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'Can't be duplicated' | Public speaks out against potential demolition of Norfolk's Maury High School

Board documents showed more than 70% of 900 people surveyed agree with one of the demolition options for the school. Speakers mostly sought its renovation, though.

NORFOLK, Va. — Wednesday night, Norfolk's School Board heard public input on the future plans for Maury High School.

For months, school leaders have weighed and gathered community perspectives on whether the public prefers a renovation or demolition of the building. 

Board documents showed that more than 70% of roughly 900 people surveyed agree with one of the two demolition options for the school.

The roughly two-year construction process would cost an estimated $158 million, but the historic nature of the building -- more than a century old, built in 1910 -- has prompted debate and conversation among residents and Maury High alums. 

"Let’s say they’re 15 or 16 years old, 50 years younger than me. Walking up the steps of that old high school gives them more pride, more Commodore pride, than if it was a brand new building," said Sam Schatz, a Maury alum who graduated in the mid-1970's. 

He shared an old yearbook with 13News Now, filled with memories.

"If you tear it down, you’re not going to feel what your parents or grandparents did when they walked through those halls," he said.

Schatz's own mother graduated from the same school roughly 40 years before he did.

Norfolk Public Schools said with water damage on windows and doors, and a need for more structural support, it’s time for an upgrade.

To address that, HBA Architecture came up with four different plans. Two would involve renovating the school, the other two would create an entirely new building.

During a Nov. 2 meeting, after an initial survey of 50 people, HBA recommended a plan known as "B2." That option would mean tearing down the old building and creating a new 4-story school, along with a new stadium.

But this Wednesday night, most speakers felt differently.

"Maury isn’t just a building. It is a piece of history within our community that sadly has not been maintained," said one speaker.

The result of the new survey of 900 people upset many in the room and online.

"Yes, Maury needs work. But how we do that work has an impact on the school community and the greater community," said one speaker. 

However, Skip Stiles has two kids currently at Maury. He says he’s tired of getting the phone calls that the heat is out or the internet isn’t working.

"So, when I asked my kids what to do, they said ‘Blade it. Get rid of it. Build something new.’"

One member of Virginia Preservation said the number one priority for everyone is giving students the very best.

"But I think we can accomplish this goal by restoring and preserving this iconic building."

The Board did not make a final decision tonight, but if they decide to go with the demolition option, new building construction would take two years. 

Only then would the original building be torn down.

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