Standing in what will be the front entrance of their new school in about 14 months, nearly all of South Salem Elementary School’s 432 students sang Sister Sledge’s “We are family” and performed hand motions to Josh Groban’s “You raise me up” to a crowd of parents, South Salem alumni, and folks from the Salem City Schools’ central office personnel on Monday, June 4, officially breaking ground on the first facility the school division has built from the ground up.
“We will gather around about this same time next summer to send off the round school,” Salem superintendent Alan Seibert said. Next summer, the brand new South Salem Elementary School will be complete in what is now the back of the site, ready for the 2013-14 school year, and demolition will begin on the beloved and oddly-shaped school on Carolyn Road.
The project is not expected to displace any students, although some shuffling will occur since the kindergarten wing, a rectangular addition to the round school, will be demolished shortly after the school year is complete and the furniture is moved.
Gone are the playground equipment, and the field behind the school where kids usually played is full of dirt and construction gear. Dozers are leveling and moving fill dirt; a retention pond and new storm drainage system is already constructed at the bottom of the hill.
“The new PE grant is keeping kids active in the building already so I think that it’s going to really help when they can’t get outside and play as much” said assistant principal Laura James.
The new school is expected to cost more than $17 million. Bonds will fund $15 million, and the rest of the money will come from the school division’s capital fund. The capital fund is being helped by the recently effected 2% increase in Salem’s meals tax.
G&H Contracting, based in Salem, won the bidding process, coming in $98,000 lower than the next closest offer.