After years of being afflicted with violence and drugs, Ballou High School students and faculty are working to shake off the past. The school, recognized nationally for its gifted marching band, has instituted a police presence and installed X-ray machines at the school’s entrances, helping to create a more safe environment for its students who come from an economically disadvantaged community in Southeast Washington, D.C.
Now school officials want to start fresh by building a new school for the students. Starting in Fall 2014, the students will move to a brand-new building designed by Bowie Gridley Architects, PGN Architects, and Perkins+Will, Lydia DePillis reports in the Washington City Paper. Students first learned that they would be getting a new school when the architects came to share their visions for Ballou on May 10. DePillis describes the students' reactions to the details of the facility:
The crowed whooped and clapped for their favorite elements: An indoor pool, a gym with an elevated track, fields that will allow people coming up 4th Street to see the school's cherished marching band practice. The renderings showed a tall, iconic glass box at the main doors emblazoned with BALLOU KNIGHTS, a "main street" through administrative offices, a separate entrance for the vocational S.T.A.Y. programs, and an open cafeteria space with balconies around it flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows. Through it all was a desire to preserve the school pride that seems alive and well.
While a new building won’t solve all the problems of these students who live in a community beleaguered by violence, the designers and elected officials hope that it will offer them a haven where they feel safe and can focus on their studies. Maybe they can even brag to Michelle Obama—who told them during a visit that her high school was just like Ballou—about their new digs.