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roosevelt high gary

Indiana state board votes to close historic high school campus in Gary

Feb. 20, 2020
The Distressed Unit Appeal Board approved the closing of Roosevelt High School, which sustained significant damage when burst pipes flooded the building

Rather than spend millions of dollars on repairs, Indiana's Distressed Unit Appeal Board has approved the closing of historic Roosevelt High School in Gary.

The Gary Post-Tribune reports that the school was one of three built in Indiana during the 1920s to house black students because whites didn't want to attend classes with them.

The building has been out of commission for a year after it was wracked by a series of burst pipes after a sub-zero cold snap in February 2019. Students were relocated to the Gary Area Career Center.

Officials from MGT Consulting, which manages the financially imperiled Gary district under a state contract, say they will seek a nonprofit or other agency that's interesting in taking over the school. An alumni group has expressed interest, along with EdisonLearning Inc., which operated the school until burst pipes forced students out last year.

Reviving Roosevelt would be expensive. Repairs from last year's burst pipes were estimated at $6 million to $15 million.

Maintaining the historic school isn't the district's mission, one appeal board member says.

"Education is the purpose of a school," says Paul Joyce, executive director of the State Board of Accounts. "It's not about maintaining museums."

[FROM 2018: With district under state control, Gary (Ind.) board holds its final meeting]

Gary Mayor Jerome Prince called the decision to close the school "heartbreaking"

"For some time, I've called for preserving the original Roosevelt High School to commemorate and celebrate the school's robust history," Prince says. "We now also can begin to reimagine the area around the original school in ways that help move Gary forward."

The flooding caused by the burst pipes ruined ceiling tiles and flooring, leading to mold growth and other environmental and air quality hazards.

Officials from MGT Consulting received two quotes from contractors for repairs that ranged from $6 million to $15 million. The district's insurance claim offer was $800,000.

Built about 93 years ago, Roosevelt spans 700,000 square feet and could house up to 4,000 students, MGT vice president Eric Parish says. Today, the entire Gary district has about 4,500 students.

Roosevelt is anchored by an aging boiler system that warms water for heat and circulates it through pipes the run behind plaster and concrete walls.

Parish says the district's emergency management team understands the legacy of the school.

"I hear loud and clear from the community that the building is special, and its history and legacy are very meaningful to the Gary community," says Parish. "This won't be a singular or unilateral decision by the emergency manager. We will cast a wide net in getting feedback on what is the best path forward," he said.

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