Report - - The Schools of Detroit - April 2019 | European and International Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The Schools of Detroit - April 2019


grumpy sod
Regular User
I honestly don't know how to begin this thread. Detroit has an insane, crazy amount of closed schools. Forty - yes, you read that right - were closed in 2010 alone, with many more shuttered in the decade preceding that and the decade after. Declining enrollments due to people moving to the suburbs, coupled with large old buildings which would need a huge amount of money spent on them to repair has meant that many Detroit schools were amalgamated together resulting in the huge amount of closures.

DPS - Detroit Public Schools - knows that they are sitting on a landbank worth a small fortune with these vacant schools and so a lot of the time go to great lengths to try and preserve them. Usually when they are first closed the schools are powered up and alarmed and it then becomes a war of attrition between DPS and the scrappers who are trying desperately to strip the buildings out. What used to happen in the past when the power went out is that DPS would either board every window and door up with black boards or remove and replace every one with metal VPS shutters and this worked for a good while, and indeed still works up to a point. However the one flaw with VPS shutters is that if there is a single weak spot on the building and someone can either remove one or get in another way, every single shutter can be removed easily from the inside. So what began to happen is scrappers began stealing the shutters and weighing them in too!

Lately though DPS has been faced with a choice. There are numerous schools which are as good as lost and not worth either the money to seal up or save however the ones they are serious about protecting have received a new anti-intruder device. Instead of using metal shutters DPS is now using sheets of 1.5cm thick clear perspex over the windows and doors - this, as well as being worthless to scrappers, has the added bonus of being incredibly resilient and difficult to cut through, it will happily eat up saw blades all day. All the recently closed schools as well as the much nicer more saveable/historic older closures are now getting this treatment it would seem - we checked out one school and it had the original windows with a layer of perspex fixed under the original metal grate coverings on them all as well, it was insane. As someone else said elsewhere, exploring in Detroit is either the easiest thing you will ever do or absolutely impossible there's no inbetween. It's either wide open or it's sealed as tight as a ducks arse.

On our first day in Detroit we explored six schools, it got off to a bit of a slow start as the real highlights were explored on the next day, a thread I will get around to posting shortly when I've finished going through the photos. It was a lot of fun ducking and diving into these schools as usually we didn't know what to expect from the interiors, my friend had the older schools singled out on his map as possibly interesting to see and thats what we were going off of.

Southwestern High School

Southwestern was formed by extending the existing Nordstrum School on the site during the 1930s. Enrolment peaked at almost 2200 students in 1937. In 1969 work was completed on a large extension which added a swimming pool and larger gymnasium at the rear of the school. The pool was refurbished in 2002 and in 2012 it was announced that Southwestern would close along with 16 other schools that year. In 2013 a fire broke out in the cafeteria in the new wing causing severe smoke damage to the gymnasium and other areas, and there was also a fire on the stage in the auditorium which thankfully was extinguished quickly, but gave the auditorium it's recognisable grungy smoke damaged look it has to this day. In 2015 Indian company Sakthi Automotive bought the school and constructed a new facility across the former playing field and said they were going to turn the school into a training centre but as yet nothing has happened.

Ruthruff Elementary School/Malcolm X Academy

There isn't a whole lot of info out there for this one. It was constructed in 1925 and became the Malcolm X Academy in the late 1990s. It closed in 2006 and in 2007 was leased by the Last Chance Academy until they left in 2010 and it's been vacant ever since.

This school is properly fucked, we didn't spend long inside at all. For the majority of this day there was a torrential rainstorm over Detroit and so water was literally pouring through the roof.

Parker Elementary School

Another really fucked one.

Built in 1927 to the common 'Brady' plan of schools during that era, it was closed in 2012 and has been hit very hard by scrappers and vandals. Other than that I can't remember anything about this school on the day!

Templar Special School

I have used a pseudonym for this one as it doesn't seem to get much traffic in the Detroit exploring/vandal scene and compared to the others it's really not well known at all.

This school was unique in Detroit, in that it catered for students with both physical and mental disabilities. It was well renowned in the city and it's closure in 2013 caused a real uproar in the community. Even today there can be seen graffiti sprayed on the boards covering a door that reads 'lies closed this school'.

Despite the scrappers removing most of the windows and a small area of fire damage in the library, it's in pretty solid shape with almost no tagging.

Cadillac Middle School

This is one we drove past and thought we might as well check out. There isn't a whole lot of info on it except it closed in 2008 and rather disappointingly didn't seem to have any sort of nice auditorium inside.

It's also the only place we backed out of in Detroit as there was a very shady character directly outside the building whilst we were inside, talking to someone on a phone loud enough we could hear him. My friends wanted to leave so I followed suit of course. As such I only got a couple of shots, I want to go and reshoot it properly at some point.

Cont'd below...​


grumpy sod
Regular User
Cooley High School

Oh Cooley. The grandest of all Detroit schools, and a place I had wanted to get back to for ages after my rushed visit in April 2017.

Time hadn't been kind to Cooley since then. In September 2017 a huge fire destroyed the beautiful auditorium and with that the scrappers and vandals really descended. At some point DPS quit being lazy and decided to go nuts securing the building, with both boards and the perspex I mentioned earlier over every single window and possible opening. They've even gone as far as sealing off an entire courtyard, reached by going under an elevated walkway at the back of the school, with the same boards and perspex combo. After doing almost a complete lap of the outside of the huge school we found a small opening and got in, luckily. I'd have been gutted if this was a fail.

Cooley High School opened in 1927 and was an architectural masterpiece compared with other schools of the era. Designed in the Spanish Baroque style with ornamental terracotta features. It's E shaped layout with classrooms in the outer wings and a central core of the auditorium, gymnasiums etc was seized upon and copied in many later schools. The auditorium was opened in 1930 followed by the gymnasiums and pool in 1931. Enrolment grew to nearly 3500 students in 1983 making it the largest school in the city but thanks to the changing demographics by 1997 that number had dropped to 1400. In 2010 the school had barely 1000 students in a school designed for 3500 and in June of that year Cooley closed it's doors for good, much to the protests of the students and teachers.

For years it remained sealed and alarmed and watched over by the neighbourhood who took great pride in the school, however during the first few months of 2017 scrappers managed to finally cut the main power being fed into the school and it went dark.

With the addition of an insane amount of boards this school really is very very dark now. Back in 2017 there was no boarding on the windows, the only pitch black area was the auditorium and now somewhat ironically it is the only place in the school with natural light now thanks to a large hole in the roof behind the stage. Thankfully firefighters were able to stop the fire spreading to other parts of the school but it turned what was the crowning jewel auditorium of Detroit into a charred mess.

Thanks for looking, I hope you enjoyed - my favourite schools of the trip were all explored after this first day, so the next part will be of a higher quality I assure you!​


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Dead and abused dogs were found inside the abandoned Parker Elementary School on Detroit's west side.
Authorities said it's clear dogs were fighting. The building is easily broken into and is believed to have been used as a dog fighting training facility.
Break-sticks, an instrument used to "break" the bite of a dog and pry dogs apart, have been found.