Old Oak Ridge High School building demolished

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The old Oak Ridge High School building lay in pieces as crews demolished the 76-year-old building Tuesday. AARON EISENHAUER aeisenhauer@ semissourian.com

Demolition of the old Oak Ridge High School began Monday. The school board decided in March to proceed with razing the building. The school was built in 1932 and was part of the oldest contiguous school district west of the Mississippi River.

Several health and safety issues were cited as reasons for the demolition, such as bowed walls, plumbing issues and roof repairs. Mold had also been detected in the building's walls. Steam pipes had broken in 16 to 20 places under the building, and leaks had weakened the wooden floor. According to Gerald Landewee, superintendent of the Oak Ridge School District, a staff member stepped through the floor of the old building recently.

The school district had considered renovation as a possibility but decided not to pursue it. The cost of repairing a radiator system was estimated at $50,000. The cost of many of the other reparations was unknown.

No students had attended school in the old building in two years.

The school board decided to pursue demolition based on the recommendations of a committee of school board members, school administrators and school district patrons that began meeting in the fall of 2007.

Landewee said the school district's enrollment trends were stable and did not necessitate a re-examination of building needs or expansion for another two to three years.

The planned demolition of the building brought back emotional memories for some of students who attended Oak Ridge School in the old building.

"It kind of broke my heart when I saw the school had to go," said Paulette Stone, a 1961 graduate. "I look back, and I really enjoyed my 12 years there."

Stone said she attended school with her four sisters there along with their friends, the Meyers. She also said her grandfather was a janitor in the old building in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Diana Hobeck, a 1971 graduate and the current bookkeeper and secretary for the Oak Ridge School District, watched the demolition of the old building all day and took several pictures. Her office looks out on the site.

"It was time," she said. "It was full of mold, and it's not good for people to breathe. Now it's a part of history that's passed."

Hobeck met her husband while she was in high school in the old building. She was a freshman when they met, and he was a senior. They continued to date after he graduated and began working at a shoe factory.

"You could say he waited for me to graduate," she said.

tthomas@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 197

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