EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 1, 2013

Salem considers school renovations this week

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM, N.H. — Less than 48 years after ringing in 2013, the Budget Committee will take a look Thursday at warrant articles calling for the renovation of the Fisk, Soule and Haigh elementary schools.

Superintendent Michael Delahanty and School Board representatives will outline the proposals for the committee.

Residents will weigh in on the school renovation plans and other warrant articles at a public hearing Jan. 10. A School Board public hearing on the $17 million renovation bond is slated for Jan. 15.

Voters will be asked to spend $8.5 million to upgrade Fisk School and $7.3 million on Soule School, according to School Board member Peter Morgan.

The board decided to hold off on the full $5.5 million renovation of Haigh School after considering the possibility of closing the school in the wake of declining enrollment in the district.

More than two dozen parents asked the board to keep Haigh open at a public forum this fall, saying closing the school would be a tremendous loss to the community.

Last year, 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.

Delahanty has said the district would save about $895,000 if it closed Haigh and didn’t proceed with the $5.5 million renovation plan. Instead, the School Board proposes spending no more than $1.2 million to upgrade the approximately 60-year-old building.

Only modest upgrades are planned to keep the building in operation. The board considered selling or renting the property, but will continue to maintain it as a school in the immediate future.

There are currently 4,061 students attending the district's eight schools. But district enrollment is expected to drop to 2,931 by 2021-2022, according to Delahanty.

While Article 2 proposes spending $369,682 to improve Haigh, Article 3 calls for $805,238 in work to the school.

The first proposal includes spending $106,000 on lighting, $67,000 on the ceiling, $53,000 to complete roof work, and more than $100,000 to upgrade the security system and the fire alarm and sprinkler systems.

The second article seeks $485,000 for a new heating and cooling system, among other expenses, including $26,000 for asbestos removal.

Residents have until Jan. 8 to submit citizen petition articles for the ballot. Citizen petitions must be signed by at least 25 district voters. Some parents have said they plan to submit a proposal for a gym at Soule School.

Voters can debate the articles, including the proposed $62.2 million school budget, at the district's deliberative session Feb. 7. The current budget is $59 million and the default budget — which includes mandatory contractual increases — is $62.4 million.

Residents will make their final decisions March 12.