Fairfield Schools Superintendent Billy Smith stood across the road from his old freshman school and watched the claw of a giant earth excavator tear a jagged hole in its brick walls.
“It’s always been a special building, and personally it’s special to me too because I attended classes here as a freshman,” said Smith on Thursday morning as he watched the demolition begin on Fairfield’s Freshman School.
“A lot of people who are here … we talk about the fact there is something special about our district, well for years we have said there is something very unique about our Freshman School,” said Smith.
He was joined by more than three dozen other former school students and staffers on the opposite of Route 4 of the old school.
“The school was a stand-alone, 9th grade school, and that it makes it a gateway to the high school,” said Smith of the Fairfield’s second oldest school, which opened its doors in 1951 and served for decades as the Butler County district’s high school.
Tearing down the old school, which stood adjacent to the former Central Elementary building first opened in 1929, is the latest major step in Fairfield’s historic move toward opening three new schools in September.
The 10,000-student district is finishing an $80 million school construction project – the largest in the school system’s history – and will soon be one of the few districts in Southwest Ohio school history to open three new schools simultaneously.
The new Central Elementary, Compass Elementary and Freshman School will open Sept. 5.
The district will also be reconfigured for the 2017-2018 school year to reduce the number of school transitions students make.
The elementary schools will now house grades kindergarten through 5th and preschool programs will be at two of the schools. Two middle schools will house grades 6-8 in two school buildings - the current building on Nilles Road, renamed Creekside Middle School and the former Intermediate School on Donald Drive, renamed Crossroads Middle School.
Diana Baldwin was a classroom instructional assistant for two decades in the old freshman school. It wasn’t easy for her to watch classrooms - she and her children used to be in – ripped apart.
“It’s kind of sickening to the stomach. There are a lot memories here,” said Baldwin, her eyes watery.
“It’s a tearful goodbye,” she said.
Kasha Crobabor was a member of the last class to use the 66-year-old building.
“I’ve had a lot memories here so it’s kind of sad,” said the student, who will be a sophomore in September.
Smith paused from watching the school smashed into rubble to look over the faces of the small crowd joining him.
“They are coming out to say goodbye.”