Crews began razing the oldest parts of Medford's Jackson and Roosevelt elementary schools Thursday, slowly clawing away at the campuses' gymnasiums with excavators.
Spectators watched the demolitions, sharing memories about the schools and seeking shade from the hot sun under nearby trees.
"It's kind of sad," said Roosevelt sixth-grader Caitlin Aguilar, as she and her mother, Michelle, watched Roosevelt's gym slowly fall into a pile of rubble. "We are glad they are going to rebuild it."
Caitlin remembered singing "Reflection" by Christina Aguilera inside the gym for the school's talent show when she was in the second grade.
"She was so nervous she almost backed out at the last minute, and then, she did it," Michelle Aguilar recalled.
The schools, built in 1911, were closed more than a year ago because of structural problems, and students were dispersed to other Medford campuses.
The brick 1911 buildings and 1931 gymnasiums are coming down and will be replaced. Newer classroom wings and libraries will remain in place and undergo renovation.
The demolition work by Three Kings Environmental, of Battle Ground, Wash., continues through next week, said Medford schools facilities director Mark Button. Cleanup will likely take another three weeks. The total cost to raze both schools is about $450,000.
About $12.4 million from a $189 million bond issue voters approved in November 2006 has been budgeted to reconstruct and revamp each school.
For about six months, it was unclear whether the schools would ever reopen. The Medford School Board for a time considered closing both schools permanently, but the idea met strong opposition from some of the community.
"It really bonded all the people who went to school here," said Signe Sciapiti, mother of a Roosevelt student. "We actually went to School Board meetings. It was exciting to see the community part of what's happening.
"We are just excited it's going to be rebuilt."
Bob Cortelyou, who has lived next to Roosevelt for 10 years, said there has been frequent vandalism at the school since it was vacated in June 2007.
"Hopefully, when it's rebuilt, that will stop," Cortelyou said.
Construction bids for the replacement buildings are due in mid-September.
The schools are slated to reopen in January 2010.
"I sure miss seeing the kids going to school," said 67-year-old Bev Fender, who has lived across from the school for 20 years. "I'm glad the kids are getting a new school though."
The demolitions were delayed by 120 days because the Medford historic commission applied for a local historical designation for the schools, which the School Board rejected.
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or email@example.com.