Demolition goes too far
Lidgerwood, N.D. - Students here got an unexpected three-day weekend after a controversial demolition project wrecked more of the Lidgerwood School than planned over the weekend.
Crews tearing down the school's 68-year-old gymnasium discovered too late that the gym, believed to be separated from the school by a 2-inch space, was connected in spots by steel-reinforced concrete.
One wall of the school's multipurpose/lunchroom lost a large section of plaster and some material near the ceiling, which created a hole to the outside.
Classes were canceled Monday for safety reasons, but school was to resume today, Superintendent Tony Grubb said.
For the remaining two weeks of the school year, Lidgerwood's 200 or so students will eat their lunches at the nearby Lidgerwood Museum, he said.
Grubb said fixing the damaged wall should be covered by contingency funds and he hopes state education officials won't require the district to make up the lost day.
The demolition is part of a two-pronged project.
One involves building new locker rooms, showers and a boiler system for an expected cost of about $866,000.
The other involves construction of a new gymnasium on the site of the old one.
The cost of the gymnasium -roughly $918,000 - is to be covered by private pledges raised with the help of the Lidgerwood Community Development Corp.
Residents say the community remains divided between those who wanted to preserve the old gym and those who supported a committee that determined it would be more efficient to tear down the old gym before attaching a new one.
"There's still that controversy," said Alecia Reich, a fourth-grade teacher at the school who said some people may have felt two gyms would provide more practice room.
Beckie Kaczynski, who was chatting with Reich at a local restaurant, said the new facility should provide the space kids need.
"I think it is going to be a great thing," Reich agreed. "I think they (residents) will realize that when it (the new gym) is up."
Alfred Neiber remained skeptical Monday.
Neiber, a critic of the plan to tear down the old gym, said the building projects will become a financial drain and hasten consolidation with surrounding districts.
The unintended damage caused by the demolition was "just another part of the stupidity of the whole situation," Neiber said.
Grubb said the concrete ties connecting the gym to the rest of the school didn't show up on blueprints.
He said the setback shouldn't disrupt the project's timetable, which calls for completion by December or January.
Steve Harlas, president of the Community Development Corp., said he started out thinking the old gym should be kept, but he was ultimately swayed by those who argued two facilities would be too expensive to maintain.
"It's too bad it had to happen. It created some extra costs," Harlas said of the controversy that churned for more than a year before the School Board's April decision to move ahead with demolition.
Freshmen Stacie Borgen and Emmylee Grubb, who spent part of Monday skateboarding, said some students didn't like the thought of losing the old gym.
But for the most part, they said, students didn't feel strongly one way or the other.
"I think the main thing was that grownups couldn't make up their minds and the kids were, like, get it over with," said Grubb, daughter of the superintendent.
"We didn't really care anymore," Borgen said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555