The sky was a somber gray Friday as large pieces of construction equipment – looking like a T-Rex robots – bit into the old Portola Middle School in El Cerrito.
The 62-year-old school buildings were condemned by the West Contra Costa Unified School District because they sit on a slope deemed too unstable in an earthquake for student safety.
The deconstruction work this past week has been "minor," while the long-awaited "heavy demolition" is scheduled to begin next week, said E. Keith Holtslander, the school district's director of facilities and construction.
Workers have been at the site, located at Moeser Lane and Navellier Street, since spring, removing and containing hazardous materials in the buildings and preparing for the knock-down.
Portola classes are being held in temporary buildings on level ground at the western end of the site until a new Portola Middle School is built at the site of the former Castro Elementary School in El Cerrito.
The sloped portion of the current site will be graded and left empty by the school district for the time being. The temporary buildings on the flat western portion of the site, which are now being used by Portola students, will be used temporarily by Fairmont Elementary School students after the new Portola is built. Fairmont will be rebuilt on its current site.
After the Fairmont students move back to their new school, the City of El Cerrito may use the flat portion of site for soccer fields or other uses, depending on city needs at the time and agreements with the school district.
We thank Patch contributor Betty Buginas for the attached photos and video.
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