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Detroit School Demolition Under Way

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The Motor City is getting rid of some unwanted baggage—vacant schools.

Removing this blight is no cheap task—the district will spend tens of millions on this effort. Many of the buildings were not properly cleaned when they were abandoned, leaving behind textbooks and student records. In others, computers and other high-value items were left behind for thieves' enjoyment.

Robert C. Bobb, the district's emergency financial manager, is using $3.1 million from a 1994 bond and another $30 or so million from a bond Detroit voters approved last fall, the $500.5 million Proposal S.

"Vacant schools across Detroit have been blights on the community and safety hazards for far too long," Bobb said. "Thanks to the taxpayers of Detroit for supporting Proposal S, we can now move forward with substantially changing the landscape of the city and remove these long-standing eyesores."

The areas where the schools once stood won't just be blank holes in the ground. The district plans to build a new 25,000-square-foot headquarters for its public safety offices, in the footprint where two of the 10 schools to be demolished presently stand.

Want to see what a vacant school looks like? Check out the photos of Jane Cooper Elementary, which was shut down in '2007 and later sold to the city, in this video I co-produced for a story I did last summer on Detroit.

Decline and Fall from Education Week on Vimeo.

Another issue needing resolution for Detroit schools: figuring out who is in charge. Bobb and the elected school board are in a power struggle that has made its way to court. A judge recently granted an order barring Bobb from making any academic decisions. A court-ordered meeting between Bobb and the board got heated Friday night.

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