EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 10, 2013

Salem selectmen OK funds for school renovations

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — The funding of renovations at three elementary schools received a small boost Monday when selectmen authorized $50,000 for the project.

Selectmen unanimously approved the transfer of impact fee money toward $16.2 million in improvements to the Fisk, Soule and Haigh schools.

The money will be specifically used to fund the project’s bond payments, Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride said.

Impact fees are collected from developers to help fund the additional public services required for their construction projects. These include the need for more police and fire services, and increases in student enrollment.

The $50,000 request comes at a time when the school district is completing architectural designs for the renovations and prepares for construction, according to Superintendent Michael Delahanty.

The first-year payment on the bond is $243,100 — one-half of one year’s interest payment.

The Planning Board was scheduled to review plans for the project at its meeting last night although board approval is not required, Delahanty said. The schools must meet town public safety codes and state Department of Education specifications, he said.

“The Planning Board is the last stop in getting the work underway,” Delahanty said Monday. “We’re still on our schedule.”

The superintendent and School Board members have said the three schools — each more than 50 years old — need substantial upgrades.

Construction will begin in the next several weeks and continue through August 2014, Delahanty said.

Although the work is not expected to have a major impact on staff and students, Delahanty said, Fisk and Soule will be shut down for at least a few weeks this summer while workers remove potentially hazardous asbestos floor tiles.

“That requires the schools to be sealed up,” he said.

The schools’ skeleton summer staffs will work out of a portable trailer while the asbestos tiles are removed, Delahanty said.

“The floors will be done by the time the students return,” he said.

The new school year begins Aug. 28.

The project calls for $8.5 million in work at Fisk and $7.3 million at Soule. This includes new classrooms, installation of fire sprinkler systems, and upgrading the heating and ventilation systems.

The work at Haigh calls for only $369,000 in roof, ceiling, security and fire alarm improvements, including installation of a new water line. Paving will also be done at the school this summer, Delahanty said.

Voters in March rejected a more extensive renovation plan for Haigh that requested $805,237 in improvements. School Board members have considered the possibility of closing the school because of declining student enrollment in the district.

The district’s three other elementary schools — Barron, Lancester and North Salem — were renovated two years ago. Renovations are also planned at Salem High School and Woodbury School.