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Old band building leveled
1940 building makes way for new classroom wing
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The former band and choir building of Ceres High School was munched into a pile of rubble on Monday to make way for a six-classroom wing. The building dated back to the 1940s and was not used in recent years. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The defunct Ceres High School band and choir building that dated back to the 1940s fell victim to progress with the help of a 51,940-pound Deere 210G excavator Monday morning.

The building was razed to make way for a new six-classroom wing, said Ceres Unified School District Supt. Scott Siegel.

Resembling an iron Tyrannosaurus Rex, the heavy machine began its sad duty by first punching out sections that were once windows on the eastern wall and then taking bites out of the roofline with loud snaps.

"It's so sad to see it go," said Debbie Garcia, who has been campus security for 14 years, as the old brittle timbers were snapping under 100,000 pounds of jaw pressure. "So many memories of watching the kids play music, growing up. A lot of talent came out of this."

The machine ripped through the plywood roofing like tissue paper and snapped its brittle roof truss system like candy in its jaw. Within 40 minutes the heavy equipment ripped through what was the choir room and ripping through the eastern wall of Ric Campero's former office.

The building has a storied past on the Ceres High School campus. Ceres Unified School District Transportation Director Ken Hines said the building was originally located elsewhere on the campus - possibly used as an administration building - before it was moved to near the basketball courts.

Contractor James Bray, president of JL Bray & Son, said the demolition will include removing the cement slab on which the building rested. Work should be wrapped up in two weeks.

Demolition started with removal of asbestos during a hazardous waste removal process that occurred in the spring.

The new project will consist of modular buildings. American Modular Systems (AMS) has constructed similar modular classrooms on the Patricia "Kay" Beaver, Lucas, and Hanline elementary school campuses.

"Even though they are modular, they do not look like the old portable buildings," said Amy Peterman, Ceres Unified School District's Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.

A preliminary estimate pegs the cost of the new classroom wing at $2.5 million, she said.

Bray said the project will be completed by July and in place before the beginning of the 2016-17 school year this summer.

Facebook lit up on Monday with sentiments about the latest passage of another Ceres landmark." This is sad I have a lot of memories in that building," said Valerie Pritchard Jones. Dennis Judd wrote that he has lots of memories from his experiences in the building. "I was the second generation," said Judd. "My mom was in choir in the 50's and I was in band in the 70's. It was ironic but we both had Bert Stevenson as our director. He was a demanding director that didn't take any crap. But he found the best in us and we were better for it."

Jodi Davis Zurfluh remembers how she accidentally broke out a skylight in the building in 1976 when she was practicing with the band and threw her baton too high.

Richard Foster posted: "My heart just broke. That place held so many memories of people we have lost, good and bad times. It was a place of sanctuary, discovery and so much knowledge. For me, it was Mr. Crabtree, Cal Kindred and Ric Campero, who gave music to use to bring happiness to all who would listen. Goodbye, band room."

Michael Cool posted abnout a 1968 memory: "I kissed my daughter's mother for the first time in that building ... in Bert's office. Bert wasn't there, obviously."