Last Updated: Friday, 23 August 2013 14:57
Written by Admin
They stood together in a row by the sidewalk, the only buildings on the edge of a large in-town neighborhood block, a green grass field spreading out behind them. They were three old schools of varying age and size, all reminiscent of an earlier time when every child in the surrounding homes walked together to school each morning, from kindergartners through high school seniors.
The school on the far end, a one-story yellow-brick Craftsman style structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, was the most modest but also the most inviting. Endless rows of multi-paned windows wrapped around its façade and poured sunlight into its rooms. Above the arched entryway reads the inscription, “We Become Like That Which We Constantly Admire.”
It undoubtedly was meant to inspire young people to follow in the steps of their mentors, to remind educators that the community’s future was sitting in their classrooms, to inspire all who read it to be civic leaders and to set an example of the community’s and the nation’s values. But the charge seems all too ironic now, as the yellow-brick school and its adjacent brethren are a challenge to admire, sitting vacant for going on several decades. Abandoned, vandalized and deteriorating, these institutions were deserted, just as the small town has been, unsavory to a nation whose appetite favors everything newer and bigger and farther away.
Meanwhile, small schools such as the yellow-brick schoolhouse sit empty. Historic neighborhood schools offer the type of learning environment parents and students request without requiring new infrastructure, yet their usefulness is thwarted by policies that counteract achieving a nurturing learning environment. Communities across the nation are experiencing the pain of losing a civic anchor that has nurtured generations of its citizens, yet feel helpless against a school board that is not tempered by local planning efforts.
The policies which hinder the use of historic neighborhood schools as schools include the adoption of large acreage requirements, funding formulas which favor new construction over rehabilitation and modern building codes that render historic schools obsolete. These policies, combined with the mentality that new schools are better, leads to the abandonment of neighborhood icons (and, thus, the neighborhood) and the creation of poorly-designed new schools that instigate urban sprawl. In order to successfully debate keeping historic school buildings in use as schools, it is necessary to go beyond traditional arguments for preservation and outline why historic schools can best serve the education and health of children.
School Board members, parents and teachers… we need YOU.
UGA Center for Community Design & Preservation
225 W. Broad St., Studio 1, Athens GA 30602
p: 706-369-5885 | f: 706-369-5864