OAKVALE — Click here for video
History is coming down in Oakvale.
Demolition began Thurs-day on the 90-year-old Oakvale Elem-entary School as part of the first phase of a project to replace the structure with a new, more advanced building.
Portions of the old Sschool came down Thursday as part of a project to demolish and rebuild the school. The school’s gym and several adjoining classrooms will remain, and students will continue with classes in these classrooms during the upcoming school year while construction of the new school building begins.
Dr. Ernie Adkins, principal of Oakvale Elementary School, was on site Thursday morning to see the first part of his school come down.
“The foreman told me (Thursday) morning they had started on the back buildings first,” Adkins said. “Based on what I saw myself, it won’t take them very long to get done after they get started. The back buildings have come down pretty quickly. It was different from what I expected seeing the demolition going on. It was not that big of deal beforehand, but seeing them tearing things down was kind of surreal. It was overwhelming.”
Adkins said teachers, staff and others with the school have been working since last August to make sure the school was ready for demolition.
“We have been working on getting the school ready since last August. We were very mindful last school year that this would happen,” Adkins said. “A lot of surplus material and instructional material was shared with schools and principals across the county. Our maintenance department ended up delivering a tremendous amount of furniture and things to other schools last fall. We really started working after spring break to clean out everything that wasn’t needed at the time since we were still having school for existing students. It was important not to interrupt the educational process as we were getting ready for demolition. For the last month and month-and-a-half of school we moved the classrooms over to the remaining portion of the school in the gym where we will be operating this school year and took the rest to the warehouse. Since school has been out they have removed any remaining furniture and any air-conditioning units.”
School officials believe the original parts of the Oakvale School were first built in the 1920s though additions were made to the school building in the 1930s and 1950s. The gym and classrooms, that will not be torn down, were among the latest additions to the school and were constructed in the 1980s. According to Adkins, the entire community is looking forward to the construction of the new school.
“It will be like we are having school and they are building another school next door, even though the two buildings will be connected when it is all finished,” he said. “We have seen drawings of what the new facility will look like, and it is beautiful. The teachers and parents who have seen it just love it. There is a level of excitement after seeing those drawings and knowing what is going to happen.”
Plans for the new school building call for state-of-the-art classrooms incorporating 21st century technology. A new school with up-to-date technology is something the children and people of Oakvale deserve, Adkins said.
“This is something that is obviously a very positive thing for our school, the people of Oakvale and the children here,” Adkins said. “The children in Oakvale deserve to have a good school. I know this was necessary, and I am glad we can do it now. We want to get this phase completed before the children start back in August.”
Kellan Sarles, public information specialist with Mercer County Schools, said demolition would have begun earlier but the work was delayed by the June 29 storms that swept the region.
“We were held up a few days due to electric issues,” Sarles said. “Appalachian Power had to disconnect power from the existing building before demolition could begin. However, their crews had to be working on the restoration efforts after the storm and it held them up on getting the building disconnected.”
Sarles said the demolition process will be tricky since not all of the building will be coming down.
“They don’t have a projected time for completion as of yet,” she said. “They have done most of the asbestos abatement, which is something they knew they would be dealing with. They not only have to take down a large portion of the school, but they have to do so without compromising the structural integrity of the building that will remain.”
According to Sarles, what equipment could not be housed at the school or was no longer needed has been taken elsewhere in the county.
“They have moved the equipment that was salvageable from the classrooms and kitchens either into the remaining part of the school or into other schools,” Sarles said. “It has been a little like triage, deciding what to trash, what to keep and what to send somewhere else. We found a lot of older stuff and archives we didn’t know we had, so we had to find something to do with them.”�