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Frustration over Haigh School rises for Salem parents

SALEM - Dozens of parents crowded the Walter F. Haigh Elementary School multipurpose room on Tuesday night to vent their frustration about the 60-year-old school's state of disrepair.

Voters at the March 12 polls rejected Article 3, which asked for $805,237 towards heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements at Haigh School, but embraced Article 2, a $16.2 million bond article that included minor renovations at Haigh School and more major renovations at Fisk and Soule schools.

In 2012, a $21.5 million bond to renovate those three schools was rejected by voters, though the other elementary schools in the district had already undergone renovations similar to the ones being proposed.

Several board members defended their decision to offer two separate warrants, with Peter Morgan telling parents he believed that Article 2 passed "because the HVAC improvements were separate."

"The decisions we've made up until now have been the hardest ones we've ever made," board member Patricia Corbett said.

Superintendent Michael Delahanty assured parents that Haigh School hasn't been forgotten, but added that it might not be open forever.

"This is as viable and important a school as any other school in our district," Delahanty said. "We're interested in maintaining its quality right now."

The superintendent added that the school could close "at some point down the road" for economic reasons, but that's not part of the immediate plan.

According to board member Bernard Campbell Jr., Haigh School would open again this fall and "there is no date certain that an action to close this school will occur."

However, school officials agreed that enrollment levels are declining, in general, and recent studies indicate the trend will continue.

Campbell said if a decision to close Haigh School is made, it would still be "at least 15 months after that" before the school would close.

Meanwhile, parents continue to take issue with the fact that other district schools are being renovated, while Haigh School languishes.

"I need you to show my little girl and my boys that you love Haigh," parent Joseph Brito told the board. "You say it, but I don't see it."

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