KERSHAW COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The demolition of the North Central High School football stadium began on Monday, as the school district’s superintendent vows to hold graduation on the field for the class of 2020.
Many seniors, like Gracie Morrow, were concerned about where graduation would be held after an EF2 tornado ripped through the home stands of the stadium, leaving it a major hazard.
“It was the first thing I thought about,” she said. “Where are we going to have graduation since it’s only four or five months away?”
Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins said it’s been a top priority of his to ensure the senior class can maintain the tradition of graduating on the North Central High School football field.
“You know, for some of these kids, it’s been 13 years and this is a culmination of their school experience and then to not be able to give that to them, it would be tough for me as a superintendent to not be able to do that,” Robbins said.
Sunshine Recycling was awarded the project and began work on Monday. Joseph Rich, the owner of the company, drove the heavy equipment himself, demolishing the home stands over the course of the day.
“We’ve got really old brittle concrete, it’s coming apart really easily, unfortunately crumbling, making it a little more difficult to handle the material,” Rich said.
The plan was to be finished by nightfall, but Rich’s plan hit a snag when he arrived to find the ground saturated and his heavy-duty equipment sinking into the dirt. By 5:00 on Monday evening, two-thirds of the stadium seating remained. Rich said he plans to work until midnight, if need be, to finish the demolition. Tuesday will then serve as a clean-up day, he said.
Seniors who stopped by to see the demolition are encouraged and excited about the prospect of graduation being held in the stadium.
“Ever since I’ve been going here I’ve watched every single graduation, and being able to have it hear just like everyone before me would be really cool, so I’m really excited,” Morrow said.
“We’ve been needing a little piece of hope to hold onto ever since this all happened,” senior Jared Chavez said. “The first part was putting us in the old vocational school and now this.”
Dr. Robbins said while talks with the district’s insurance company are ongoing, he anticipates the school’s new auditorium and wellness center will be restored on the inside. They are newer additions to the school, he said, having been built in 2008. However, he anticipates the rest of the school, built-in 1979, will require demolition and rebuilding.
“We’re at a guess right now, but that guess would be another 24 months before students would be able to return to school at North Central,” he said.
If all goes well with the stadium demolition, he plans to have family members of the graduates sit on the visitor bleachers once an inspector clears the stadium for activity.