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Watch: Old Richard McBride Elementary School building comes down

Time-lapse video captures the last moments of the landmark 1929 building.

The large pile of rubble that used to be Richard McBride Elementary School is now being sorted for salvage and recycling.

Long a familiar site atop the hill in Sapperton, the Richmond Street school building has been demolished to make way for the brand-new school behind it. The original 1929 building was rated as a high seismic risk, and the B.C. government provided funding for a replacement school in 2018.

That $35-million replacement, now bearing the name Skwo:wech Elementary School after a renaming process that wrapped up in 2021, celebrated its official opening on Monday.

In the week leading up to the opening, visible demolition work on the old building had picked up speed.

Dave Crowe, the district’s director of facilities, noted much of the work in the decommissioning of the old school — including remediation for hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead — had been taking place behind the scenes before the walls actually started coming down.

That remediation went largely according to the district’s expectations, he said, although crews ran into a couple of areas where quantities of asbestos were larger than anticipated — including sections where crews discovered double walls.

All the contaminated material was removed and disposed of in the appropriate ways, he said, and all the material remaining on site has been tested.

As of Tuesday, Crowe said the process of taking down the old building was virtually completed, slightly ahead of schedule.

“Now it’s the long and more laborious task of all the separation of the various materials,” he said at the school board's June 7 operations committee meeting. “Even though the building is down, it’s a large pile of rubble. The painstaking work starts now.”

Crowe said contractors are expected to be on site for about a month separating the materials, which will involve a “significant amount” of recycling.

Some of the material, including large support beams, will be reusable and will be sold by the contractor to recuperate some costs. Crowe said some of those very large beams were a pleasant surprise when it was discovered that they had not, in fact, been painted with lead paint.

“That raises the value of those particular items because the remediation is much less complex,” he said.

Other recyclables will include metals of various kinds, primarily copper and steel, plus some of the stone and rock work.

All the salvage and recyclable material belongs to the contractor and not to the school district, Crowe said, noting contractors build those expected offsets into their quotes when they bid on projects.

He said the school district’s architectural team had not identified anything from the old building that they felt was worthwhile salvaging.

Time-lapse video: Watch the old Richard McBride school facade come down

When reporter-photographer Cornelia Naylor visited the site on June 1, the site superintendent, with contractor Heatherbrae Builders, offered up this time-lapse video of the school's familiar facade coming down. Video by Derick Famulak.