It was the middle of the school day at Minnehaha Academy, but students were nowhere to be found. In empty hallways, a vending machine and dishware sat under tarps. Glass pieces hung off shattered windows, and a light snow fell in the courtyard.
Four months after a gas explosion battered the high school campus in Minneapolis, killing two school employees and injuring more, the reconstruction is coming. On Thursday, school officials and staff took one of their last looks around the old place.
President Donna Harris stood in the snow, pointing out her old office — the one she was standing in when the explosion hit Aug. 2.
"Everything that you would think about in a movie when an explosion occurs, that's what we experienced," Harris said.
This fall, the high school opened in temporary quarters in Mendota Heights as the future of the old school building was assessed.
The decision became clear as months wore on: Everything between the gym in the north and the auditorium in the south would have to go. The 1912 and 1922 campus buildings have to be demolished, and will start to fall Tuesday.
The school's board of trustees this week picked Cuningham Group for the architectural work and Mortenson Construction for groundwork.
Demolition should conclude by the end of January, and school officials hope to wrap up construction by the start of the 2019-20 school year.
There's work to be done before the original campus can feel like home again, and memories of that day in August will linger. Harris momentarily gazed at the building, recollecting details of the blast.
Though the courtyard has the eerie feel of a school about to come down, new beginnings are visible elsewhere on campus. The grass on the soccer field, previously contaminated by glass, was stripped away. Artifacts from the building have been saved, hopefully for use in the new construction.
Not everything was lost in the debris. Facilities manager Curt Bjorlin thought he'd said goodbye to many of his school belongings. But recently, someone found his MacBook in the rubble.
He took it home, dusted it off and charged it. After four months in a heap of debris, it turned on.
"Just lucky," he said.