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November 13, 2012

Parents say: Keep the Haigh open,

Salem school renovation plans spark debate at forum

SALEM — For two hours, more than two dozen parents pleaded with the School Board, with most asking that Haigh School remain open and others saying Salem High School needs to be renovated.

Some presented student enrollment figures to back their arguments while others simply asked questions. But none of them presented the physical evidence that Nick Fosman did.

As the Salem High junior addressed the board and approximately 100 residents in the school auditorium, Fosman — microphone in hand, he suddenly ducked into a hallway.

He emerged a minute later, holding a wall tile for all to see.

“Some of these are on the floor cracked,” he said. “They have been like that for weeks or even months. These could have fallen on us.”

All eyes in Seifert Auditorium were focused on the 16-year-old student.

“It is not safe, it is not good for the school,” Fosman said. “Our school — and I’m not joking about it — is falling apart and we need to do something about it.”

While Fosman and several other Salem residents pushed for renovation of the high school, the majority said they backed a proposed upgrade of the Salem, Fisk and Haigh schools. District officials said the elementary schools would be renovated, then the high school.

In March, voters rejected a $21.5 million bond to renovate the three elementary schools — only months after the district spent roughly the same amount of money on improvements to its three other elementary schools.

But the School Board recently concluded it may not be feasible to keep Haigh School open after an enrollment study showed the number of students in the district is falling sharply.

“I think it’s quite evident with the enrollment projections we won’t need six (elementary) schools in a couple of years,” Superintendent Michael Delahanty said. “Does it make prudent sense to operate six schools when you can easily do this with five schools?”

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