For Meche, whose two children attend Salem Academy, this is a labor of love. His work has been confined so far to outlining the concept, establishing where the various classrooms and the gym will be located.
“There is not much more that makes me prouder,” he says of his association with the school, which goes back to its founding.
The building itself will cost money, but school officials are counting on savings because they won’t own it. Rather, Salem Academy hopes to pay $250,000 per year for its use, while Shetland Park management finances the construction.
O’Neil praised Shetland owner Robert Lappin, “He is part of our success, and he wants to help us thrive.”
O’Neil hopes the school will break ground on the project at this time next year. He’s currently working on raising the money — including up to $400,000, a one-time cost, for installing a gym floor, scoreboards and bleachers, among other expenses. He doesn’t expect to see sizable contributions coming from individual donors. Students at Salem Academy reflect the same demographic that exists in Salem’s traditional public schools, he pointed out. In other words, the children do not generally come from wealthy families.
“We have good relationships with a number of foundations,” O’Neil said. “We’ll go to them first. ... I’m confident.”
Salem Academy Charter School is an independent public school authorized by the state Department of Education.
Alan Burke can be reached at email@example.com.