Salem to begin classroom revamp

SALEM – A three-year project to remodel classrooms in Salem schools is beginning this spring, with the first pilot room to be done at Buckeye Elementary over spring break in April.

“It’s basically like remodeling your home,” Superintendent Tom Bratten said.

During the school board meeting on Monday, Bratten showed board members a computer drawing of how the layout of the rooms will appear, noting the increased storage for both teachers and students.

“We’re doing as much as we can with the money we have,” he said.

Plans call for installation of new flooring, painting the walls, installing new hooks where students can hang their coats and backpacks, adding lots of storage and new teacher desks and installing window air conditioning units and light absorbing window blinds in each room. According to Bratten, all the classrooms are being designed the same.

Board President Steve Bailey, who serves on the Building & Grounds Committee, reported on the classroom remodeling. He explained that the estimated cost for all the classrooms in the three elementary schools is $566,000, which will come from permanent improvement money that’s been set aside for the past five years in anticipation of the project. Another $200,000 will cover some work in the hallways and non-classroom areas in all three schools.

The project goes back to what parents and community members communicated to board members during meetings a few years ago, he said. They didn’t want new schools. They wanted the district to remodel the schools they had. In recent years, some of the projects have included replacement of windows and doors for more energy efficiency. Now it’s time for sprucing up the classrooms.

Five pilot classrooms will be done at Buckeye, Reilly and Southeast this summer. In 2015, the pilots will be done for the junior high and high school and the elementary classrooms will be completed, then in 2016, the rest of the classrooms in the junior high and high school will be finished. The number of classrooms in the elementary schools includes 30 at Buckeye, 22 at Southeast and 26 at Reilly.

The estimated cost for the rooms at the junior high and high school hasn’t been determined at this point.

Bratten said the teachers have put a lot of time into the project to determine the needs. He also praised Amy Johnson for her work on the computer images to show the board.

He said there isn’t enough money to replace student desks at this time. They had to prioritize and felt that the storage problem was more important to address. Student cubbies were falling apart and the teachers had no storage except for plastic containers.

The board also heard about a new survey being taken to gauge the parents on what direction they want the board to take and what goals the board should establish for the next five to 10 years.

Board member Brad Myers talked about the survey during his report on the Community Relations Committee. He said 250 surveys were sent out randomly to parents of students, but they’re also asking people to visit the district web site to take the survey online.

The web site is and visitors should click on Salem School Parent Survey. The survey notes the six elements that define high quality schools include: programming; performance; prestige; convenience and service; learning environment and culture; and financial stewardship.

Parents are asked to rank the importance of the those elements, then rank the importance of various activities or offerings that fall into each of those categories or elements, such as gifted instruction, school lunches, technology, dress code or sports. They’re also asked to rank their schools currently on each of the six elements.

Myers also reported that the committee is looking at how to start using social media to reach parents and keep them informed about the schools, through such outlets as Facebook and Twitter. He said they hope to have that in place for the fall, to use social media to push information to parents.

As part of the consent agenda, the board extended the school calendar by one day to May 30 to make up for a calamity day. The district missed 10 days on account of bad weather. Even with the number of calamity days permitted, the usage of three blizzard bag days for students to take work home to make up some days and the addition of more calamity days by the state, the district still had one day to make up.

In other business, the board:

– honored teacher Atilla Samu for 30 years service and classified staff members Ken Hardy, Joan Clark and Barbara Eckstein for 25 years service

– approved the retirements of classified employees James Fattler, Kay DelFavero and John McKee and certificated employees Diane Drapcho, Charles Suchy and Sue Ricciutti

– hired certificated substitutes Amy Leonard and Judy Miller and classified substitute Kimberly Weir

– accepted the resignations of cheerleading coach Debbie Thomas and girls varsity basketball coach Stephen Stewart

– approved Sarah White for before and after school intervention at Reilly at $22 per hour

– approved the return of Rebecca Gallagher from unpaid medical leave

– nominated Steve Bailey as director to the board of the Salem Community Foundation to fill Bratten’s expired term.

The board had originally planned to hold an executive session for personnel, but cancelled it.

The next meeting will be 7 p.m. April 21.