Steel was ripped, bricks crumbled, dust flew and even chalkboards weren’t spared from the wrath of a construction excavator performing the final demolition project at Trinity High School on Tuesday afternoon.
“When I first came out here, I started crying,” said Dickinson Catholic Schools President Steve Glasser as he drove by to watch the demolition late in the afternoon. “It puts some closure to everything we’ve been through in the past 14 months. Now it’s real.”
Demolition of the structure began shortly after lunchtime, said Eugene Smith, project superintendent for JE Dunn Construction.
He said Veit Construction, which is a subcontractor on the job, began chipping away at the building and segregating iron, aluminum, sheet metal and concrete.
“They pull the concrete and recycle everything,” Smith said.
The east wing was deemed unusable after a March 2014 fire.
An investigation is ongoing into the event that displaced Trinity students for the entire fourth quarter of the 2013-14 school year and led to the demolition of the east wing, library, main offices and commons area because of the damage’s significance.
Both Glasser and Rev. Kregg Hochhalter, the school’s dean and a former Trinity student, described a surreal feeling watching the demolition.
Hochhalter, whose office is near the area where the demolition was happening, said he listened to it much of the afternoon.
“Doors are closing physically, walls are coming down literally, but they’re going back up,” he said. “Unlike a year ago when we saw that machine in our yard, now we know that we’re going to build.”
Trinity is planning a summer groundbreaking for a new east wing on the spot, possibly as early as next month.
Gregg Grinsteinner drove past the construction on his way home from school, looked out his window and pointed to where the excavator was parked.
“That was my classroom for 21 years,” said Grinsteinner, a math teacher who is also the school’s athletic director and boys basketball coach.
Grinsteinner, like all Trinity teachers whose rooms were in the east wing, has spent the entire school year teaching in a portable building attached to the school’s west wing.
The demolition halted for about an hour Tuesday as crews encountered what they believed to be asbestos in an unexpected area. The substance was sent to Badlands Environmental Consultants in Bismarck for testing.
“We thought it was on the outside of the foundation because we encountered it in the demolition done last summer,” Smith said.
Other crews spent time Tuesday cutting a gap between the section of the high school that will remain from the part being demolished.
“They create an actual gap, so that when they bring it down, we don’t put any stress on the wall that stays,” Smith said.
Trinity seniors finish classes at the end of this week, and the rest of the school will dismiss for the summer at the end of next week. Glasser said he was told the demolition should be complete by then.
“It’s coming down, so we know we’re going to be rebuilding,” he said.