RICHLAND -- Chunks of Richland school history will be unearthed starting today -- quite literally.
Work will begin to dig up concrete and other debris dumped into the ground after the 1970 demolition of the then-Marcus Whitman Elementary School, said Kevin Knodel, director of facilities and operations for the Richland School District.
Nobody -- at least nobody still working for the district -- knew the debris was under the grassy field just north of the district administration building and the current Marcus Whitman Elementary. Until preliminary work for a new building began, that is.
"We always do soil tests before starting a project," Knodel said.
The tests were done to make sure the ground wasn't too soggy or sandy, for example, to support the Special Programs building that will rise up on the corner of Lee Boulevard and Snow Avenue.
Instead, contractors found that crews 40 years ago had taken the easy approach to demolition cleanup -- they left some of the debris right where the old school had once stood and planted grass on top.
"We've looked at samples from three locations and found debris to a depth of 8 feet in two of them," Knodel said. "They were both on the west side (of the lot)."
It is unclear exactly how much of the old school is buried down there, but the district wrote the bid for debris removal so that the contractor gets paid by volume. Workers will keep digging until everything's gone.
Based on the samples taken, contractors don't expect any hazardous materials to come out of the hole.
The removal is expected to go on for two weeks and will cost $35,000 to $45,000, district officials have said.
During the removal process, the area will be fenced off and the administration parking lot will be inaccessible during the day on weekdays, said district spokesman Steve Aagaard. Students walking to Marcus Whitman Elementary School will be routed around the construction zone, he said.
While the soil is being cleaned up, bids will go out for the structure to be erected on the lot.
The new building will provide about 6,000 square feet for special education and early learning. It also will house the district's electronic data center.
The first advertisement for bids will run Sunday, Knodel said. Bids will be opened May 5.
The school board is scheduled to select a contractor May 10. Construction is expected to finish by Oct. 14, Knodel said.