EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 17, 2013

Memorials removed during school renovation project

Families raise concerns

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — When the renovation of Fisk School began this summer, there was no doubt some trees would have to be cut down to accommodate the project.

But some of the trees and shrubs at the half-century-old school had been planted years ago in memory of students, staff members and others who died.

Principal George Murray did his best to photograph the plantings and find out who they intended to memorialize.

There were no plaques or other markers left behind, according to Superintendent Michael Delahanty.

The goal was to replace the trees and shrubs once the project is completed next summer.

But after they were removed, the district received calls from a few concerned family members.

They saw the construction at the school and wondered what was going to happen to the trees planted in memory of their loved ones.

“That made us realize there were some more memorials,” Delahanty said. “There were supposed to be some identifying markers placed near the memorials, but there never was.”

Delahanty said it’s not known how many memorial trees and shrubs had been planted over the years.

An excavator started tearing up ground behind the school in September to make way for the project. The trees and bushes were soon replaced by huge piles of dirt.

Fisk and Soule schools are receiving new additions and major security, sprinkler, heating and ventilation system upgrades as part of the $16 million project. Minor renovations are planned at Haigh School.

The district’s three other elementary schools received major renovations a few years ago. Voters will be asked to approve an overhaul of Salem High School in March.

The situation at Fisk comes at a time when district officials have been wondering how they can best protect the many memorials erected at the town’s eight public schools over the years.

The School Board is expected to address the issue at one of its future meetings, Chairman Bernard Campbell said. He said it’s a matter that has been discussed for years as more and more memorials have been created.

There has always been a question of who is responsible for the upkeep of these memorials, Delahanty said. The district’s custodians have done their best to maintain them, he said.

School Board member Michael Carney Jr. said it’s important the memorials are not allowed to fall into disrepair.

“We would like to set up a policy so these memorials will always be in good shape,” he said.