The old Central Elementary, a school that helped give many children a flying start in life, is losing its wings.

The La Grande school’s north classroom wing was recently torn down, and demolition of its south classroom wing will begin soon. The school was built at 402 K Ave. in 1954 and was in poor condition when it closed in June. It was replaced by a new Central Elementary at 701 H Ave. that opened in August.

Large amounts of debris are being created in the course of the Central demolition, which is being performed by Abatement Pro of Boise, Idaho, raising the question: Where is it going?

The answer is multifaceted.

Much of the lightweight, loose debris including sheetrock, wood and vinyl flooring, roofing, lighting fixtures and piping is being sent to the Baker City Landfill, said Darin Larvik, an owner of Waste Pro, a company assisting with the removal of the demolition debris. Waste-Pro is transporting all of the debris being taken to the Baker City Landfill.

Most of old Central’s bricks and all of its concrete, including that in its foundation and sidewalks, is being sent by Abatement Pro to the R.D. Mac-La Grande Ready Mix rock pit on McAlister Road, said Jimmie
Miller, of CM Company, the contractor for the La Grande School District’s bond projects. The construction of the new Central and demolition of the old school was made possible by a $31.5 million bond levy La Grande School District voters approved in 2014.

Miller, the superintendent of the final bond project work, which includes the removal of old Central, said that sending the bricks and concrete to the R.D. Mac rock pit rather than a landfill is less expensive.

“We want to do everything we can to save the school district money,” Miller said.

He explained that it costs less to deposit the bricks and concrete at the R.D. Mac rock pit than at the landfill because they are of value to R.D. Mac.

“They can be recycled,” Miller said.

Transporting the rock and concrete to the R.D. Mac pit is also cost effective because it involves a drive of only 5 miles, far shorter than the approximately 50-mile drive from La Grande to the Baker City Landfill. Miller said the process is simpler because government permits would be required to transport the bricks and concrete on Interstate 84.

Not all of Central’s bricks are being sent away. Two piles of bricks, each three cubic yards in size, are being saved, Miller said. There is a pile of tan bricks and a pile of red bricks. The bricks will be given to the new Central Elementary School so that they can be sold to raise money for school projects including the building of a new outdoor sensory classroom, said Central Secretary Connie Ingerson.

The outdoor classroom, which will be enclosed by walls, will have a wheelchair-accessible garden and play area, a magnet chalkboard wall, a concrete pathway, a playhouse, wood chip surfacing and a gravel pathway. The outdoor classroom will be designed to be used by all students in the La Grande School District, including sensory elements specifically intended for students on the autism spectrum.

The most time consuming part of the demolition of the old building has been the removal of asbestos from the building, Miller said.

“Once we get the asbestos removed (from a building), the demolition goes pretty quickly,” he said.

The asbestos, he said, is being sent to Idaho Waste Systems Landfill near Boise.

Almost all the asbestos in the south classroom wing has been taken out, and crews with Abatement Pro will soon begin removing the material from the gym and office area. Once the gym and office area are torn down and the debris removed, the demolition project will be completed.

“We should have everything done by the end of November,” said Joseph Waite, the La Grande School District’s bond and facilities manager.

A 60-space parking lot for La Grande High School students will be installed where the two classroom wings were. Waite said this work could begin as soon as the south classroom wing is torn down and removed. The parking lot will be installed by the Mike Becker General Contractor construction company. The lot will replace a parking lot that LHS lost when the new Central Elementary was built.

Waite said if the weather remains good, a gravel parking lot could be in by the beginning of December.

“If it starts raining hard, we will have to hang up our hats and wait until spring,” Waite said.

Either way, the parking lot will be paved in the spring when the weather is drier.