Bringing down the school

Posted Monday, Jul. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Tarver-Rendon Elementary, 12350 Rendon Road in Burleson: 42 years old, opening in 1971 J.L. Boren Elementary, 1400 Country Club Drive: 34 years old, opening in 1979 Alice Ponder Elementary, 102 Pleasant Ridge Drive: 46 years old, opening in 1967 Glenn Harmon Elementary, 5700 Petra Drive in Arlington: 25 years old, opening in 1988 Charlotte Anderson Elementary, 5615 Fox Hunt Drive in Arlington: 27 years old, opening in 1986

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Eight-year-old Garrett Wood did not look happy Monday morning as he watched his elementary school get gobbled up by heavy machinery.

“It feels pretty bad,” said Garrett, who will be a third-grader at J.L. Boren Elementary next month. “I wish they never knocked it down. I liked the classrooms. The classrooms were cool.”

Clusters of students and parents gathered on the sidewalks around the 34-year-old school as it fell, the first of the district’s five elementary schools to be demolished and replaced over the next four years in a $69 million bundle of projects that is part of the $198.5 million bond package voters approved in November 2011.

Linda McCall, who lives nearby, passed out bright yellow plastic construction helmets to the children as they watched through the safety fencing.

“So many blessings have come from this school,” said McCall, whose two children attended the school. “It’s a new season and a new chapter. This is just a building, we’ll have our memories forever.”

Some of the other spectators were also looking forward to the future.

“It’s sad but kind of exciting, too,” said Kelly Kerr, whose three children attended Boren. “It’s going to be such a cool new school. They have such great teachers, parents and kids inside, but the outside didn’t match what was inside.”

Even Superintendent Jim Vaszauskas admitted to having mixed emotions as he watched the brick walls tumble.

“We’re tearing down such wonderful memories,” he said. “We’re tearing down some tradition, but building some wonderful new buildings.”

Boren students and staff will move into the newly constructed Judy K. Miller Elementary School at 403 N. Holland Road (it was funded with 2006 bonds) in August, while their own school is being constructed. The new Boren is expected to open in late fall 2014.

The 46-year-old Alice Ponder Elementary School, the oldest of the five buildings, is on the hit list for mid- to late August, and projected to re-open in late fall 2014.

Tarver-Rendon Elementary students and staff will move into their already completed building at 6065 Retta Mansfield Road in Burleson in August, while Ponder students and staff move into the old Tarver-Rendon building.

The two other elementary schools being leveled and reconstructed are Glenn Harmon and Charlotte Anderson. The schools’ students and staff will be moved to Judy Miller Elementary while their new schools are under construction. The new Harmon campus will open in spring 2016 and Anderson in fall 2017. Judy Miller Elementary will then open. Tarver-Rendon will be torn down later.

All of the schools will be reconstructed on their current sites, except Tarver-Rendon.

Most of the rest of the bond program will fund security and technology upgrades and other improvements for the remaining 37 school campuses.

In mid-July, as Boren awaited its violent demise, the school district opened the school’s doors to Mansfield, Arlington and Fort Worth police SWAT teams for tactical training. It was a rare opportunity for the agencies to kick in doors and break through windows in the labyrinth of halls and rooms provided by a school.

“Ninety percent of the stuff we train on is theory,” said Mansfield Sgt. Jimmy Harrell, SWAT team leader. “But to be able to put it to use and those that it works – it’s a settling feeling for the officers to see it work and know it works.”

Mansfield Police Chief Gary Fowler said his people seize the opportunity to train in a house or building about to face the bulldozers – “It’s a jackpot when you can get it,” he said. “But to my knowledge, this is our first opportunity to train in a school.”

The district was pleased to help, Escovedo said.

“It didn’t matter how much of a mess they made,” Escovedo said. “It would be fair to say they were a little rough with the insides of the building.”

It’s not clear whether other doomed school buildings will be offered up for police training, he added.

The design of the new schools will follow the district’s new two-story prototype for elementary schools.

The buildings will make much better use of space, officials said. In classrooms, the teacher’s workstation and storage units will be built in along with 24 student lockers, creating more available floor space.

The new prototype provides two dedicated computer labs, a larger library, a larger clinic and office for the school nurse, a secure vestibule entrance that will direct people through the principal’s office area. The schools also will have keyless access systems, campus-wide wireless connectivity and security cameras throughout the buildings and campus.

Also, all five schools will be built with a concrete construction technique first used in the new Tarver-Rendon project. Instead of brick and concrete, the walls are make of synthetic-foam forms filled with concrete, which generally make them more durable and energy efficient.

Four of the new elementaries will be equipped with geothermal heating and cooling. Anderson won’t because so much of its property is covered with trees, Escovedo said.

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