Demolition work begins on Exeter Area Junior High
Crews have been removing asbestos and performing other prep work at the school at 56 Linden St. after the Southern District YMCA closed on the property Sept. 21.
Walls are expected to be knocked down by the middle of January, with the building gone and the land cleared by mid-February, said Rhonda Bernstein, capital campaign director for the Southern District YMCA.
To mark the demolition and the memories that still linger at the old school, the YMCA will hold an honoree ceremony for anyone who taught, attended school, or had other connections to the building on Dec. 14 at noon.
The school opened in September 1967 and had only two principals while in operation, Frank Kozacka and Thomas Meehan.
Kozacka died in 2010, but his grandson, David Emanuel, will join Meehan in removing the first bricks from the building at the farewell ceremony, which is open to the public.
The school closed several years ago when the new Cooperative Middle School was built in Stratham for students from Brentwood, East Kingston, Exeter, Kensington, Newfields and Stratham.
Bernstein said many of the bricks removed from the school will be reused in walkways and parts of the old gymnasium floor that are not warped will be salvaged, but many pieces of the building can't be saved because it's been abandoned for long and is in poor condition.
"What we can save we are, but unfortunately there's not that much," Bernstein said.
The Southern District YMCA has been working on plans to build a new facility for the past decade.
Bernstein said she couldn't release estimated costs for the building, which would be constructed in phases. The first phase would include a 30,000-square-foot facility with a gymnasium, community locker rooms, a group fitness studio and some office space.
Future phases include the addition of a pool and a second two-level gymnasium.
Purchasing the old junior high property and tearing it down and other site work will cost the YMCA about $500,000, Bernstein said. Funding construction of the new building is another matter. Bernstein said the YMCA must still raise money for that, and at this point there's no target date for when it will be built.
"It's up to the community on how quickly it can be built. It entirely depends on what money is available to do so. If all of a sudden something drops out of the sky or a foundation comes in, it could happen very quickly," she said.
Bernstein is confident that the building project will move forward sooner rather than later.
"The community has been behind it and has wanted it for a decade. The time is right and we don't foresee waiting years for this to happen," she said.