The walls are coming down at Olsen Middle School in Dania Beach-- not the current school, but the old building, which was completed in 1954 and has sat unused for three decades, an eyesore fenced off from the public.
The demolition started Friday, and should be finished in about a month, according to Broward County Public School officials. The space will be turned into a park.
"We see the walls, we se the roof of a structure that was built in the 50s, and it is because of our unwavering commitment that those walls are coming down today," said Valerie Harris, the principal of Olsen Middle School.
A small crowd applauded her at a ceremony Friday afternoon.
The school district allocated $800,000 from its SMART bond program to get the demolition done. Across the district, however, dozens of the district's other renovation projects are way behind schedule, including new air conditioning systems that need to be installed and new cafeterias that need to be constructed.
Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said that "When we started out, back in 2014, the thought was that we'd do roof maintenance work. Now, we're doing roof replacement on probably 90% of the roofs we have in the county."
He said the surface area of all the roofs the districts is replacing is equal to the pavement on the entire length of I-595. The bond program’s price tag jumped from $800 million to $1.4 billion.
"That's very different than the original estimates that we had back in 2014," Runcie said. "When we award these projects, they're being done within budgets that we grant, but those are estimates."
"Those aren’t the real numbers of the scopes of the projects we’re dealing with, so I think the criticism that it's taking far longer than everyone expected is fair."
Some of the renovation projects, such as those at Stranahan and Blanche Ely High Schools, are years overdue. Others, Runcie said, are delayed by design.
For example, the plan to renovate Northeast High School morphed into a plan to build two new classrooms, so it's taken more time. The public can track each project on the school district’s website.
Runcie says all the projects will be done by 2025. They had originally been scheduled for completion this year.