Fences have gone up around the former Columbus Middle School.
Halls once full of students heading to class are now loaded with workers salvaging as much material from the building as possible, as the time for the 94-year-old building has come to an end.
Workers began tearing down the southern half of the building in the last days of 2018. The Columbus Public School Board of Education made the decision in December to tear down the majority of the building, 2400 16th St. The newer southern half will be spared, utilized in a new early childhood development center and as district offices to be constructed in the future.
“It’s not an easy decision for anybody to make, that’s why it took us 24 months,” said Leonard Kwapnioski, executive director of technology and operations for CPS, about the board's decision. “We’re trying to do the best we can with what’s in front of us moving forward.”
B-D Construction was awarded the contract for the demolition project for $890,000. Tucker Masonry Company was awarded a separate contract by the board to salvage the front entry columns, diamond-shaped stones and the building cornerstone for $24,500.
Before work began, the school auctioned off lockers, doors, benches and pretty much anything else that was easily accessible. Kwapnioski said workers are pulling out everything from the building that is easy to recycle. Most of this material comes from the ceiling and includes ventilation shafts and air ducts.
“They are recycling everything that is possible. They’re trying to avoid hauling anything to the landfill,” Kwapnioski said. “That is their goal.”
However, some materials will have to be disposed of, such as wood. Kwapnioski said all wood will be collected and shredded and or burned.
When asked if any of the building's bricks would be salvaged and sold to interested parties, Kwapnioski said there are no plans of such kind at the moment. He said that would be up to B-D to decide whether or not to salvage bricks to sell to the public, but added it would be impractical.
“Unless B-D Construction wants to handle that, it’s all up to them,” Kwapnioski said.
Nicole Anderson is the district’s new foundation director. But back in the 1990s, she attended the school. Before her time it was formerly Kramer High School. The board voted to name the new facility the Kramer Education Center as a way to remember the old high school.
“It is strange to see things change,” she said about the demolition. “But I think bringing back the Kramer history is an important part of the entire process and I’m really proud of the board for that.
“It’s an exciting time to bring something that’s needed to the Columbus community while keeping a piece of history alive and going. And I think that’s important for our Kramer High grads."
The demolition process will be a slow one, utilizing a long arm excavator to pull the building down in pieces. If the weather continues to be good, Kwapnioski said it will take about four months to tear down the building.
“Right now, they’re focusing on the western end of the building, and if all goes well, we'll start tearing it down by the end of next week,” Kwapnioski said.
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.