Former student photographs progress
By Ed Runyan
Becky Archer DePanicis has been watching with interest the demolition of Niles McKinley High School the past three weeks.
A 1972 graduate, she has been stopping at the school on Dragon Drive every day at lunchtime and again on her way home from work to check the progress and take photos.
She has been collecting bricks for herself and some friends and posting pictures on her Facebook page to show friends, especially those from out of town, the demolition progress.
By midweek, there was nothing left to photograph: Only a smokestack remained.
DePanicis said she’s not especially sentimental about the school, built in 1957, but she admits she shed some tears on one particular day not long ago when she stopped by in time to see part of the band room come tumbling down.
Band was extremely important for her son, D.J., so much so he became a band director and now works for Springfield Local Schools.
So watching how quickly one of the Mike Coates Construction excavators was able to pull down that section of the building was a bit of a shock.
Frank Danso, Niles super- intendent, praised the demolition crew for its speedy work and willingness to work around the schedule of the students during the last few days of school.
When the demolition is complete, workers still have other work to do to prepare the site for its next job — mostly parking.
And after that, the school district has two more buildings to remove — Washington Elementary and Jackson Elementary.
The school board will take bids soon for those projects as the replacement buildings are being completed in time for school to begin this August.
For DePanicis, the biggest shock will be to see Washington come down because it’s close to her house; her grandmother, Margaret Evans, taught there; her mom, Peggy Archer, was a student and a secretary there; she and her son went to school there; and she even taught there briefly.
“I can’t imagine looking up there and seeing the school gone,” she said.
When that demolition takes place, DePanicis will be there with her camera documenting that as well.