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Members of Ralph Bunche Alumni Association get a tour of their old school and see damage done by time and neglect
Alum Laurie Bland (left) and King George Supervisor Cedell Brooks look through books at the former school.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By CATHY DYSON
For 15 years, the Ralph Bunche Alumni Association has asked King George County to do something with its aged alma mater.
Last week, five members of the group saw the impact time has had on their old high school.
Water has leaked down walls and through the roof to damage ceiling tiles and wooden floors.
Various county agencies have cluttered classrooms and the gymnasium with boxes of old paper records, outdated and broken equipment--and, by the looks of it, everything else employees didn't want to throw away.
"It's worse than I expected," said Ernestine Jefferson, president of the alumni group that has about 300 members. "This is an expensive storage facility, that's what it is."
Still, Jefferson and others in the group, who were part of the Class of 1965, said they believe the problems are fixable.
"Hopefully, we'll get it back," said Nadine Lucas.
Supervisor Cedell Brooks Jr. and County Administrator Travis Quesenberry led the alumni through the two-story building Thursday.
Members asked in February if they could hold their alumni meetings in the school. When Quesenberry said it wasn't in shape for that, Brooks wanted the members to see for themselves.
Also on the tour were Marva Smith, Elaine Harvey and Laurie Bland.
Lucas had been back to the school regularly, but others had been there only once or twice since graduation. She said she hadn't expected as much decline as has taken place in recent years.
"I was surprised it had deteriorated as much as it has. I shouldn't say 'deteriorate'--it's neglect," she said. "Nothing has been done, and they've taken everybody out of here, and there is no maintenance."
The heating and air conditioning systems don't work anymore, Quesenberry said. Plus, someone took most of the commodes, which were original to the school, out of the bathrooms.
Ralph Bunche High School, named for a diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner, educated the county's black students from 1949 until 1968.
After that, it housed various educational programs, such as kindergarten classes and an alternative program for high-schoolers.
Then, the School Board used the building for its offices, and the Sheriff's Office set up some workout rooms.
No one has been in the school on a daily basis "for a while," Quesenberry said.
A study by the Wiley|Wilson group in 2010 identified two options for the old Ralph Bunche High School: OPTION 1: A museum with classrooms re-created to look like the 1950s, with information about the Civil Rights movement and educational films. Gym used for concerts, receptions and banquets. Other rooms devoted to local genealogy, meetings or art studios. OPTION 2: Limit the museum to the upper level and convert gym into a multipurpose space for youth recreation programs. Meetings could be held in smaller rooms, and the lower floor would be used as a community center. COST: Each option would cost about $2.65 million, according to the 2010 report, which doesn't include work to stabilize the building; the county has devoted $126,000 toward needs totaling $331,375.