As contractors tear down Westlake’s Dover Elementary School over the coming weeks, former students, teachers and administrators agree that relationships created over its 70-year history will continue to stand.
Tim Barrett, Dover’s Principal for 11 years until its June 2019 closure, said, “It was a neat old building. It had character and so did the people in it.”
Not everything was perfect. The building was old. “We were constantly blowing circuit breakers,” Barrett recalled. There was also a bomb scare and a teacher’s strike that caused emotions to run high. “But we banded together and were part of problem solving, rather than the problem.” Barrett noted he remains in touch with staff members and families whose children attended Dover.
Dover first opened in 1949. The two story brick building at 2300 Dover Center Road is nearly 44,000 square feet and sits on a 14 acre campus. An addition was added in 1970 to accommodate increased student enrollment.
Superintendent Scott Goggin said when the district began planning for its long-term facility needs more than ten years ago, there was apprehension about a potential loss of connection that was significant to staff and families at the elementary schools, including Dover. In 2014, they surveyed families and held forums to discuss options. Ultimately, the district decided to focus its efforts and funds on building a state of the art building for all of its youngest students after determining that the four existing elementary buildings, which ranged in age from 50 to 70 years, could not be outfitted for the technology used by today’s learners. In addition, repairs and upgrades to roofs, HVAC and other mechanicals proved increasingly expensive.
During construction of the new Westlake Elementary School, the district invested considerable time in transition planning to ensure that connections were maintained. Barrett was among those who believed the district’s effort was successful. “It’s people who create a nurturing, positive environment, not the physical building,” he stated. Dr. Goggin agreed, saying “We will cherish the memories from our four elementaries and I am so proud of the way our students, staff and families have created a home at the new building ensuring for its inclusivity.”
ICON, LLC of Cleveland, and their subcontractor Sitetech, Inc. of Grafton, will handle the demolition.
During summer 2019, the district moved some equipment and furniture to the new elementary school. They auctioned or sold other equipment and furniture. The site has been remediated for asbestos and other hazardous materials. Security fencing has been erected as well as silt fencing and drain inlet protection to minimize sediment run-off. Protection for trees that will be saved has been installed. As demolition began the second week of February, contractors started by removing scrap metal that can be recycled. They also began stress testing certain sections of the building to see how fast it would come down. Once the building has been taken down and debris removed, the basement area will be demolished and then back-filled. ICON Project Manager Rick Silas said the current plan is to complete work by the end of April. They will be paid $272,000 for the work.
Meanwhile the district is finalizing plans to use the site to improve ingress and egress at Dover Intermediate School and Lee Burneson Middle School, Also located on Dover Center Road to the immediate north of Dover. Dr. Goggin said that parents have asked the district to improve traffic flow and parking at those two buildings, especially during morning drop off and afternoon pick up. He said traffic can back onto Dover Center and nearby Hilliard Blvd. during those peak times. The traffic improvement plan, which includes green space, and a budget is currently being finalized, said District Business manager David Kocevar. He said work could begin by summer.