By Alexander Shedd
As the school year begins, those returning to Salem High School will find themselves in somewhat unfamiliar territory. New pavement sparkles beneath a towering facade bearing the school’s colossal emblem. New lockers, classrooms, floors, ceilings, even entirely new buildings await students in the fresh, shining hallways of their school. The culmination of a 6-year, $30 million project is now achieved: the majority of Salem High School has been completely revamped with cutting edge technology and new architecture to give Salem’s Spartans the next leg up on their academic competition.
Graciously guided by the insightful Clerk of the Works Larry Hall, I had the opportunity to tour these renovations and expansions firsthand ahead of students arriving. While some smaller details have yet to be completed, such as paving certain lanes, furnishing new rooms and finishing construction on a new stairwell and the rooms around it, the vast majority of the work is done and ready for students. Hall predicts that these final details will be wrapped up within a couple months of the fall semester.
Three new buildings have been constructed on the campus’s fully renovated main building. As students walk into reception, they will find administrative offices to their left and guidance offices to their right across a spacious colored tile floor. The doors are fitted with new high-tech ID card readers rather than traditional keyholes. In the administrative hallway, a new nurse’s clinic spans deep into the building among new conference rooms and offices.
Hall lingered on the new marketing classrooms, truly impressive spaces fitted with the brand new flatscreen TVs being set up across the school and plenty of learning space. Near the space where a new stairwell is being constructed, spacious classrooms for nursing and handicapped students show great promise. Throughout the school shelf space is set aside for trophies and other student accomplishments.
Next to the cafeteria, which has remained largely untouched, a new high-ceilinged foyer stretches up into the second floor. Hall explained that the new ceiling here is “cloud system” architecture meant to improve acoustics and climate control, with tiles hanging below a series of deep rivets in the ceiling. New fire sprinklers dangle almost invisibly from the tiles, carefully and subtly hooked into the new safety measures built into the ceiling throughout the school.
While renovating the school’s gymnasium was not initially part of the project, students will find new flooring and other improvements in the gym. During the project, the gymnasium flooded and saw heavy damage as a result, leading to its addition to the overall renovations.
Other highlights include a highly-demanded second elevator in the front of the school; a brand new black box theater space, a type of stage theater set entirely in a high-ceilinged, all-black room where drama students are able to rehearse and put on shows in unconventional arrangements; a brand new library on the second floor to replace the old one, fitted with contemporary architecture and state-of-the-art technology as well as new private study rooms; and new rooms for the study of media sciences. Additionally, the new culinary arts suite, constructed last year in the first phase of the renovations, has everything students need to begin exploring careers in commercial cooking.
While these are only a handful of the renovations, their scope and quality will not be lost on students as they explore the new halls of their old school. Salem High is looking forward to a great year and beyond!