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Workers Gearing Up for Tearing Down Portola Middle School

The demolition of El Cerrito's Portola Middle School is looming closer, with workers now plainly visible at the site preparing for the wrecking balls that will demolish the 62-year-old structure designed by noted architect John Carl Warnecke.

The halls where many El Cerritans spent their middle-school years will soon come crashing down, school district officials say.

Workers can be seen preparing for the long-planned demolition of the old Portola Middle School, located at Moeser Lane and Navellier Street.

The contractor is currently removing or containing hazardous materials in the buildings, and "the actual physical demolition of the buildings themselves will not start until probably sometime in late June or in July," said E. Keith Holtslander, director of facilities and construction for the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

The hillside school – designed by noted architect John Carl Warnecke and completed in 1951 – was condemned after the school district found that its sloping, unstable terrain posed an irreparable seismic hazard. Classes are being held in temporary buildings on level ground at the western end of the site until a is built at the site of the former Castro Elementary School in El Cerrito.

The new Portola "is just about to start construction in the next couple of months," district Superintendent last Wednesday.

The current site will be graded and left empty by the school district for the time being, with permission for the City of El Cerrito to provide recreation on the parcel if it chooses. The city and school district have on the flat western portion.

We thank Patch contributor Betty Buginas for the attached photos.

To see past stories about the school, click "Portola Middle School" next to Related Topics below. For alerts to future stories about the school, click the Keep me posted button below.

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Chris Rooney May 24, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Who do I see about obtaining those big green letters at the entrance?
Jason Schwager May 24, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Birds!!??!! Are you kidding? Public schools are about educating and training children to become cogs in the System. Our large corporations need workers. Remember corps are people with legal standing. What's a few less birds when we can have campaign paying corporations? All you can talk about is life. You sound, Milton, like some tree-hugging human who cares about the planet. I bet you support life in general too? You're abnormal. Just go to sleep, send the brats to the production line, and vote republican.
Mark Cassady May 24, 2012 at 10:52 PM
I think there is a difference between advocating to modify a project for the purpose of avoiding or minimizing an impact and just plain obstruction. Unfortunately I think the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is being used more as a way to obstruct and hinder projects, often at great costs with very little environmental benefit. There is always a trade off, of course. In order to potentially protect a few nesting birds (which I'm sure are certainly very common species in a developed residential area) by preventing work during the dry spring and summer months, more projects will be pushed later into the fall and winter. This will in turn result in greater impact to streams and the Bay (and sensitive aquatic species) from sediment and other pollutants washed away in storm water. The MBTA was originally developed at the turn of the last century to protect birds who's feathers were being collected to adorn ladies hats and is now unfortunately being abused by many on the left and used by many on the right as just another example of why environmental regulations should be rolled back.
Mark Cassady May 24, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I should add, by the way, that based on the above posts, it sounds as if the District has taken steps to avoid and minimize impacts to nesting birds, which is appropriate. Protecting natural resources is not nearly as difficult as is getting people to work together.
Eric Bordax May 25, 2012 at 02:45 PM
But I don't have any children. I am not the father!!!

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