Demolition begins at old Dover High School

DOVER — Exterior demolition on the old Dover High School quietly began Monday at noon.

Elliot Hardin, Capital School District supervisor of buildings and grounds, tore into the building first. At the controls in the yellow CASE excavator, he pulled two hunks of debris from the front of the 49-year-old building.

“I think I found my second profession,” Mr. Hardin joked when he jumped out.

Razing the building was part of the agreement the school district made with the state Department of Education to build the new, $114 million Dover High School off of Del. 8, which opened in August.

Demolition is going to be a long process, Mr. Hardin said. Crews will take at least a couple of months to flatten the high school, sifting through debris piece by piece.

Only a handful of people came out to watch Monday.

“I’ll just say it’s kind of an ugly building, but it was a beautiful place to learn and grow,” said Eugene Montano, district supervisor of instruction, before the demolition began.

Mr. Montano said that he started working at Dover High School as a student teacher and built his career there. He spent 17 years in the building as a teacher, associate principal and principal.

“How do you say goodbye to a building like that?” he said.

“It’s hard. We’ve had a lot of kids go through this building,” Mr. Montano said, “but I hope they learned and had fun and gained something from the community.”

He added that the new high school belongs to the alumni too, even if it can’t replace the memories.

“It’s a good loss,” Mr. Montano said. “Even though it’s a sad loss, it’s a good loss.”

The small knot of spectators included district staff members and members of the media.

They stood in front of the school, their cameras aimed at Mr. Hardin in the excavator.

Sean Christiansen, a Capital school board member, came to watch the demolition with his family. He and his wife Beth both graduated from the high school, he said, and so did his parents.

“This building is made of brick and mortar,” he said.

“Teachers, administrators and most of all students made this building this building.”

The windows are boarded up in the old high school now, and the shrubs in the planter are overgrown. Weeds are peeking out of cracks in the sidewalk.

Exterior demolition, initially set for June 1, was delayed a week to set up a silt fence for erosion control, Mr. Hardin said — a requirement from the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

Crews started interior demolition at the school in early May, Mr. Hardin said, ripping up walls, ceiling grids and floors. Asbestos abatement already wrapped up in the building earlier in the year.

Neuber Demolition & Environmental Services, from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, is handling the demolition.

When their work is done, the space where the high school stood will be an open field, regraded with topsoil.

“We’ll be able to stand here and see the (athletic) fields,” Mr. Hardin said.

Students, especially from Central Middle School, will continue to use the athletics fields, including baseball and softball fields, a football stadium and a soccer and lacrosse field.

Although access in front of the high school is blocked off, none of the fields out back will be affected during the demolition.

District officials have mentioned the possibility of one day building a new school on the property.

Rob Kellam, with the high school alumni association, said that while the new high school building is “magnificent in every respect,” but he hates to see part of the school’s history gone forever.

“For the 18,000 alumni who attended the high school between 1966 and 2014, it is part of our past, it’s where we met classmates, friends and the teachers who guided and taught us, our leaders who lead by example, all of whom instilled in each of us, great pride in being a Senator,” he wrote in an email.

He said alumni must focus on “the friends we met along the way, the discipline and boundaries, the opportunity to have had some of the finest teachers and administrators who truly cared about each of us and our futures.”

Maybe when the dust settles, he added, alumni can put together a picnic to honor the teachers and administrators who made the high school what it was.

Mr. Christiansen said that he hopes to eventually allow alumni to get bricks from the old school as a souvenir. More information will be posted on the district website and Facebook page, he said.

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