What the students gathered across the street from Hawthorne Elementary School seemed to want most as they watched the building being demolished was a brick from the walls of their old classrooms.

They'll get their wish once demolition of the 76-year-old building at 1700 S. Seventh East is completed. Workers began tearing down the structure, deemed unable to meet fire safety code requirements, Wednesday morning.Two weeks ago, the school's students, teachers and staff traded Hawthorne's sagging floors and crumbling walls for a brand-new building constructed right behind it.

The new school carries the same name as its predecessor, but it may take time for the students and teachers to feel the same way about their new, more spacious, surroundings.

"We're all feeling a certain amount of regret," said Jeane Ashton, who teaches second grade. "I had one little girl break into tears. She couldn't understand why they were tearing down her beautiful old school."

Ashton's class watched the demolition during a class break without much comment, except to occasionally ask how soon it would be before they could claim a piece of the old building or whether it was time yet for lunch.

She herself was reflective on the destruction of a building that had served students for more than three-quarters of a century. "It's like the death of something that found it's time to die."

When the building is finally torn down and the rubble cleared, a playground will be built there. Students have had to make do with a thin asphalt strip outside the old school during the two years the new building was under construction.