Jack Elementary School opened in 1942 and sat on a promontory above a city waste treatment plant that occasionally emited odors. It was also on Munjoy Hill, the poorest section of Portland, Maine.
Jack Elementary was Portland’s largest school until the time of its closure. The school made headlines when 100% of the teachers, administrators and other employees of the school reported symptoms related to mold poisoning from Stachybotrys chartarum. The mold can cause symptoms that are flu-like down up to pulmonary hemorrhage.
The school was closed in 2001 and then later torn down as a result of the mold contamination. Students from the school were reassigned to three other schools within the city. In place of Jack Elementary School, a new school was built named Portland’s East End Community School. As of September 2005, construction was approximately 55% complete with a projected cost of $9.2 million and was completed by Spring 2006.
In its prime, the school was an impressive building. There were huge hallways with massive solid wood doors opening into large-size classrooms with high ceilings. The playground behind the school was built in the late 80’s by a cooperative effort involving contractors, school faculty and students, as well as members of the community who brought their own tools and donated their time. The new playground was said to be the largest and most modern playground in the city school system when it was finished.
When I heard the school was being torn down I couldn’t wait to get in there and photograph the process. I snuck into the construction site once everyone went home for the day and photographed Jack Elementary School in the middle of its destruction. This is one of my favorite images from that day.