The walls of York Elementary started to fall Wednesday.

Demolition crews are dismantling the historic school — the oldest section dates back to 1911 — to make way for the construction of a state-of-the-art facility.

“We have a 23-day schedule for demolition and then (will) be ready to start construction in July,” said Travis Shaw, executive director of operations for Springfield Public Schools. “It is a 13-month construction timeline.”

Over the years, Springfield school officials have talked about closing the neighborhood school at 2100 W. Nichols St. or turning it into an early childhood center. However, it will remain an elementary.

The proposal to build a new York emerged from the Community Task Force on Facilities, which recommended a list of projects for the $168 million bond issue approved by voters in 2019.

The York project was not included on the original list, but the task force urged the district to add it if there was enough money available. The current multi-story building does not have an elevator and access is an issue.

The $19.67 million project includes demolition and construction. The new York is slated to open in August 2022.

The school board voted Tuesday to award the construction contract to the R.E. Smith Construction company, which submitted a guaranteed maximum price bid of $16.46 million, including demolition, construction and a contingency fund.

To make way for demolition, crews removed asbestos during winter and spring break as well as this summer. Shaw said the district removed “all the things that are of value” at the building, which is a standard part of the process.

Principal Lora Hopper and teachers gave input on the look and layout of the new school building.

“The design team has done an incredible job along with all the feedback that we received from Dr. Hopper and her teachers and all the work that has gone on over several months to get to this point,” Shaw said.

The existing York was added onto multiple times over the years and had an all-purpose room that served as a cafeteria, gym and auditorium.

The new York will have a gym that doubles as a storm shelter. It will have additional security features including cameras, a better entrance and wide hallways.

York has garnered attention in the past for having higher than average reading and math scores. The school also has a high concentration of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, a national measure of poverty.

For the 2021-22 year, York students and teachers will be temporarily housed in a former elementary school building at Scenic Avenue and Sunshine Street. Free busing will be provided for all students to and from the temporary spot.

Source: Springfield News-Leader | Author: Claudette Riley