Sunday, November 22, 2009

Travesty at Adams

Note:  I wrote this back in August...and though several of the issues I raised have been addressed and remedied by the District, the majority of this article remains as current today as it was three months ago.


A neighbor recently asked me, “What exactly is going on at the school right now?  What are all those moving trucks doing there?  They unload at the back of the building, then another truck comes and loads up again in the front – if you ask me, they look like a bunch of crooks!”  And indeed, they do.  I’ve filmed their activities – sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly – and their typical reaction upon spying my camera is to sound an alarm, pack up, and scram.  I know that if I noticed someone filming me, I’d march right up and demand to know why; yet no one ever has.
The time they’ve spent ducking and dodging me has caused considerable delay, however.  Their increasingly furtive attempts to confuse and conceal their movements have been both amusing and disheartening:  trucks from five different companies back up over the grass and right up to the doors for loading; large sheets of paper and cardboard have been taped up to cover certain doors and windows; and it seems that at least a couple of the moving crew have been tasked to dress as civilians and walk the perimeter of the building as lookouts.  The other day I heard John Griego describe the whole thing as a “fiasco,” and I’ve been tempted to approach him and ask how things are going – after all, this is a prime example of our tax dollars at work –  I’m not sure what stops me.
Once the movers have departed, I walk around the building and peer into the main doorways; what I see there causes my heart to sink.  The hallways are crowded and cluttered with all kinds of everything, including sofas and other home furnishings that I’d figured had come from a dismantled teacher’s lounge; but after glimpsing a tall standing ashtray (like they used to make in the sixties), I’m not so sure.  On many occasions I’ve seen individuals drive up and load items into what appear to be their own private vehicles.  Lights are routinely left on at night in the gymnasium and anywhere in the building where the movers have been…and their trash and debris left all around.
The trash bins located on the property were removed nearly three weeks ago, despite the fact that the movers themselves still needed them.  The kids who still play basketball on the school’s courts had been very good about properly disposing of their trash, but since the cans were removed litter is strewn everywhere; incidents of vandalism have multiplied; window screens torn to shreds and left dangling, sometimes ripped completely out of place and left bent on the blacktop; three windows are broken; spray-painted graffiti appears in various places; weeds are big and bushy, and too difficult to pull.
Though I’ve worked hard to spread awareness throughout the neighborhood, many people did not know the school really did close.  Summer’s ending, and school’s back in session – but not at Adams.  The smell of fall in the air had always been accompanied by the music of children laughing; now, there’s just the soft, shocked silence that occurs when the heart of a community stops beating; punctuated only by the occasional beep-beeping of moving trucks snaking through the otherwise empty parking lot of a building in the act of being abandoned.
My own family has lived here for four years, and many’s the time my husband and I sat together on our back porch swing, envisioning the wonderful educational opportunities presented by our arms-length proximity to the school.  I had every intention of regularly volunteering at my children’s school; but since my family doesn’t own a car, and bus service in our area has been discontinued, even my own opportunities – to work with my children’s teachers and play a more active role in their learning – have been squelched.
I’ve spoken with many others who feel the same way:   some opted to walk their children to Rogers…easier to do now – but what about winter?  Others are moving away, closer to work or family.  Those with vehicles are truly envied, since they are the only ones truly able to exercise any real choice in the matter.
One Spanish-speaking family in particular, limited by transportation issues and concerned for the safety and well-being of their disabled child, worried along with me.  In spite of language barriers, we actively sought out alternatives to the one that’s been forced upon us by the District…but for naught.  In the end, with no other choices open to them, they enrolled their children at Hunt – bitter, and vowing never again to support a school the way they had supported the one that sat in our midst for over half a century.
And I, the last hold-out, sit on my back porch swing, swaying and sighing, contemplating my next steps:  am I up to home-schooling my little ones?  And how will it affect their socialization?  I blink back the tears that sting my eyes at the sight I see when I look across the street.  My five-year old son quietly clambers up beside me; after a moment, he looks at me and asks, “Why did they have to close my school, Mom?” I look into his face, unable to answer his question, and an enormous sense of loss envelopes us both.
I determined to check out Hunt for myself. It seemed clean…but crowded; lines of children waiting for what, I’m not sure.  I looked for a reason to reject the school, which was presented by the office secretary.  Curt and condescending, I felt.  I took the enrollment package anyway; there seems little option for us but to surrender and have my kids bussed to Hunt; one in preschool, one in kindergarten – both on separate busses.  It just doesn’t make sense.
There was a rumor the Urban League sought use of the building for daycare – but that turned out unfounded.  I know that for the better part of the year, STAR Academy sought partial use of the building for their overflow students; to the best of my knowledge, there’s been no response or explanation as to a reason why not from the Board.  STAR had to turn away 80 students this semester – one of them mine – because they had no room.  I don’t pretend to understand the legal intricacies, but STAR is a District charter school: doesn’t their legal right to utilize the Adams building supercede the District using it as some shady truck stop?  And since the District is using the building in this manner, is there not an ethical – if not legal – obligation to properly maintain its grounds?  It’s as though the District is purposely allowing the building to fall into utter disrepair, certainly rendering the building less desirable and more difficult to lease or sell later.
Whatever the reasons behind it, the wanton disregard shown by the District regarding Adams is morally wrong, akin to a man denying that he fathered his own offspring.
Yesterday, a family that’s lived here for ten years walked away from their home – opting to move due to the closing of Adams and the limitations they would experience for their two son’s education – and allowed it to slip into foreclosure, because no one was interested in buying a house in a neighborhood without a school.  So, this does not merely impact parents and children; it affects every property owner and business establishment in this neighborhood.  When I stop to consider that this might also be taking place in the neighborhoods surrounding the other schools that closed, I become deeply saddened for the city of Colorado Springs.
I am literally watching this community die – one of the saddest things I’ve ever personally witnessed – and for no clearly discernable reason.  I know there’s not much chance that the school will miraculously reopen…but that’s why they’re called miracles:  ‘cause there’s barely a chance.
The people in this neighborhood simply need a school to operate at the Adams building once more.

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