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August 29, 2013

Salem schools gear up for year of construction

Schools are in session, with major construction ahead

SALEM — There was no carpet on some of the floors — only concrete — but that didn’t bother students and staff on the first day of classes yesterday at Fisk and Soule elementary schools.

While students were enjoying their summer vacation, construction crews were busy removing potentially hazardous asbestos floor tiles from the two schools. That work, which required sealing off the buildings, wrapped up two weeks ago, Superintendent Michael Delahanty said.

When the children and teachers returned to class, they didn’t seem to mind the industrial-like appearance of their school, Delahanty said, calling it a successful first day. Heavy equipment will take over the school grounds in two weeks, he said.

“I am not happy with the concrete, but for a year, we can live with it,” Delahanty said. “The parents who came in today were understanding.”

It’s the first of many changes they will see at their schools over the next year. Those changes will be outlined by Delahanty and school and construction officials at a public forum tonight at Soule School. The forum starts at 6:30 p.m.

“There are going to be some inconveniences,” Soule principal Anna Parrill said. “The main thing is they will hear about the safety procedures and protocols in place.”

The two schools, both more than half a century old, will receive a complete makeover as the district undertakes more than $16 million in renovations. The work includes additions and improve security, sprinkler, heating and ventilation systems.

But at this time next year, the renovations will be complete. Parents have said the work at the outdated schools is long overdue.

“The end game is such a beautiful building,” Parrill said. “It’s going to be great.”

District protocols include fingerprinting all construction workers at the schools and making sure the work doesn’t compromise safety or security, she said.

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