Major remake of school nixed after students filmed disrepair

Apr 19, 2022, 12:56 PM | Updated: 1:30 pm

ATLANTA (AP) — Despite a student-produced video showing gaping holes in ceilings, crumbling bathrooms and signs warning of possible electrical shock around utilities in one room, a metro Atlanta school board has decided not to put Druid Hills High School in line for a major modernization project.

Instead, the DeKalb County Board of Education voted 5-2 this week to change its plan for repairs of schools districtwide. Druid Hills High had been on a list of schools set for major overhauls until it was removed earlier this year. The decision sparked anger among parents and led to students creating the documentary video that has drawn more than 44,000 views on YouTube.

In the eight-minute video, students used iPhones to document plaster falling off walls, water leaking in many areas and a ceiling hole so big a student is shown placing his entire hand through it. The students also describe teh smell of human waste in a lunch area of the school, which has century-old water pipes.

The school board’s decision not to put Druid Hills back on the list was “incredibly disappointing” and “unconscionable,” said board member Marshall Orson, who represents neighborhoods near the school and has pushed for the major renovations since dropped from the plans.

Cost estimates to tear down and rebuild some parts of the school and completely modernize it range from $52 million to $60 million.

“It was sad that a majority of the board is willing to consign the students to a facility that is in just deplorable conditions,” Orson said. “This would not be acceptable anywhere. The notion that this is acceptable at one of our schools is incomprehensible.”

But Board Chair Vickie Turner said before the vote that “our goal is to provide equity across the district.” The new plan dashes hopes that Druid Hills would get a multimillion-dollar project to modernize it, but it also spreads money for less costly maintenance projects to schools across the district, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

Druid Hills High has been in existence since the 1920s and its oldest building is about 95 years old. Actor Denzel Washington walked its halls and athletic fields when it was used to film the 2000 movie “Remember the Titans” — about a football team breaking down racial barriers. The school serves about 1,330 students and is among the most diverse in metro Atlanta, with about 40% Black students, 30% white, 14% Hispanic and 11% Asian.

Under the plan approved this week, Druid Hills might receive some money for individual projects just as other schools in the district will, but nowhere near the amount needed to fix its substantial problems now that it’s off the list for a major rebuild, Orson said.

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Major remake of school nixed after students filmed disrepair