August 20, 2014

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Lorain superintendent starts razing former high school

LORAIN — With the benefit of an excavator, Superintendent Tom Tucker got to do his Incredible Hulk impersonation Thursday to smash the former Lorain High School and Admiral King High School building.

Tucker’s debut in an excavator started the approximately $625,000 demolition of the 239,000-square-foot building. The work, which is expected to conclude in June or July, is being performed by Archbold-based D&R Demolition, a family owned, unionized company with at least one local worker among the seven-person crew for the project, according to D&R co-owner Don Williams.

The demolition is to make way for a $73 million new Lorain High School for which state taxpayers are paying 81 percent of the cost. The 315,000-square-foot school is expected to open in August 2016.

The high school is the 14th building in an approximately $215 million school building project begun in 2002. Supporters hope the modernized school, which will accommodate about 1,960 students, will attract and retain students in a district where enrollment has dropped by about 3,000 students in the last decade.

While unfamiliar with the 370-horsepower excavator, Tucker knew the building well.

Tucker, appointed superintendent in August, was Admiral King’s band and orchestra director from 1995 to 2003 and principal from 2004 to 2007. He demolished the dressing room on the northwest side of the building by the music room where he worked for years.

The building — opened in 1961 and named after U.S. Navy Adm. Ernest King, who commanded naval forces in World War II — is remembered fondly by Lorain residents. It was renamed Lorain High School in 2010 after Admiral King and Southview high schools merged. Hundreds of former students, some accompanied by their children, toured the building in May with some taking bricks as souvenirs.

“There’s a lot of memories there,” Tucker said. “When the new one goes up, those memories will be good memories, but boy, it’ll be exciting in the new building.”

Compared to getting a levy passed or getting a school district out of academic emergency, demolishing a building may not seem that difficult. Tucker, who got good grades for his work from Williams, enjoyed the work.

“Are you planning on staying there the rest of the day?” Jim Rohner, project supervisor, asked Tucker about 15 minutes into the demolition. “If you stay up there much longer, I’m going to have to get you a timecard.”

Chief Photographer Bruce Bishop contributed to this story. Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.