Crews ready bulldozers for two Newport elementary schools

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – Bulldozers will soon reduce twoelementary schools in Newport to rubble.

The G.F. Castleberry Elementary School and Gibbs AlbrightElementary School have sat vacant ever since the district built the new NewportElementary School three years ago.

Superintendent Larry Bennett says the district alwaysplanned to tear down the two schools but decided to move forward withdemolition now because the buildings have become not only a liability but alsoan eyesore in recent months.

"People understand that we have to move forward. We have tohave progression," Bennett said. "Due to the fact that we can't maintain thesebuildings, we can't put dollars back into it, we've already received somevandalism – we do not want these buildings to be an eyesore to this community."

He says the district has given the contractor untilSeptember 1 to tear down both buildings and haul away what's left. Crews havekept busy the past few weeks prepping both spaces to meet that demolition date.They've had to securely remove asbestos in both buildings and empty classroomsthat are still full of memories for former students like Kenny Black.

"You like to hang onto your old traditions and your oldschools," Black said, "but that's major progress for us to have the new school."

Black, who's now the principal at Newport Junior High School,was a member of the first class to move into Castleberry back in 1960.

"I remember my first grade class, we had little small desks,and the teacher asked us to pick those up," he said. "We actually carried ourlittle individual desks over into our new classroom.

"Being six years old," he added, "you were excited to get tomove into the brand new school."

He revisited the school – lovingly known as 'the doughnutschool' because of its circular layout – a few days ago, as crews finishremoving all the doors, glass and other materials that will require properdisposal after the demolition.

The district expects crews to begin tearing down Castleberryany day now. They will then move onto Albright Elementary, where they are stillworking to remove asbestos.

"I hate to see anything like that to be torn down," NewportMayor David Stewart said, "but I trust that the school administration looked ateverything thoroughly and I'm good with their decision."

Stewart spent his first years in school at Castleberry,completing first through sixth grades there. His children even attended 'thedoughnut school,' too.

He says he's glad that the district decided to spare threebuildings at Castleberry, including the tornado shelter/safe room that nowopens to the public during severe weather. The district will not tear down thetornado shelter at Albright either.

While many residents have watched the buildings beingbasically stripped to their shells, Black says he plans to be there the dayCastleberry is actually brought to the ground.

"It's sad to lose an old building," he said, "but I love theprogress that we're making."

The superintendent says the district will maintain the lotwhere Castleberry now stands, but it plans to convert the Albright site intoadditional parking for athletic events.

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