Abandoned schools and communities
After learning that my old elementary school, Gatewood, was on the proposed school closure list, I decided to take a trip down memory lane. On a recent Sunday afternoon, I drove through my old neighborhood to the school. Gatewood is a beautiful school with nice landscaping (trees and plants donated by community stores), and it was recently renovated with your tax dollars.
This is a place where community and town hall meetings are held and where students still walk to school.
Over the course of about half an hour, I saw nearly 20 people on the school grounds: children playing on the swing sets, couples walking dogs and even a couple of young adults (college students from Oklahoma City University?) enjoying the grounds and shade trees and playing music instruments.
This is a place where friends and neighbors meet and say hello to strangers they meet.
Everyone was friendly, and I felt safe walking around and taking pictures. Gatewood Elementary School is the heart of the Gatewood community and is surrounded on four sides by well-kept homes. Compare this tranquil scene to the area around the school my daughter attended, Stonegate, later renamed Greystone Elementary. This school was closed a year ago and is now an eyesore.
A quick drive past the front of the school doesn’t raise many eyebrows, but a closer look reveals hidden dangers. Although the doors are welded shut, windows have been broken out and broken glass is lying around.
I fear that vagrants are sleeping in the building at night. Although the playground is an open invitation for children to play, it is not safe.
Discarded alcohol bottles and paint cans are evidence of substance abuse. There is also evidence of sexual activity. As I walked around the schoolyard, I was very uncomfortable and my dog was on high alert, even though there was no one else around. I imagine property values around the school have plummeted since Greystone Elementary closed.
This is not the way to improve our city or attract new business. I would encourage our lawmakers and representatives to visit both of these schools and consider the long-term ramifications before making any decisions. We need to clean up, sell or raze all of our abandoned schools before we close another building.
The city and its residents are responsible for any injuries that might occur on our property. It would be easy to prove negligence for creating these crime-breeding sites. Just one child hurt at an abandoned school could result in a high-dollar lawsuit that would more than offset any money saved through school closures. Even if you are not a teacher or don’t have any children in school now, don’t let this happen in your neighborhood.
School closures affect everyone. Neighborhood schools are important; they are the glue that holds communities together.
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