End of an Era
BALTIMORE – A fire department training dummy lying in one of the old Liberty Union Middle School’s empty rooms is an ominous omen for what’s in store for the 1954 building. “For the moment, it’ll be parking and greenspace,” said Liberty Union-Thurston Schools Superintendent Paul Mathews. The abandoned building is scheduled to be demolished beginning Oct. 31 now that middle schoolers attend class in a brand new building across town.
By all accounts, the new building, with its efficient geothermal heating and all the facilities needed to educate students to today’s standards, is an improvement over the old structure. Still, there are bound to be some people who are sad to see the old building topple. “I understand the nostalgia,” said Mathews, “but we need to be practical and realistic as well.” He said the old building could never be renovated enough to meet modern middle school students needs. “It served a purpose and for many years was functional,” said Mathews. “There’s only so much you can do through renovation.”
Mathews said until the demolition begins at the end of next month, the building will be abated for harmful substances, such as asbestos tile, beginning Oct. 10 and the Basil Joint Fire District uses it for training purposes Mathews described as practicing with equipment that can saw through concrete and punching holes in the roof. “It’ll be valuable for them,” said the superintendent. He said the district received five demolition package bids
Tuesday, some of which were well under the district’s estimate of $832,000. The demolition bid package includes repaving the existing parking lot behind the high school, creating additional parking on the old middle school site and possibly - dependent on how bids come in - repaving the parking lots on the other side of Washington Street. As of Wednesday, a contractor was yet to be chosen.
Mathews said the building was originally the Liberty Union Thurston High School until the existing high school was built next door in 1988. Ironically, the oldest part of the structure, an auditorium built in 1937 that’s currently between the high and old middle schools was renovated as part of last year’s high school upgrade. The project included new lighting and sound systems.
The demolition is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project, meaning that much of the demolished material will be recycled for new construction elsewhere. It’s almost as if, said Mathews, the old building will continue to live forever.