Proposed High School Renovations Could Top $75 Million

August 30, 2013

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

It could cost an estimated $75 million to renovate Salem High School.  The school was built in 1966, has not undergone an extensive remodel in its nearly 50 year history.

Superintendent Michael Delahanty joined by Architect Lance Whitehead of Lavallee Brensinger Architects modeled a rendering of the proposed renovated building from the exterior along with a layout of spaces inside.  “We are and have been interested in proposing a comprehensive high school renovation program,” Delahanty said.

A committee was formed to look at the possibility of a high school renovation when administration learned the district was eligible for an $11 million grant for the renovation of the Career and Technical Education Center (CTE) wing of the high school from the state.  “The CTE Center and the high school really are one project,” Delahanty said.

The committee includes community members, many of which are engineers with varying specialties.  Delahanty said the only two educators were the Salem High School principal and CTE director.  “They would bring a perspective that would represent the community,” Delahanty said in a private interview about the group.

Whitehead explained the renovation to board members, noting programs were located adjacent to others where resources could be shared.  He said the current building suffers from structural issues, insufficient education spaces, classrooms without natural light, limited storage and a multitude of other problems.  “It doesn’t look really any different from when the first students walked across the threshold sometime around 1967,” Delahanty said.

Whitehead said the building would be designed to house 1,200 students but community use spaces would be designed for 1,400 students such as athletic facilities and the auditorium.  “This building must be designed to be a community use asset,” he said.  If enrollment increased, only additional classrooms would be necessary to handle the larger student body.

“This community has potential to grow,” Delahanty said.  “We don’t want the high school to be renovated right away.”  “This high school is used for many different kinds of activities and events,” he added.  “This community doesn’t have a separate gathering space.”

The renovation would not add significant square footage to the estimated 350,000 square foot building.  “The driver behind these projects is not population growth,” Whitehead said.  “You have the right amount of area; it’s just not the right space.

When Windham’s high school students attended, the student body reached as many as 2,400.  Portable classrooms were added to help house the increase and are still in use since Windham’s departure.  The renovation would allow the school to discontinue their use.  Retaining the units throughout the renovation would allow students to be moved while a part of the building is renovated.

Whitehead said a resource sharing approach would be used to decide where programs would be located.

The current main entrance would be moved to the Geremonty Drive side of the building where the library currently is located along with administrative offices.  The current bus port side wing of the building would house arts space flanked by the television studio and auditorium.  Science labs would be rebuilt with more space for proper instruction.  The four-court gymnasium would be moved to field level and be located in between the current auditorium and grant field.  The current main entrance would be used to service community spaces to allow for a separation during the school day.

“When we leave the building it will be like new condition Whitehead said.  A road will also be created to loop around the building for better traffic flow and pedestrian access.

Board members liked the proposal.  Member Pamela Berry agreed with the plans.  “It’s still basically the same place that it was,” she said.  “I like how it looks.

The current school was built in 1966 and opened to students in 1967.  An addition was added in 1971, which included the library, four-court gymnasium, television studio, science labs, planetarium, and general classroom spaces.  In 1987 the 50,000 square foot CTE center was added.

The board hopes to propose the renovation to voters in March.  A public meeting will be held in September for input on the plans.