Students help break ground for new South Salem Elementary
SALEM – More than 400 South Salem Elementary students in tie-dyed T-shirts they made sang, signed and clapped as the first dirt was officially broken this morning for the first wholly new school in Salem since the city school system began in 1983.
What is lovingly known as “the round school” is being replaced with a bigger and more up-to-date elementary school where specialty teachers will no longer have to use former utility closets for one-on-one instruction.
In actuality, earth-moving equipment from G&H Contracting in Salem had been moving dirt since mid-May, but today Salem City officials, then a bevy of architects, engineers and construction representatives and last, some of the students themselves had a turn.
They used 16 gold-painted shovels set in a trench of dirt on one edge of the construction site where the red playground equipment used to stand.
Construction of the school will be financed through a 2-cent increase in meals and beverage tax that went into effect this year, specifically for capital improvements starting with South Salem Elementary.
Salem School Superintendent Dr. Alan Seibert, in addition to Mayor Randy Foley and School Board Chairman Sally Southard, thanked restauranteurs and the people of Salem for participating through the increased meals tax.
The new school is being constructed behind the existing one. The round portion that includes the school’s library and most of the classrooms will not be torn down until about a year from now, Seibert noted, when another ceremony will be held that will give students, former students, teachers, staff and parents an opportunity to say goodbye to the building they have known and loved since 1964.
One of those is Salem Fire & Emergency Medical Services Chief Pat Counts, who recalled being a seventh grader in the school its first year.
“To see the round school gone is going to be a little bit heart-breaking,” Counts said. “It’s kind of like an icon for Salem.”
For more details and photographs from South Salem Elementary’s groundbreaking on June 4, read the June 7 issue of the Salem Times-Register.