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School renovation plans have plenty of support in Salem

SALEM - With the budget committee and school board already standing behind two warrant articles detailing renovation plans for three of the district's elementary schools, a final public hearing on the proposed plan was sparsely attended Tuesday night.

The public hearing was held at the start of Tuesday night's school board meeting.

If passed by voters this spring, the bonded renovations and additions at Soule and Fisk elementary schools would total $16,205,153.

An additional $805,237 in repairs is being proposed for Haigh Elementary School. Those repairs include a new HVAC system and ceilings for the aging facility, as well as asbestos removal.

The budget committee supported both of the warrant items during its Jan. 10 public hearing, where many parents came out to show their support.

Selectman Everett McBride Jr. spoke in favor of both items during Tuesday night's hearing.

"I think it's a great plan, and I'll certainly do anything I can to offer my support," McBride said.

Sherry Kilgus-Kramer, president of the local Strengthen Our Schools organization, agreed.

"Obviously everyone needs to plan for their future," Kilgus-Kramer said. "Security considerations are important, as are basic educational adequacy issues. People want good facilities and we want to keep people in our community. We want more kids to come here and we want them to thrive."

Resident Richard Wilson, who has children attending Haigh School, said he'd previously urged his neighbors to vote "no" on any renovations plan that didn't incorporate Haigh School in its plans. He noted that previous discussions hinted at the possibility of a future closing for Haigh School, though school officials said that wouldn't be happening anytime soon.

However, if enrollments continue to decline, closing Haigh School could become an option in the future, school officials said earlier this month.

"I believe the present plan has reached a level of compromise," Wilson told the school board. "Obviously I'm pleased to hear there's no plan to close Haigh at this time. I'm not naive enough to think that could never happen, but, in the meantime, Haigh needs some work."

The public hearing closed within a half-hour, with the school board voting to continue its support for Articles 2 and 3.

"I think what we've heard has just reaffirmed our plans," board member Bernard Campbell said.

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