As school is demolished, the nostalgia creeps in

August 25, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

With a loud whirl and little fanfare, a giant excavator clawed into Wilde Lake High School yesterday, chomping away at large chunks of bricks, rolls of steel rods -- and years of memories for teacher Tammy Goldeisen.

The ninth-grade health teacher stood with her hand shielding her eyes from the sun, wondering whether her classroom was one of the first to be demolished.

"I was wondering how they were going to tear it down, and even though I've worked here for seven years, I felt like I was part of history," said Ms. Goldeisen, one of two dozen bystanders who came to witness the 23-year-old school's demolition.

Some carried cameras, while others videotaped the emotional event.

"I was wondering how it was going to be rebuilt, and I had to see it torn down," she said. "It needed to be done. It was a small school, but that's what made it a special school."

Yesterday, workers began tearing down Wilde Lake's exterior. Except for the gym, the school will be demolished to make way for a more than $20 million, technologically advanced, three-story school, which is scheduled to open in 1996. During the two years the school is under construction, Wilde Lake students and staff will attend River Hill High School in Clarksville, the county's ninth high school.

Kirsten Rovelstad, 16, showed up at Wilde Lake yesterday with a small group of friends.

"It's kind of sad, but I think the school needed it," she said. "The school was in the dumps. With all the roaches, it was ready to go. We had a lot of falling ceilings all the time. It needed to go."

As for a new Wilde Lake, Kirsten's wishes were simple. "I hope we have heating in the winter and cooling in the summer," she said. "I hope we have a bigger school so we can have more classes that we can take."

While some at yesterday's event were melancholy and nostalgic, Principal Bonnie Daniel was pragmatic.

"I'm ready for us to finish [this period] of Wilde Lake and move on," said Ms. Daniel, clad in sunglasses, sneakers, jeans, a turtleneck and a "Last Call of the Wilde" T-shirt. "I'm eager. I see the next four years as a period of tremendous growth for students and staff. I'm really excited."

During the summer, she said, she came to the realization that there were things more important than the place people called Wilde Lake. "A building is just a building. It's the people inside that make it special. Without the people, it's just an empty shell."

The demolition, estimated to cost $1 million, will take six to eight weeks, according to Mike Skrodinsky, project superintendent.

"The hardest part is actually saving the gymnasium and tearing down [other parts] of the school," he said.

There also is the challenge of building a new three-story building and attaching it to the gym, he said.

Wilde Lake graduate Tara Vajo, class of 1990, drove past the school for two weeks to see when the demolition would take place. With her boyfriend and a camera, she showed up yesterday for a last glimpse.

"It's strange to see it taken down because it was a piece of me, a part of my past," she said. "I'll never be able to go back again."

While the school is being demolished, workers will excavate to start work on underground wiring and plumbing. Concrete work on the new school is expected to begin in September.

Pieces of the legendary "Rail," where students and staff gathered during class changes to see or be seen, have been saved to be incorporated into the new school. Some of Wilde Lake's bricks also will be built into the new school.

Much of Wilde Lake's debris will be hauled away for recycling. The school's steel beams, which provided its framework, will be melted down, while the brick and concrete will be ground down, perhaps for roadway. That made Ms. Daniel happy.

"That means Wilde Lake will live on," she said.

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