With a roar, a heavy crash, and the screech of metal, the walls of the old Shupe Elementary started to crumble and cave in Wednesday night.
Working the controls of a 50-ton excavator was Jeana Janik, who won a raffle to take “the first bite” out of the former school in central Amherst.
“That was really great. I could do that every day,” she said after climbing down from the cab.
Janik described the experience as loud, dusty, and somewhat scary when the bucket slammed into the brick and mortar structure and reared back, lifting a little off its treads.
A few solid smacks and the bucket crunched through the windows and roof on the south wing of the building, sending a plume of grit into the air and eliciting a round of applause from a crowd of spectators inside the construction zone fence.
“She looks like she’s having fun,” laughed board of education member Ron Yacobozzi, who stood about 20 yards away in a suit and hard hat, recording the demolition on his phone.
Two other raffle winners — husband and wife Brian and LeAnn Millard — took turns pulling the excavator’s levers and wreaking destruction upon the school.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it was a blast,” Brian said. “It’s sad to see it come down, though.”
“It was like a rush,” LeAnn chimed in, a huge smile across her face. “I was exhilarated and nervous all at the same time.”
In her arms was their daughter, four-year-old Nora, who will be in the first kindergarten class at the new Powers Elementary when it opens in Fall 2019. Demolition of Shupe and Harris Elementary is part of a package deal in building the new school, as is the eventual destruction of the current Powers Elementary on Washington Avenue.
When finished, the brand new Powers location on South Lake Street will be home to kindergarten through third grade. Concept drawings by architects at the GPD Group show a three-wing building with two stories, an outside learning space, two playgrounds, and a traffic pattern designed to reduce gridlock.
That building is planned for the site of Harris Elementary, which is set to begin demolition with another round of “civilian” crew members at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11.
The lucky winners entered a fundraising drawing by the Amherst Schools Educational Foundation, which supports the district financially through scholarships and grants.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.