SALEM -- The Salem City Board
of Education plans to embark on a facilities project to accommodate
its growing student population and update the aging school buildings.
As an Abbott school district, the state would foot most of the bill
for the upgrades.
At last week's board of education meeting, an architectural firm presented
the board with facility options for a future project which is in the
preliminary stages of planning.
Robert Garrison Sr. and Robert Garrison Jr., architects who work
mainly on school-related projects, presented a possible plan for development
to the board. The projects would involve revamping the John Fenwick
School and Salem Middle School, and building two new school buildings
in the district. The John Fenwick School would house pre-kindergarten
to second grade, and the middle school would be a 3rd through 8th grade
school. The second school could be divided into two sections, separating
grades three through five from the upper grades.
In addition to adding space, the new buildings would address code changes
the old schools do not meet. According to Garrison Jr., the John Fenwick
School, which was constructed in 1954, has classroom structure problems
that would be resolved by a new facility.
"The building has outlived its' educational life," Garrison
said. Facility problems at the school include connected classrooms without
separate doors that may disrupt instruction in adjoining rooms, and
classrooms that connect off of a pod, or main room.
Students at the three-story middle school encounter challenges such
as moving between the schools three floors between classes.
Board members also considered separating the two proposed schools between
the third and fourth grade levels, continuing the current grade structure.
The school district is still in the preliminary stages of the project.
They must first decided on the grade structure of the schools before
submitting an application to the state department of education. The
department of education has up to 60 days to approve the application,
which will then be sent to the School Construction Corporation.
"This is a starting point," Garrison said.
The project will be 100 percent funded by the state, due to the district's
Abbott status which was declared in June 2004. Abbott status provides
Salem City School District with the same kindergarten through 12th grade
funding given to suburban districts, pre-school for all 3- and 4-year-olds,
additional educational programs and funding for facility improvement.