EAST ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Closed more than a decade ago, Lincoln High School inspired thousands of students during its nearly century-long service to the community. Today, it's a public disgrace, covered with vulgar gang graffiti and the target of frequent vandalism and arson.
The school is still owned by East St. Louis District 189, which has done virtually nothing to maintain it. In fact, during a recent visit to the school I walked inside and saw rooms filled with trash and debris, including thousands of dollars worth of broken computers and furniture apparently destroyed by vandals. Art Culver, the Superintendent since the state of Illinois took over the district a year ago, called it a "shocking waste."
A waste? Absolutely. But the state hasn't done any better at maintaining the school than District 189 did before the takeover.
District 189's current Chief Financial Officer Adil Khan told me that the district hadn't spent any money on Lincoln HS, and that it didn't plan on doing so because "there's no useage for us."
There were at least a half-dozen ways into the abandoned school, including open doors and large openings where windows had been busted out. We also found evidence of repeated fires set inside the school. The East St. Louis Fire Department has answered calls for six fires in the vacant school during the last few months alone. Assistant Chief Bill Clossen considers the building a fire hazard and a danger to the public. He says the building is a risk to firefighters and people living around it.
When buildings are abandoned and allowed to become a threat to the community, especially by a school district which is supposed to represent the best in public service, it sends a terrible message to the community.
"They don't care about us," LaFran King told me. Ms. King lives next to the school in one of the most violent public housing complexes in the country, according to law enforcement officials. Some residents believe the school district's negligence has fueled criminal activity by showing that even authority, in this case the school district, doesn't care about what happens there.
The school district hopes to sell the building at auction soon. Until then, Mr. Culver promised the district would at least make sure it's secure.