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School Renovation Plans to Be Formulated

New elementary renovation plan in '13 could be followed by SHS, CTE Center plan for '14.

The Salem School Board discussed at length Tuesday night plans for what will come next in efforts to renovate several of the town's schools.

At the suggestion of SAU 57 Superintendent Dr. Michael Delahanty, the board discussed the framework of a possible plan to propose renovations in 2013 involving some or all of the Fisk, Haigh and Soule Elementary Schools and then a renovation plan for Salem High School and its Career and Technical Education center in 2014.

Voters in 2013 would also be asked to approve some amount for design and planning of the high school renovations, which Delahanty said could be in the neighborhood of $100,000.

The board unanimously voted Tuesday to form a committee to begin working on the plan for the high school.

, leading school officials to re-examine their plans.

Delahanty said the impetus for addressing SHS and the CTE center in 2014 comes from a number of factors.

First, there is the possibility Salem could be eligible for state building aid for the project, which is not presently available.

Delahanty has said in the past, and reiterated Tuesday, that Salem may never again get state building aid, but it will at least be possible in 2014.

The other major factor is that Salem could be looking at getting state assistance in funding renovations of the CTE center, but the ball needs to get rolling on those plans right away, according to Delahanty.

"State officials have encouraged us to be prepared to propose a renovation project, and at least have some concept of what our CTE renovation project will be, sometime after the start of the new year," Delahanty told the School Board.

Because of the proximity of the CTE to the high school, Delahanty said it makes more sense to "propose a comprehensive renovation for the high school" at the same time as the CTE.

School Board member Michael Carney, Jr., expressed serious reservations about supporting any plan for the high school before seeing what might be proposed in 2013 for the elementary schools.

"I can't take one in isolation from the other," Carney said.

"I would be reluctant to bring other issues into play that are going to cloud the discussion," School Board member Bernie Campbell said. "By that I mean, we've got more than one thing going on...We need to think that through."

Campbell said doing that getting the elementary schools "behind us" could possibly mean pushing the high school work back a year or two.

Carney added he's spoken to residents who've expressed reluctance to support an elementary school renovation proposal next March if it's the exact same one that failed this past March.

"I want to see this as a comprehensive thing," he said.

To pay for initial architectural and design work, the board took the first step Tuesday to request withdrawal of $50,000 from impact fee funds to eventually be used in the general fund as new revenue. Carney voted against this proposal.

The discussion came on the heels of the School Board receiving a presentation from members of the N.H. School Administrators Association on their findings from a comprehensive school enrollment study commissioned earlier this year.

The study as described by project investigators Mark Joyce and Keith Burke shows a continued general decline in school enrollments locally with a bit of uncertainty past the next five years.

Joyce said declines in school enrollment are a major trend statewide with a few notable exceptions, including Bedford, Manchester, Nashua and Rochester, where affordable housing is more readily available.

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