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Demolition of Owego Elementary Begins

(Source: Kate Thornton)

It's been almost two years since flood waters destroyed the Owego Elementsry School.

On Monday, students and faculty, both current and past, gathered to watch some of the building some of their earliest memories were formed, being torn down.

"I'm really sad. Almost makes me wnt to cry," said fifth grader Allie Schumacher.

For fifth grader Shannon Heffernan, Owego Elementary school was a brief memory. She spent only one day at the school. Heffernan transferred to the Owego-Apalachin School District from Union-Edicott. Previously she attended Linnaeus W West Elementary, which was shut down at the end of the 2010-2011 school year due to budget reasons. September 7th, 2011 was her first day at her new school.

"I had visited it before for orientation, so I was excited to start at the new school, so it's kind of sad that I didn't really get to," said Haffernan.

When the students relocated to the closed Linnaeus W West Elementary, Heffernan said she was able to help her fellow classmates adjust.

"I already knew my way around, so I got to run errands to the office and show my friends around," said Heffernan.

But among the newer generation was a blast from the school's past. Former principal in the 1960s and 1970s, Frank Orlando, watched as a crane pulls pieces of the school apart. Orlando was the principal when the school was built in 1965. He too knows that old is making way for the new.

"We've been through something like this before. We know what to expect... And now there's hope. We have funding, and that's great," said Orlando.

Superintendent Dr. Bill Russell said 90-95% of the approximate 51-million dollar project will be funded through the FEMA. The remaining amount will be covered by state aid.

"Everybody in this community is well aware that we need a new school. Some of the children are spending an hour and a quarter on the bus each way every day going to Linnaeus West," said Russell.

The current principal, Laurie McKebeny said the students have adjusted well to their temporary location in Endicott, but everyone is looking forward to eventually coming back home.

"It's been a difficult two years in many ways. But, we've adapted, made it work, and we will continue to do that until we get back. We still want to be in Owego," said McKebeny.

The new school, according to Russell, will be all state of the art and be elevated at least three feet to prevent future flooding issues.

Monday was the first tangible step towards rebuilding the school. Complete demolition is expected to be finished by mid-August. Russell says he hopes to have the new school up and ready for students in two years.

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