Video of empty Spingarn High School is shocking, sad, and motivating

WAMU’s Martin Austermuhle revealed the other day a 26 minute video made by two gentlemen, Bryan and Michael, who call themselves the Proper People, who took an unauthorized tour of D.C.’s Spingarn High School that was closed in 2013. He wrote:

“Opened in 1952 as a segregated high school for African American students, Spingarn came to be known both for its academics and its fearsome basketball program, which produced NBA talents like Elgin Baylor, Sherman Douglas and Dave Bing — who also served as Detroit’s mayor. In 2012, the building was declared a historic site, partially in response to plans by the city to build a streetcar repair facility on the school’s grounds. But dwindling enrollment prompted D.C. Public Schools to close Spingarn in 2013, alongside 14 other schools.

The pictures remind me of other former DCPS facilities in which through the pealing plaster, cracked floors, and mounds of trash, you can imagine the spectacular beauty that once characterized the space. It looks extremely similar to Rudolph Elementary that now houses Washington Latin PCS. More than $20 million was spent renovating that building. This site apparently once had an elegant auditorium, theater, gymnasium, and greenhouse.

The images were particularly moving to me because it appeared that there may have been a school for radiologic technologists based upon the x-ray equipment that was found. I have worked in the medical imaging field for more than 30 years.

There is something terribly wrong here. A 225,000-square-foot building sits empty accumulating damage from wind, water, and vandals, and charter schools struggle on a daily basis desperately trying to figure out where they are going to educate their students. Parents have placed their complete faith in these institutions to provide the optimistic future for their children that they do not have. But due to politics, ego, discrimination, or simply poor public policy judgement, this structure and many others are blocked from their use.

Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people and we do not understand the reason. Injustices persist in this country and around the world. Despite heroic efforts by numerous philanthropic individuals, too many human beings go to bed at night without sufficient food, shelter, and clothing.

No, not every problem in society can be fixed. But there is one issue that could be resolved this morning. Surplus DCPS space can be turned over to charters. Let’s ask Mayor Boswer to take this step today. She simply needs to say O.K.

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