BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - More than 80 years of education history in Biloxi will come crashing down brick by brick. Crews began tearing down the former Fernwood School at the corner of DeBuys and Pass Road this week. The cafeteria is being demolished first.
If the walls could talk, they would tell stories of the countless number of students whose lives have been touched by Fernwood. Diane Bounds once walked the campus. She attended Fernwood when it was a first through ninth grade school.
"I remember all my teachers and really they nurtured and helped me, probably steered me in the career path that I chose, which was becoming a teacher," said Bounds.
In fact, Bounds' first teaching job was at Fernwood. Watching her old school being demolished Thursday was not easy.
"You hate to see things that mean so much come down. You do, because it was so important to so many young people's lives," said Bounds.
After decades of serving as a Jr. High and then an Alternative School, the campus shut down in 2009.
"We had a problem securing the property. Over the years, we have folks who break into the building, actually stay in the building, as you might imagine. And when the weather gets kind of cold, there's evidence that folks have been building fires in there," said Dr. Paul Tisdale, Biloxi Schools Superintendent.
Since Hurricane Katrina, several developers have approached the Biloxi School District with plans for the 26 acre property. One proposal involved building townhouses, a business zone, even a park. But those plans never panned out.
As pieces of the school ended up in a dumpster, another former student and teacher went searching for a keepsake in the rubble.
"My dad died in November and he was principal here in the 1960s. My brother and sister all went to school here and I taught here as well. I went to Jr. High here. It's just a really sentimental place," said Karla Smith.
She picked up two bricks, saying "It's about the only thing that's going to remain from the school are the bricks. Just a kind of a keepsake to reflect on the memories."
Those fond memories will remain even as their beloved school slowly disappears. The demolition and asbestos removal will cost more than $105,500. The entire project will take about 90-days to complete.
The bricks will be donated to the city of Biloxi. Right now, the district has no plans for the property.