EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

March 10, 2010

Salem voters OK $22M in school renovations

Officials see a shift in attitude

SALEM — There has been a shift in attitude in Salem.

Voters approved a $22 million bond to renovate three district elementary schools yesterday. The article needed 60 percent approval to pass. It received 61 percent of the vote.

"It's incredibly encouraging. I think it's a positive step for the school district and a positive step for the town," Superintendent Michael Delahanty said last night. "It's just spectacular."

A total of 2,613 residents voted for the bond article; 1,653 voted no.

The renovations will be done to North Salem, Barron and Lancaster elementary schools. The district plans to break ground this summer, Delahanty said.

District officials will begin seeking out bond rates, and working with architects to finalize the plans in coming weeks, he said.

The bond will fund the first phase of a district master plan that includes renovations to all six town elementary schools and middle school. The renovations aim to make room for the district's kindergarten program, which opened this school year, and bring buildings up to code.

Nine portable classrooms are being used at elementary schools to provide enough space for kindergarten. The schools also lack sprinkler systems and do not have space dedicated to special education and occupational therapy. These programs are run out of closets and hallways.

Along with addressing those problems, the proposed renovations include multipurpose room additions, and space for music and art programs.

Many residents leaving the polls yesterday said they considered the bond to be the most important issue that faced voters this year.

When asked what she thought was the biggest issue on the ballot, resident Cheryl Ruffen didn't hesitate.

"Definitely the schools," Ruffen, 48, said. "We need to renovate all the schools in Salem."

Heidi DeLucia, 43, said students deserved the renovations as she left the Town Hall polling place.

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