UPDATE | Alumni feeling bittersweet about Buffalo High School demolition

Published: Oct. 8, 2018 at 8:20 PM EDT
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UPDATE 9/5/19 @ 6:40 p.m.

Bulldozers and wrecking balls will soon tear down the old Buffalo High School in Wayne County.

"It’s going to be strange to come down through here and see it all gone,” alum Eugene Parsons said.

As his alma mater is set to be knocked down 53 years after he walked those very halls, Parsons is reflecting on the time he spent there.

"It was a lot of fun, 1966. It was a different world,” he said.

The Wayne County Board of Education made the announcement that the former high school would be demolished almost a year ago -- in October 2018.

Over the years, the board repeatedly secured the building, but people continued to break in, causing concern for parents and community members because of nearby schools.

"And it’s a shame our society has got that way, but you walk through Huntington. There's needles laying on the street,” Parsons said.

Tabetha Sturgill graduated from the high school, too, and now teaches next door. As a parent of students at the elementary and middle schools, she's seen the issues with the empty building firsthand.

"We had actually people that were living in the school would come around the school building and it was scary, so I’m happy it’s going to be gone,” Sturgill said.

But both alums agree, seeing the school get ready for demo is bittersweet, as the board hopes to open a new school there in about 10 years.

"For my kindergarten students -- I want them to have the best school that they can go to so I am happy,” Sturgill said.

"I hate to see a school go down, but I can see you have to do what you got to do,” Parsons said.

As they revisit old memories of their school days, they’re looking ahead to the future for the next generation of Buffalo students.

"Just looking forward to a new school going back in its place,” Sturgill said.

Demolition is set to start Friday morning. The Wayne County Superintendent tells us that demolition was delayed Thursday because AEP did not fully cut the power off to the old building. Both the gym and cafeteria will remain standing to house community programs.

UPDATE 7/9/19 @ 11:30 p.m.

Dale Bowen loves coaching basketball in Wayne County.

"You know when you see them 5-year-olds come out there and they’re running everywhere with that ball and you just know they got bright futures and you’re a part of it, I mean that just means a lot,” he said.

He’s been an assistant with the Buffalo youth basketball program for eight years and has put all of his kids through the program as well.

But he was worried his youngest child might not get the chance to participate if the Wayne County Board of Education chose to demolish the old Buffalo High School gym where they practice.

"You know, they say it's going to cost an extra $27,000, I think, to save the gym, but what’s that when you’re talking about 150 kids every year that could be left out,” Bowen said.

That's why he and other community members packed into the Wayne County Board of Education meeting Tuesday night as the gym's fate was decided.

Bowen says the program is vital to the community and helps get children involved that otherwise might fall through the cracks.

"They get to come out and practice and get off the streets if you will, get off the video games, get some exercise,” he said.

Buffalo Middle School Coach Kris Maynard says the program sets kids up for success as they go on to play at a higher level and without it they would lose an important piece of the program.

"All of our players at Buffalo Middle School come through that gym that’s where they start at from four or five years on,” Maynard said.

One by one, community members came forward to voice their support of the gym and the programs it houses. After some conversation about the cost, the board decided to keep the gym standing.

"The community is going to get great use out of that gym for a number of years and so it's a worthwhile investment,” Wayne County Superintendent Todd Alexander said.

For the teams that play there, this is a slam dunk decision.

"Exciting, a lot of fun, it brings life into that old gym and we hope sticks around for a lot longer,” Bowen said.

At this point, the cost to keep the gym standing will be about $27,000, and the cost to make sure it's structurally sound and functional will cost between $20,000 to $50,000.

The cost to ensure the building is structurally safe will depend on how secure the gym is when the rest of the school is demolished.

The Wayne County Board of Education is hoping to build a school at the location of the old Buffalo High School in the next 10 years.

ORIGINAL STORY 10/8/18 @ 8:27 p.m.

Buffalo High School in Wayne County is expected to be demolished.

The Wayne County Board of Education has repeatedly secured the high school, but people continue to break in, which has caused issues for neighboring schools, the senior center located in the cafeteria and for the little league teams that use the gym.

The board of education says the power and water has remained on for those activities, but they are looking to separate the connection for the rest of the building so that no one is drawn to live there.

There has also been complaints of drug activity. In September, parents reported seeing two people overdosed in the parking lot.

Buffalo High School alumnae Tara Barron is happy to see her alma mater come down. In the past year, kids have found needles under the football bleachers behind the school.

"When it turns into this nobody wants that as its legacy," Barron said.

She is also a parent of children who go to Buffalo Kindergarten and Buffalo Elementary nearby which makes her worry about what could happen.

"What if they're dropping needles, what if one of the kids comes along? I mean I never thought I'd have to have that conversation with my kid. If you see a needle on the ground at school don't touch it,” she said.

She also witnessed a woman and man fighting after leaving the old high school, all in front of children.

"It’s just scary because it's centrally located between all of these schools,” Barron said.

For now Wayne County Board of Education is pursuing bids to demolish the building leaving a field where it once stood, but there's a possibility a school could stand there again.

"Somewhere down the road in the next ten to twenty years, I think we could envision a new school being built there,” Wayne County Schools Superintendent Todd Alexander said.

He estimates the demolition will cost $500,000 and begin in late winter to early spring.