Portola Demoliton – A Long Good-bye

Those who were expecting to see the old Portola Middle School in El Cerrito come down with climatic crushing blows from a giant wrecking ball may be waiting in vain. Demolition crews are chewing it down piece by piece with steel-jawed excavators.

The old Portola Middle School may end not with a bang, but with a bite – many bites.

The condemned 62-year-old school on Navellier Street between Portola Drive and Moeser Lane is being demolished, gradually.

An update Thursday from the on-site manager of the demolition, Hector DeLeon, noted that the shop building and an adjacent classroom building have come down and that "soft demolition" is underway on the main classroom building.

The plan is to take out the administration area of the main building first to provide a spot for a large Hitachi excavator with a 70-foot reach, DeLeon said in an email provided to Patch by the West Contra Costa Unified School District. 

"The main classroom structure will be demolished in a similar fashion as the previous buildings by taking small bite(s) of the building," he said. The "hard exterior demolishing" of the main building is expected to begin at the end of next week and last 4-6 weeks, DeLeon said.

Work on the demolition began in February with the removal of several trees, and workers have been at the site since spring, at first removing and containing hazardous materials in the buildings and preparing for the knock-down. Heavy equipment began chomping on the buildings at the end of last month.

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 Betty Buginas and Hector DeLeon for the accompanying photos, and Betty for the videos.


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curious parent October 19, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Do we have any information on when the district will break ground building the new school?
Pamela Gilbert-Snyder October 21, 2012 at 05:21 AM
Though the workmen have been careful to keep the dust down, there is nothing they can do (or are doing) to keep the noise down. When I visited the temporary Portola campus during testing last week, it was hard to imagine how the students' concentration levels could escape impact. The noise is LOUD, and it goes on all day, except for a break at lunch time (while the students are also at lunch). It is truly a shame that the old building sat empty and waiting all through the summer for demolition to begin, and that the students were not given greater consideration when the terms of the contract were defined.
carol renee October 23, 2012 at 02:38 PM
i agree with pamela. at first i thought we were having an earthquake. my entire portable nearest the old site shook and there was loud rumbling. on hot days, i have to choose between keeping my door open to the noise or shutting us in on the heat. it has been something to get used to, and yet still, something they could have started sooner.


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