Demolition gets under way

Published 10:35 pm Monday, September 17, 2007

Ferriday — The demolition of the old Ferriday Junior High School began Monday with little more fanfare than a truck from the demolition company backing up to the front door.

The first step in the demolition will be to remove asbestos from the building, built in the early 1950s, before any other dismantling work can be safely done.

Gulf Services Contracting, of Mobile, Ala., is doing the asbestos removal.

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The old junior high building has been slated for demolition since 2006, and in April the school board voted to give the final go-ahead for the demolition when it was determined it would cost more to repair the building than to tear it down.

The wing of the school where classroom instruction took place will be demolished, but the gymnasium will not be touched, Superintendent Kerry Laster said.

The Town of Ferriday currently leases the gym from the school district for a recreational program.

“The gym is in really great shape,” Laster said. “It’s had a new floor put in and we have even considered playing our high school basketball games in it.”

Laster, who attended the school in the sixth through eighth grades, said she is not happy to see it go.

“It makes me very said to see what has happened to it, because if you walk inside it, it has been completely trashed,” she said.

As a school district official, however, the sentimental value of the building cannot eclipse the safety hazard it presents, Laster said.

“As superintendent, I am very concerned about the liability it presents us,” she said. “You can tell people have been in there and have been living in there.”

School board member Ricky Raven fought to try to save the school.

“I went there and it was a fixture of the community for years,” he said. “I was holding out hope we could turn it to something of better use for the community.”

Inactivity on the behalf of the school district can be partially blamed for the inevitable demolition of the school, Raven said.

“The year we walked out of there was a lost opportunity,” he said. “It was in bad shape, but it was still usable.”

The school meant a lot to the educators who taught in it, and many of them contacted him about trying to save the building when the issue of demolition was first brought up, Raven said.

“That building means a lot to our educators, and a lot to the community,” he said. “It was a part of the heart of Ferriday, and there’s going to be some reminiscing as it goes down.”

The building has not been used as a school for approximately five years, and last served as a campus for the Concordia Education Center.

Electrical wires and fixtures have been pulled out of the building, and a portion of the roof is in danger of caving in.

Gulf Services Contracting will continue the demolition once the asbestos is removed, district Business Manager Tom O’Neal said.

Gulf Services Contracting site managers declined comment.

The total cost of the demolition will be $84,918.