THUNDER BAY - After standing for nearly 52 years and seeing thousands of student walk the halls, Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate and Vocational Institute is coming down.
Exterior demolition on the former south side high school began on Monday and is expected to take several weeks to complete.
Mark Hakala, capital project coordinator with the Lakehead Public School Board, said interior demolition began two weeks ago with the removal of door frames and other materials.
“The full and complete demolition will be done by the end of July,” he said. “That is everything gone, including the underground concrete structure of the building.”
Heavy equipment was at work Monday morning on the south side of the structure removing brick and roofing material. The building has been divided into sections by the contractor to be broken down. The demolition of the exterior structure is expected to take five weeks, while the below ground demolition will take another few weeks to complete.
“It is a significant undertaking to remove the building from the site,” Hakala said. “There is a lot of structural steel, a lot of concrete to be removed, big grade beams below the surface of the ground to be jackhammered and removed.”
“It will be flat within six weeks. You won’t see a building here anymore.”
The decision to close the school was made in 2016 by the Lakehead School Board trustees. The last class graduated in June 2018 and students and staff, past and present, said it was an emotional time to see the school close its doors for a final time.
Remaining Churchill students were designated to Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute, the only remaining south side secondary school with the Lakehead Public School Board.
The International Baccalaureate program that was originally hosted by Churchill was moved to Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute.
The ground where Churchill once stood will make way for the playground area for a new elementary school that is being built on the former football field and is scheduled to be ready to receive students in September 2020.
“There is a lot of history that goes along with Churchill,” Hakala said. “So it’s a passing of the torch for the secondary school to be removed and a new elementary school. It’s a fresh start.”
The cost of the demolition has been factored into the $30 million price tag for the new elementary school.