In the three years that he has attended Salem High School, junior Burks Chisom says he has never experienced a day quite like May 9.
Last Thursday, school administrators and students gave members of the community a tour of the current building and revealed designs for the renovation that is expected to cost approximately $36 million.
There are three phases of the renovation. Phase one includes classroom additions in the front and back of the building. Phase two involves crews building an updated main entrance, a common area for students and a second-story library. The last phase consists of crews widening hallways, adding new carpeting and upgrading existing classrooms. More natural sunlight and the building of an enclosed courtyard are also being discussed.
An hour prior to the 7 p.m. public meeting in the school’s auditorium, Chisom, along with fellow classmates Chance Staples and Elijah Hairston, served as student guides, showing event participants around the school and answering their questions.
“The purpose of the meeting was to hear the thoughts of the Salem community and receive feedback that is so vital in a project of this magnitude and importance. It is always important to hear from as many perspectives and views as possible,” said Chisom. “Without the community’s support, the necessary and overdue renovation to the high school would be impossible to accomplish.”
Added Staples, “In order for students to breed creativity in their academics and lives, they must first be inspired and surrounded by objects that spark creativity. A creative learning environment creates a creative academic scholar. I would like to see the school expand in size due to its overcrowded hallways and small classrooms.”
City officials have proposed a few ways to accumulate the necessary funds needed for the project: a 0.02-cent increase in real estate taxes, a $3 per month raise in the trash collection fee and a 0.15-cent raise in personal property taxes. By the end of the year, the final design is expected to be finished, and construction is scheduled to conclude by December 2021.
Salem High School opened its doors in 1977. Few would argue that the needs of students and safety today are drastically different from four decades ago.
“This facility has served the young people of Salem with excellence for the past 42 years. But the needs of students, of our community, and of education, in general, continue to evolve,” said Principal Scott Habeeb. “The time has come to make the significant improvements that will enable us to continue providing Salem’s young people with an excellent school for generations to come.”
“This is a project that takes a lot of time, effort and money and so the process should be done very carefully and methodically. Hopefully, if all goes as planned, the project will begin sooner rather than later,” said Chisom. “I have full faith in our School Board and central office that the project will be a complete and total success that benefits everyone in the community.”
Dr. Alan Seibert, the Salem City Public Schools Superintendent, said, “the biggest room in any organization, school division, business or family is the room for improvement.”
Before voting on whether or not to approve the tax increase, City council will hold a public hearing on Monday, June 10.