There is no shortage of abandoned schools in Gary, Indiana; at last count there is the wreckage of 21 former public schools amongst struggling Gary neighborhoods. At one time, these former public schools were the nucleus of thriving sections of the city, nearby residents and former students recalled.
But that's a bygone era. Now, vast swaths of school property are overrun with weeds, and the shuttered buildings, some in visible decline, display the territorial tags of gang graffiti. A Times investigation of every shuttered Gary school revealed at least two that are openly accessible to gang activity and other crime. A host of others sit moldering with broken windows, overgrown lots and in some cases crumbling exteriors.
Click the provided link to read a good article from the Chicago Tribune about Gary, Indiana's Emerson School.
Earlier this month, Connita L. Richardson, 17, of Chicago, was found strangled to death inside the former Emerson School at 716 E. 7th Ave. And at least two residents living near shuttered schools told Times reporters last week they carry firearms for their own protection when walking near the buildings.
The Gary Community School Corp. still operates 16 open schools in this economically beleaguered city, and it struggles to keep up with those. The state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board is intervening, providing the names of possible financial consultants to help the school district deal with $23.7 million in debt. Meanwhile, the 21 shuttered school buildings represent a cycle of blight that can be difficult to break, urban planning experts said.
The shattered windows of Gary's former Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts provide gaping entryways for the elements, both natural and criminal. The lessons of teachers once scrawled in chalk on blackboards at this former north side high school have been replaced with gang graffiti visible from the street.
Population loss in struggling cities like Gary leads to decay and abandoned homes, an official with Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council said. That loss in residents means a decline in students in those neighborhood schools, which in turn leads to closed and abandoned school buildings that further exacerbate an already bad situation.
From a development standpoint, it's a self-perpetuating roadblock to progress. But to the residents living in the affected neighborhoods, the city's plethora of closed schools are just additional reminders of the deterioration surrounding them in their daily lives. (source)
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