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January 17, 2014

Salem residents back high school renovation

Plans calls for $74.7M overhaul

SALEM — As residents sat in the Salem High School auditorium and listened to a plan to renovate three elementary schools last year, the presentation was interrupted by a loud thud.

A tile had fallen from the ceiling in the hallway — just as residents were being told of the urgent need to upgrade the schools. But Salem High School wasn’t part of the renovation plan then.

This year, it is.

A small crowd turned out at the school last night for a School Board public hearing on a $74.7 million proposal to renovate Salem High and its Career to Education Center.

Although only four of the 15 people in the audience spoke, including Selectman Michael Lyons, their message was strong.

“I’m in support of it,” said Stephen Devito of Waldron Road. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Brady Avenue resident Susan Stanganelli, the mother of two middle school students, agreed.

“I’m definitely in favor of this,” she said. “I still feel strongly this something we need to do for our town.”

Matthew Norcross, a father of three and Salem High’s school resource officer, spoke of the need for upgrades at the 45-year-old school.

When the school was used as a shelter during the ice storm five years ago, the plan was to allow residents to shower there, he said.

But the American Red Cross disagreed.

“The Red Cross said, ‘They can’t shower here,’” Norcross recalled. “There was a hole in the ceiling and tiles falling down.”

Norcross said students from other schools comment on the building’s condition when they come for sporting events. That has a big impact on student morale, he said

“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “I hope people go out and vote for this.”

Lyons said he backs the project, but not the cost.

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