STRONGSVILLE – The old board of education building has fallen.
On Aug. 3 and 4, demolition crews brought down the structure, which was built in 1908, making it the oldest in the district. It followed the demolition of Center Middle School, which came down just weeks ago. Both buildings served the students of Strongsville for many years, but removing them clears the view of the new Strongsville Middle School, eliminates some major expenses and takes the district into a new era.
What was most recently the board of education building was originally a high school. When Center Junior High was built in 1921, the seventh- through 12th-graders moved into the new building, and the former high school became an elementary school.
“By the 1920s, there were no one-room schools left, so they moved the elementary school kids into that building,” said Louise Varisco, Strongsville Historical Society member.
Both buildings had some additions over the years to accommodate the growing population of Strongsville. As the neighborhood elementary schools were built, the 1908 building became administrative offices.
As planned, the two buildings stood through the 2015-16 school year, while students continued their education inside Center Middle School. Directly behind Center, construction moved nonstop on the new building.
As soon as the school year ended, the abatement of the old middle school began. While it was coming down, the board building was being abated in preparation for demolition. Now that both buildings are down, crews can grade the land in preparation for parking lots, driveways and green space.
Much of that work will still be going on when students go back to school Aug. 23. The inside of the building will be completely finished and learning-ready. Crews outside will remain separated from the students, and will finish the ground work.
The cost of the abatement and demolition of the two buildings was just over $1 million. Some of that cost was the unforeseen expense of removing and replacing unsuitable soils to build a parking lot that will hold up for 10 to 15 years. That unknown factor could not be uncovered until structures were actually down, but the funds to compensate for it were covered under the project’s contingency fund.
“We’re on time. We’re still under budget. The contingency funds that we put together on this project were larger than on most projects. That has really paid off for us,” said George Grozan, board member.
As with the rest of the project, the work was overseen and executed by the team from Hammond Construction – the construction manager at risk for the project. Doing both buildings at the same time saved the district money from its bond construction fund.
Tearing down the board building was not in the original plans, but the board’s facilities committee recommended the administrators who were working in that building and the administrators who were working in the office of pupil services consolidate into the former Zellers Elementary School, on Cook Avenue. Taking those two buildings down will ultimately result in increased productivity and efficiency, according to Superintendent Cameron Ryba.
With an $81 million voter-approved bond fund, each aspect of the project has been calculated to get the maximum return, according to Business Manager Mark Donnelly. Project savings along the way have allowed the district to take on a larger scope of work. About half of the bond fund has been put into the middle school. Over $20 million has gone into major renovations at Strongsville High School. The rest has been put into elementary school improvements and repairs, and other small but important projects throughout the district.