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “I think parents are happy to see the outward progress.”

The organization pushed for voter approval of the projects at the polls a year ago. Residents backed the work only a year after defeating a similar proposal at the polls.

A year earlier, Salem residents voted to renovate the town’s three other elementary schools.

A $74.3 million proposal to renovate Salem High School and its Career and Technical Education Center goes before voters in March.