Thursday, March 12, 2009

High School Confidential

Powers Catholic's public offer to buy Southwestern Academy has added some new heat to an already emotional subject — closing Flint schools as the city's population and resources decline. It appeared from committee reports that Flint Central was being set up as the most likely candidate to shut down.

As Flint Journal reporter Kristen Longley recently reported, "an advisory committee has labeled Central as 'an example of possibly the worst facility' in the district. The high school, once home to as many as 2,000 students, now houses fewer than half that and is one of the most expensive schools to operate." Worse, a facilities committee report included in an evaluation by the engineering firm THA Architects Engineers of Flint called the landmark "a poor performer with many deficiencies including wood construction, narrow classrooms and poor building layout. Not great facility for investing future school funds."

But closing Central would not be easy. The majestic brick school on Crapo Street has a long history and is located in the heart of the cultural district. It has a lot more alumni who might fight to keep it open than Southwestern. Perhaps the Powers offer makes the decision on which high school to close a little easier for the school district. After all, school officials can argue that the city will actually make money by closing Southwestern and avoid the hassles that would come with shuttering a local icon like Central.

I'm left wondering if Powers didn't approach the district and get some positive feedback on the offer before going public with their desire to buy Southwestern. It would seem odd to just float this idea in the press without having some inkling of where the district stood on the proposal. Going even further, who's to say the district didn't approach Powers about the sale? Just thinking out loud.

Regardless of how it went down, the district's next move should be known in a month or two: "Superintendent Linda Thompson, who has called closing a high school 'really possible,' said in an e-mail that there will be no talk of school consolidations before her administration presents its budget proposal to the board," Longley wrote. "That proposal is still being put together and is expected in April or May."

UPDATE: The Flint Journal is now reporting that Powers is offering $5 million for Southwestern.


  1. I'm all for Central staying open as a school, but if they do close it I would like to see that building utilized in some other way... as an adminstration building, maybe.

    I always thought making it into apartments would be cool... or as an assisted living facility. Better than the wrecking ball or being destroyed by neglect. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

    1. As of 2018 the building is still there but many people have ran sacked the place there's still water in the pool actually I have pictures if you like to see them

  2. I bet You're right on the 'positive' feelers put out to Powers. I can't see the Powers 'powers' making a statement to the Journal without that. and yeah, it'd be a damn shame to see Central torn down.but I don't see the administrators moving in there.

  3. Ann Arbor -- and any one of a number of other communities that recognize the value of one's local history and historic buildings -- would find an appropriate re-use for Central where increased maintenance costs are balanced against historic district tax credits.

    Flint decision-makers, in contrast -- and as the recent Manning Court episode indicates -- will issue somber, hand-wringing pronouncements as they wave in the bulldozers to the mantra, "nothing can be done."

  4. Of all of the high schools in the city, Central has the best location and the most history. Why not close the other three and renovate Central? I'm sure the amount of high-school students in the city is under Central's capacity. I don't know if a Jackson High School-styled gutting and remodeling should be done, only because the building's character would be lost with a modernization. If it were to be demolished, I doubt the space would be utilized for anything else.

  5. The rumor, only a rumor, was that the past Flint city admin wanted Powers in Flint and offered up SWA. What changed from then to now(besides a new admin) one can only guess.
    Why not the Great Lakes Tech Center or GM SPO WHQ (Grand Blanc) as both are close to empty and GM would love to get out of both?

  6. Tradition. Pfftt!! Soon to be out-of-work wacky hack Andy Heller'd tell ya to stop living in the past. More specifically, he'd say that Flintoids are too concerned with history. Move forward already is his motto. I imagine he'll have no problem when the Urinal shuts it's doors for the last time.

    Back to the subject at hand. I'll betcha a gazillion dollars a bunch of over-educated, lib Central grads (most of whom flew the coop long ago and moved to the Big Apple, Chi, LA etc) are gonna get all in a tizzy, start a website, hold a rally, a fund raising campaign, make all sorts of sanctimonious online pontifications about the hallowed halls of Central High and in the end achieve absolutely nothing. Nada. Nil.
    No wonder Flint has to close it's most storied schools. Those who rah-rah the loudest live thousands of miles away... and so do their kids.
    The Flint Indi... er, PHOENIX (bwhahaha) will NOT rise out of it's ashes. SWA might as well go Catholic too. Flint don't need 3 high schools let alone 4.

    Either way, I got mine.
    Go Vikings!!

  7. Wurstside,

    That ruckus from alumni is exactly what the district probably expects and wants to avoid, hence my theory - based on nothing but my imagination - that they let it be known SW was available.

    And now anonymous confirms my rumor, sort of, with a rumor of his own!

    Then only flaw in my plan is that Central is a total wreck. Maybe the city can get some stimulus money to fix it.

    Another thought...$5 million offer from Powers!? If SW is also a wreck, doesn't that seem a bit high?

  8. Last time Central alum got all worked up they tried to save the (insensitive, out-of-date, racist?) Indian mascot and what'd they end up as? Phoenix. Central alum are full of bluster, but the reality is that most of the biggest FCHS cheerleaders live too far away to make any real difference.

  9. I hate these out-of-towners who haven't lived in Flint trying to act like they know what's best for the city! Oh, wait, nevermind.

    I'm with you Wurstside. That new mascot is lame.

  10. I've never been inside of Central but I always thought that the exterior was beautiful. From an aesthetics standpoint, it is a huge improvement on the current hideously ugly Powers' building. Irregardess of where Powers moves to (or doesn't), I hope that somehow there is a way to preserve Central. If nothing else, it seems that all of these abandoned buildings could be put to use as soup kitchens, homeless shelters and job re-training centers.

  11. What is this website called again? Wait, where am I?

  12. As a 2001 graduate of Central who participated in the magnet program, I can say first to W├╝rstside that Northern is a prison of a school. Its cloistered architecture will never compare with Central’s openness. I also cannot help but be delighted that it is somehow all of the Central graduates who got away. That is a reveling little insight on the quality of education at each school.

    In all seriousness, the often-overlooked fact in this discussion seems to be that those most keen on preserving Central no longer have any direct connection to the building. I have come to realize that my "Save Central" desires stem more from a wish to see my own childhood memories protected than out of concern for the students who attend there now.

    Flint would benefit far more from a demolition of Central (perhaps saving the tower) and the subsequent construction of a modern facility than it will from keeping the relic open. Having traversed nearly all of the cavernous insides of that mighty building (even signing my name next to one from the class of 1922!), I say with firsthand knowledge that yes, it is past time for it to go. Close Central and the Flint Public Library and rebuild both. Flint needs to cultivate downtown and link the Cultural Center more closely with UofM Flint and the budding prospects beginning to spring to life there.

  13. Grumkin, exactly! When I start to get too worked up about things going on in Flint I have to stop myself and say, "Dude, you moved in 1986! Just calm down and shut up. Let the people who actually live there hash this out."
    (Please note that I used dude with a sense of irony, although I use it so often with irony I think I'm just using it seriously now...if that makes any sense.)

  14. Hey Rob, ya don't think I'm just gonna let you get away with insulting Northern scott free. Central is overrated, its enrollment boosted by goofs who live in Northern's enrollment area- but who have no pride, and architecturally it is crumbling. A gold-plated turd. Besides, Nap Lavoie Fieldhouse, the M & M Building, and the Science classrooms aren't exactly palatial.

    As for the "quality" of the education you received "Mr. 2001 Magnet Graduate"... c'mon. The magnet program in 2001 was a far cry from the glory days of the early/mid 80s. By the late 1990s the magnet program was roughly equivalent to a self-contained SpEd classroom at Emerson circa 1972.

    Central grads may have "got away" but that was only with the substantial financial help of the trust funds their East Village mommy and daddy's set up for them. Your average Viking can out think, out drink, out fight, and out CENSORED the creme de la creme of Central.

    Confidential to Gordo- Ya gotta post this one. I know you're all for good taste and decorum, but this is a special case. Central and Northern have a long standing rivalry. This may be the end of an era. Indians/Phoenix may be snobs, but they can take a little ribbing... even if they're a dying breed. It only makes sense to allow a Viking to pound a nail in their coffin.

  15. $5 million for a high school in Flint? Kinda makes that bridge for sale in Brooklyn or the swampland I'm selling in Florida sound like a bargain.

  16. Holy crap... maybe 3 will be the charm, as my last 2 posts tanked into oblivion.

    Call me old fashioned, but I have a hard time understanding why anyone would recommend tearing down Central H.S. to build new. If the school doesn't fit anymore, then move somewhere else. But the building itself should stay.

    I'm not saying this as a Flint Expat or because I have memories at Central (I don't). I'm saying this from my passion for architecture. Flint used to have a beautiful building that housed the public libary. They tore it down.

    And it's not just old architecture that requires saving too. I was disappointed when Autoworld pavillion was torn down. It's just a waste.

    So if Central thinks it needs new digs, I say build somewhere else, and recondition the current building for something else. Maybe Mott could use it. There are certainly enough flat parking lots that could be used for new developments. I don't think we need to see any more carnage at this point.

  17. Flint Central has been the victim of 'deferred maintenance for quite some time. Whether this is a symptom of construction dollars gleaming in the eyes of those who build the modern, souless, unimaginative, flat-roofed, neo-con boxes or simply another circular firing squad maneuver by Flint's finest is not apparent. However, the direction of Flint should be toward historic restoration (Cmon fools, if tiny Dollar Bay, MI can do that for their high school, so can you!). Flint can be something other than an industrial wasteland and declining monument to dips that 'put all their (automotive) eggs in one basket and left the area. It's up to all of us who benefitted from the schools, the largesse of the Mott Foundation, excellent programs, parks, and more to stand up and kick some bore-o-cratic butt. Class of '66, and here to say, Everyone deserves quality education, arts, music and a beautiful campus. Everyone. Alumni, get your efforts up and going, because we owe it to do so! If nothing else, think of it as cheap insurance..We all live downstream from Flint's problems. Please, stop whining and sniffling about 'those good old days' and let's build some fine new ones.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at