Civic

Hunting for Georgia's Equalization Schools

Posted on: March 15th, 2011 by Guest Writer

 

Written by Joy Melton

The concrete covered walkway highlights the entrance to the equalization era building on the Carver Freshman Campus. (Photo: Joy Melton)

The concrete covered walkway highlights the entrance to the equalization era building on the Carver Freshman Campus. (Photo: Joy Melton)

What usually has a flat roof, large banks of windows and is clad in bricks? The answer: an equalization school. Equalization schools were built in Georgia during the 1950s and 1960s to create school facilities that were “separate but equal” for whites and blacks. As an intern for African American Programs at the State Historic Preservation Office in Georgia, I - along with my supervisor (and National Trust Board of Advisors member) Jeanne Cyriaque - have surveyed numerous equalization schools. This project is of particular interest because nearly 400 new schools were built and additions were made to over 100 existing equalization schools for African Americans in Georgia alone. In a state as geographically diverse as Georgia, Jeanne and I have studied a wide variety of adaptive uses for these historic school buildings.

The Roberts School in Acworth was recently rehabilitated for adaptive use as a community center. A low flat roof, brick exterior and large banks of windows are common architectural features. (Photo: Jeanne Cyriaque)

The Roberts School in Acworth was recently rehabilitated for adaptive use as a community center. A low flat roof, brick exterior and large banks of windows are common architectural features. (Photo: Jeanne Cyriaque)

I begin each assignment by researching possible addresses for each school and mapping out directions. The research of Reuben Acosta, a former intern in the office, has been invaluable in helping me locate the schools. Reuben prepared a school list that identifies information such as the county and city of each school that he researched at the Georgia Archives. Information, gathered by my co-workers, on equalization schools from Section 106 and environmental review has also been helpful. Additionally, during Jeanne’s frequent travels across the state for speaking engagements and meetings about African American resources, we learn of and document equalization schools in the area.

In the field, Jeanne and I have traveled to over 80 equalization schools in 45 counties. Today, many equalization schools are still in use as schools, some are vacant while many others boast creative adaptive uses such as a homeless shelter in Morven, a church in Pearson, and an assisted living facility in Valdosta. The most highly used example is a community center such as the one located in Woodbine which houses a Head Start/daycare, senior center, health department, cooperative extension program and alumni meeting place. Many alumni of the equalization schools are still living and have been a tremendous help with preservation efforts.

The 1923 Coffee County Training Rosenwald School in Douglas now known as the Carver Freshman Campus was a recent discovery of a Rosenwald and equalization school on one campus. (Photo: Joy Melton)

The 1923 Coffee County Training Rosenwald School in Douglas now known as the Carver Freshman Campus was a recent discovery of a Rosenwald and equalization school on one campus. (Photo: Joy Melton)

Several equalization schools also have Rosenwald schools on their campuses. These include the Colored Memorial Rosenwald School/ Risley School in Brunswick, the Eleanor Roosevelt Rosenwald School in Warm Springs and the Vienna High and Industrial School in Vienna. Rosenwald schools, funded in part by the philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, represent another large construction boom in schools for African Americans in the early 20th century. One of our recent equalization school discoveries is Fairmont High also known as Griffin Vocational, the 50th Rosenwald school discovery in Georgia.

Along the journey, Jeanne and I have encountered amazing success stories and incredible people who work to preserve and find new uses for these endangered yet historic treasures. Within our office, architectural historian Steven Moffson is researching and documenting equalization schools. Steven will speak on equalization schools at the Georgia Statewide Preservation Conference in Macon, March 31st - April 1st 2011.

Joy Melton is a graduate student in the Heritage Preservation Program, Historic Preservation Track at Georgia State University and an intern in African American Programs at the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office. She attended the National Preservation Conference as a member of the Diversity Scholarship Program in 2009  and 2010.

Would you like to attend the National Preservation Conference as a member of the 2011 Diversity Scholarship Program? We are now accepting applications for this year’s conference, which will take place in Buffalo, New York from October 19-22. The deadline to apply online is June 1, 2011.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

From Schoolhouse Rock to the Hard Rock Hotel

Posted on: March 14th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman

As a kid, I loved Saturday morning cartoons – remember those “School House Rock” cartoons?  Must have known I was going to end up in policy because “I’m only a Bill on Capitol Hill” was one of my favorites…

Recently, this self-proclaimed policy wonk has talked about the National Trust’s work to save older schools at a couple of conferences and I wanted to share my observations:

Observation #1 – As speakers, preservationists have a leg up on others …

After examining the number of local children near each school site, the Billings, Montana school board tabled discussion about the proposed new elementary school outside of the city’s densely populated neighborhood.

After examining the number of local children near each school site, the Billings, Montana school board tabled discussion about the proposed new elementary school outside of the city’s densely populated neighborhood. (Photo from "Helping Johnny Walk to School")

…because we get to show images of places that matter to our audience!  At the recent Active Living Conference in the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown San Diego, I showed these two images from the Helping Johnny Walk to School publication--the image on the left shows the existing elementary school in Billings, Montana while the image on the right shows the proposed location of another elementary school.  I went on to explain how researchers found 353 five-year-olds per square mile within the gridded city and 27.4 in the second, more rural location.

To paraphrase the “other Renee” (Zellweger) in a famous movie, I “had” them with the images alone—the statistics were just icing on the cake.

Observation #2 – As advocates, preservationists are not alone …

…in trying to find better ways of sustaining our communities. In February, I attended the New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.  While I had to search high and low to find a historic building in the immediate area around my hotel, I loved this conference because it’s a place where many fields converge.

For instance, I learned that California State Senator Alan Lowenthal introduced a bill (SB 132) requiring new and existing school sites conform to the state’s planning priorities aimed to reduce pollution.  This bill was based on findings made from a forum convened by the Center for Cities and Schools on the connection between schools and sustainable communities.  Note to self: schools placed near residents help curb greenhouse gas emissions.

I also learned that the LISC organization in the San Francisco Bay Area had developed a holistic approach to transforming neighborhoods.  In the Nystrom neighborhood in Richmond, this includes the effort of residents to improve the local school and to connect it once again to a neighboring park and community center. Takeaway:  improving the local school is transforming this historic neighborhood.

In my session at the conference, we spoke to a diverse audience with several from the health field (lesson learned: involve health professionals in your school siting discussions – they think the built environment should encourage healthier kids!)

First, Mike Raible, director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public School Facilities and Jonathan Wells from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department spoke about the city’s unique charter to jointly plan public facilities–including schools. Key point: through monthly “Joint Use Taskforce Meetings,” all the departments figure out how their capital investments in facilities can be leveraged to create more efficient public spaces.

Myrick Howard from Preservation North Carolina and Vicki Coggins of Albemarle, North Carolina shared ideas for keeping older schools in use–from changing state policy to encourage more rehab to showing local school districts how older schools can be retrofitted to provide 21st century educations.

Sara Zimmerman from the National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity shared legal tools for protecting school districts when they open their school facilities to other uses. She also spoke about how neighborhood schools might have the unintended consequence of re-segregating neighborhoods. First step: ensure diversity goals are part of any school siting plan.

Observation #3 – preservationists must encourage more policy changes…

… in order to keep our older walkable schools in use.

In January, I went to the southern regional meeting of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grantees.  At one session, we saw where many policy changes were encouraging healthier food in our schools, but there were only a couple of instances where the policy changed to encourage more walkable schools.  Kids (along with their parents) need to be able to walk and bike to school on a daily basis and use the playgrounds on the week-end.

For everyone’s “to do list” … change policy that prevents our older, walkable schools from being used.

Renee Kuhlman works at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and encourages sharing our recommendations for removing barriers to community-centered schools with school district officials, legislators, and even your neighbor next door.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Historic Kansas School Being Adapted for Reuse… As a School

Posted on: February 28th, 2011 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

Written by Elizabeth Rosin

Just a few windows dramatically improve the appearance of the Independence Middle School building.

Just a few windows dramatically improve the appearance of the Independence Middle School building.

The fate of historic schools is a major preservation concern these days. Shrinking populations and district budgets all too often result in the closure of older school buildings. Standing empty is never good for an older building or for the surrounding community.

Because older schools are so well laid out and solidly built, many find new uses after the end of their educational tenure. It is rare to find a small to mid-size town anymore that does not have a repurposed school building. Less common is to see a school district invest in the renovation of a historic school so that it can continue to function as a school. But, that is happening in Independence, Kansas.

The 1923 Independence Middle School was designed by Chicago architect N.S. Spencer and Sons to meet the highest standards in education at that time. When the building opened, the local newspaper boasted (with just a touch of hyperbole) that the new school was “the best of its kind west of the Mississippi.” Fast forward 88 years, and the building remains full of students. A larger gymnasium was added in 1939, and new windows were installed around 1980. Otherwise, not much has changed, although educators no longer view it as a cutting-edge facility. Some classrooms are too small, others are too big, connections between the original building and the 1939 gym are extremely awkward, access to technology in the classrooms is less than desired, and there is a lot of underutilized space.

Terrazzo chalk rails are integral to the walls in all classrooms.

Terrazzo chalk rails are integral to the walls in all classrooms.

Committed to maintaining the building, the school district began exploring state historic tax credits as a vehicle to enhance their available budget. They developed a rehabilitation program that would maintain the building’s significant historic features while updating classrooms for the 21st century.

Meshing preservation standards with the educational program was not that hard. A few minor tweaks to the original renovation plan made the project compliant with the Secretary’s Standards. The school district is approved to receive state tax credits to the tune of 25% of qualified expenditures when construction wraps up. Project highlights will include:

  • Preservation of features and fabric that communicate significant aspects of the historic design, especially in public areas like the corridors and auditorium.
  • Relocation of interior partitions to adjust the size of individual classrooms. The classrooms will have both new technology-enhanced “teaching walls” and unique, historic terrazzo chalk rails.
  • Reconfiguration of the two 1923 gymnasiums to house two levels of music/art and vocational classrooms with the addition of a concrete floor slab.
  • Creation of a larger gym floor and activity space in the 1939 gymnasium by removing one set of bleachers.
  • Adaptation of the auditorium to house multiple new functions by sensitively partitioning the space while preserving the distinctive historic features of the space.
  • Restoration of the building facades by installing new multi-light windows.
The media center and computer lab viewed from the multipurpose room.

The media center and computer lab viewed from the multipurpose room.

The project is about halfway complete. Renovation of the first floor classrooms, the 1923 gymnasiums and the auditorium finished last summer. Portable buildings were installed on the front lawn to house some classrooms so that construction could continue during the school year. New windows started going in after Thanksgiving, and classrooms reopened on the third floor over the winter. Construction is now focused on the second floor and, when basketball season ends, the 1939 gymnasium. When students return to school next August, the Independence Middle School will be ready to educate many future generations of Independence children. The school district will reap the financial benefits of the historic tax credits, and the entire community will be rewarded with the preservation of an important local touchstone.

Elizabeth Rosin is the owner and principal of Rosin Preservation, LLC, in Kansas City, Missouri.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

For the Love of Schools

Posted on: February 14th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman

Asheville, North Carolina volunteers discovered that the district's oldest school - built in the 1920s - is also their most energy-efficient. (Photo: Courtesy of Asheville High School)

Asheville, North Carolina volunteers discovered that the district's oldest school - built in the 1920s - is also their most energy-efficient. (Photo: Courtesy of Asheville High School)

At this point in my life, I really shouldn’t be surprised by what people will do in the name of love. But recently, I’ve been blown away by what people are doing out of their appreciation for older and historic schools.

Take Ron Miller, for example. He’s a retired engineer living the good life in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina.

Guess what he does in his spare time?

Along with other retired scientists, Ron freely shares his expertise through Waste Reduction Partners (WRP) to help schools and other institutions become more energy-efficient.

Over the summer, WRP assessed nine school campuses and the central office of Asheville City Schools. After evaluating over a million square feet of building space, it turns out the oldest building on the campus—Asheville High School’s main building—is also the most energy efficient.

As part of their work, WRP made recommendations for achieving further efficiencies in all the district’s facilities. Talk about showing affection!

However much Ron appreciates quality construction, it’s probably fair to say that no one loves school facilities more than Mary Filardo.  From saving the Oyster-Adams Bilingual Elementary School in Washington, DC from closure to researching the connection between schools and community, Mary appreciates the “BEST” qualities of older, neighborhood schools.

With Jeff Vincent from the Center for Cities and Schools, Mary created a joint use calculator.  How cool is that?

A new "joint use" calculator helps schools better manage their operating expenses while encouraging the community's use of facilities on the week-ends and after school hours. This could help keep open schools threatened with closure such Byrd Elementary in Selma, Alabama. (Photo: Selma, Ala., Daily Photo Blog - selmaala.blogspot.com)

A new "joint use" calculator helps schools better manage their operating expenses while encouraging the community's use of facilities on the week-ends and after school hours. This could help keep open schools threatened with closure such Byrd Elementary in Selma, Alabama. (Photo: Selma, Ala., Daily Photo Blog - selmaala.blogspot.com)

Struggling to find money for operations in their shrinking budgets, administrators can use this calculator to figure out ways to more economically share their space.  Those of us struggling to keep older schools in use are popping the Champagne!

This brings me to how you can show your own love.

  1. Instead of roses … send your school district superintendent or school principal the link to the joint use calculator.
  2. Encourage students you know to submit their photos and essays describing why they love their historic school through a contest called Through Your Lens.
  3. Tell us why you care -- what about that old school makes your heart beat a little faster each time you see it? Is it the big shade trees in the front, the bank of beautifully arched windows, or the fact that you can walk to see “your” team wallop the competition? Revisit “10 Good Reasons to Show Historic Schools Some Love” and add some more ideas.* Surely after almost a year we can get the list above 15!

Whatever the reason, it’s Valentine’s Day… so let everyone know why these places matter to you.

Renee Kuhlman is the director of special projects for the State & Local Partnerships and Policy department at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

*You'll need to add the ideas as comments to this post, as comments on the original one are closed. Thanks!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Add Your Two Cents to Draft Guidelines for Siting Schools

Posted on: February 4th, 2011 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Renee Kuhlman

The 83-year-old Ewing Elementary School in Ewing, Kentucky, is being closed and a new school will be constructed in the geographic center of the county but not in the center of a community. (Photo: Fleming County Schools)

Q:  Have you – or someone you love – ever tried to save a school?   Yes/No

Q:  Does your community have an older or historic school that’s central to its well-being? Yes/No

Q:  Are you finding it difficult to revitalize a neighborhood without a quality school? Yes/No

Q:  Are you looking for another use for one of your town’s “white elephant” buildings? Yes/No

If you answered yes to any of these questions above, please consider adding your two cents to the Environmental Protect Agency's (EPA) draft voluntary siting guidelines. The following are three types of situations that might inspire you.

In Fleming County, Kentucky, the school district is closing an 83 year old school in downtown Ewing (pop. 278) to build a new K-6 elementary school in the geographic center of the county, but not in the center of a community. If the guidelines had been in place, the community and school district could have worked together to avoid: the forfeiture of $75,000 in federal “safe routes to school” money to improve downtown sidewalks; fewer students walking and biking to school; more roads and sewers built in an undeveloped part of the county; a price tag of an estimated $10 million in taxpayer dollars for land acquisition and construction costs; and citizens struggling to keep the town of Ewing “afloat” without one of its largest “anchors.”

Moreover, the guidelines would recommend a change in the state’s policy that says if the cost of renovation exceeds 80% of the cost of constructing a new school then it will financially support the “new construction” option. Such a policy places older schools at a risk of being abandoned in favor of a new facility with a shorter lifespan. If an older building is retrofitted with new technologies it can probably last another half-century … and beyond. 

Decisions like the one in Knox County, Tennessee, to adaptively use the L&N Train Station for a charter school in downtown Knoxville will become more common if communities use the siting guidelines. Not only does this type of renovation spark more rehabilitation in the surrounding area, but such reuse also offers environmental benefits too – it prevents the construction of a new school, roads, and sewer on undeveloped land and can lead to less cars on the road (e.g., fewer “vehicle miles traveled”).

Districts are struggling to find funding to keep schools open. After a process identifying its “underutilized schools,” the Poudre School District’s recent 4-3 decision to keep Beattie Elementary School open means that they now have to figure out how to make this happen financially. The EPA’s guidelines suggest “joint or shared use” as a way communities can more efficiently use publicly owned space. By calculating the expenses needed to make sharing space feasible, the district may be able to recoup its costs and continue using this much-appreciated school.

The EPA  is currently taking comments on their proposed guidelines about the complex process of where to locate schools in a healthy and safe manner. These guidelines will directly impact your efforts to keep older communities viable in the next decade.

So, here are our comments. We hope you use them as a template to provide comments of your own. Even if you only have time to write just a few paragraphs, share how these guidelines would have impacted your own community’s recent experience with siting schools. 

Bottom line – if you care about older schools, historic buildings, and the livability of your community, send your comments to the EPA by February 18, 2011 and copy me at policy@nthp.org so, just like the greeting card companies, I’ll know that you “cared enough to write.”

Renee Kuhlman directs the Helping Johnny Walk to School: Sustaining Communities Through Smart Policy project at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.