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story.lead_photo.caption An excavator takes a bite out of the roof of the old Decatur Elementary building in Decatur Feb. 21. The demolition of the old classroom and office area will make way for the new Decatur Middle School gym. - Photo by Mike Eckels

DECATUR -- With all the design work, grant applications and millage voting complete, work finally began on the new basketball/safe room at Decatur Middle School Feb. 21.

The outside was the first to fall as a big track hoe/excavator took down the brick walls that stood in place since 1959-60 when the building went into service as Decatur Elementary School.

With the population of Decatur on the rise in the late 1950s, the school board at the time saw a need for a primary school building. From 1938 through the '40s and into the '50s, the old Decatur school building, now Decatur Municipal Building (city hall), served all 12 grades, with the first floor serving the elementary and middle school grades and the second serving the upper grades.

Upon completion, the old elementary school building served grades kindergarten through six, freeing up the lower floor for expanded middle and high school classes.

After the more modern Decatur Northside Elementary School was completed in 2007, the old elementary building sat idle for more than five years until the Decatur School Board decided to reopen parts of the building as Decatur Middle School, housing grades 6-8. On Aug. 18, 2014, the old elementary school building was back in business. A year later, the fifth-grade classes were moved into the building, freeing up more space for a growing elementary school population.

Still, Decatur Middle School had plenty of unused classroom space in the center of the complex. Then a few school board members tossed around an idea to use this open space for a new gym and safe room for the middle school.

The reality of the new gym began to set in on Feb. 15 when several flat-bed tractor-trailer rigs pulled into the middle school parking lot loaded with new beams and support structure for the gym. One week later, a track hoe excavator took its first bite out of the front wall and the long-awaited Decatur Middle School gym project was underway.

For Jeff Gravette, Decatur school superintendent, the arrival of the beams and the demolition of the unused classroom space and old office was a very welcome sight.

"We are excited to be at this point in the project. Our staff and board have been working to make this project a reality for the past five years," Gravette said. "We appreciate all the voters who helped with our bond extension to help fund this project for our students."

The project is expected to be completed in August 2018, in time for the new school year. Once completed, the new gym will be used as a practice gym for the Decatur volleyball and basketball teams as well as host junior-high basketball contests. It will also serve as a secondary gym for an expanded Decatur Holiday Hoops basketball tournament in late November.

It will provide a welcome shelter for the middle school students and staff in times of severe weather.

General News on 02/28/2018

Print Headline: Demolition makes way for new gym

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