She said the board didn't want to risk not having any renovations done this year. School officials would like to renovate Woodbury School and Salem High School, but have said completing the elementary schools is the top priority.
But resident Kristine Nippert said doing minimal work at Haigh was unacceptable, especially since air quality at the school is poor. Some of the $805,237 would be used to provide a new heating and ventilation system.
"That's just not good enough," she said. "I don't want our goals to simply be to get by and not have things fall apart."
Nippert said the renovations are especially needed to provide more space at the schools, where closets and hallways are sometimes used for other purposes, including classroom space.
"Being educated in closets, hallways and stairwells doesn't cut it," she said. "It's time to bring these schools up to 21st century standards."
Selectman Stephen Campbell said he supported the $16.2 million bond but not the additional money for Haigh.
"You wouldn't spend that amount of money absolutely not knowing what (Haigh) is going to be used for," he said. "Spending that $805,000 doesn't make sense to me.
"As long as there are children being educated in Haigh School, this work needs to be done," she said. "We need to do this."
The $805,237 for Haigh is automatically defeated unless at least 60 percent of voters support the $16.2 million bond.
The other warrant articles include a proposed operating budget of $62,247, 816 — a 1.4 percent increase. If defeated, a default budget of $62,390,591 takes effect.
Another article requests $72,232 to fund a one-year, 1.25 percent pay raise for the 188 members of the Salem Educational Support Personnel Association. The union represents school aides.
There is also a citizens petition article requesting $679,000 for a multipurpose room at Soule. The article would be voided if the $16.2 million bond fails.
If all warrant articles are approved by voters, the school portion of the tax rate would increase 3 percent — or 38 cents per $1,000. It is now $12.47 per $1,000. The multipurpose room accounts for nearly half of that increase.
The deliberative session lasted approximately 90 minutes. Only a fraction of Salem's 18,960 voters attended.