EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 26, 2014

Salem progressing with school projects

Three schools being renovated now, Salem High up next

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — Voters just approved a $74 million renovation of Salem High School two weeks ago, but preparations are well underway.

Meanwhile, contractors are hammering away at Fisk and Soule elementary schools and are making substantial progress overhauling both buildings, according to Superintendent Michael Delahanty. Minor work at Haigh School is scheduled for this summer.

About 50 percent of the construction is completed at Soule, Delahanty said yesterday. Fisk is nearly 40 percent done, he said.

“We’re very excited,” Fisk principal George Murray said. “They are really moving along right now.”

At the high school, work already has begun on the project’s design and engineering, Delahanty said.

“Right now, the schematic designs are being completed and then the construction documents will be done,” he said.

Construction isn’t expected to start until April 2015, he said. The project includes construction of a Career and Technical Education Center, funded through a $10.7 million state grant.

Initial work will include demolition of the school’s auditorium and performing arts center. The project, approved by 71 percent of voters at the polls March 11, is being handled by Lavallee Bresinger Architects, Trident Group Bonette, and Page & Stone of Laconia.

The school district will soon have a new website showing work on the project, Delahanty said.

Construction at Fisk and Soule — a $16 million project — is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of the next school year.

The need to excavate extensive ledge outside Fisk has made meeting the deadline a challenge, putting the project six to eight weeks behind schedule, Delahanty said.

Contractors plan to make up for lost time by adjusting construction schedules, he said.

“We are a little behind at Haigh, but we are moving quickly at Soule,” he said, “with the hope of getting Soule done quicker than expected and then moving the crews over to Fisk. Our intention is to make sure both schools are finished (before fall).”

Classes have been moved from one part of the school to another as needed, with the goal of minimizing the disruption, Delahanty said.

Since August, students and staff have watched as their school buildings became construction zones, taking it all in stride, according to Murray and Soule principal Anna Parrill.

Students sometimes found themselves sitting in classrooms with no floor or ceiling tiles.

“It’s what they have lived through all year,” Murray said. “So, it’s not unusual for them to see a new wall go up or to see a cement truck outside. They are looking forward to seeing the new space.”

The latest work at Fisk includes masonry and putting up drywall in the kindergarten and administration areas, Delahanty said. Those areas also being painted, he said.

A crew was on the roof Monday, braving the bitter cold as they installed new mechanical systems, Delahanty said.

When Fisk students return from April vacation, they will move into temporary classrooms in the new gymnasium while the new classrooms are built, Murray said.

At Soule, parents and students will get to see the completed gymnasium for the first time this week during the school’s book fair, Delahanty said.

After February vacation, the Soule staff was relocated to the school’s new kindergarten classroom, library and new office area.

That’s so the original main office, guidance office and nurse’s office — among other areas — could be demolished. Classrooms are now being refurbished.

Delahanty said the work at Haigh School, mostly mechanical system upgrades, will be done during summer vacation. The district’s three other elementary schools were renovated a couple of years ago.

For updates and photographs of the school projects, go to the district’s website, Sau57.org.