Board votes to demolish historic school in Keego Harbor

The fate of a 104-year-old vacant elementary school in Keego Harbor was in the hands of the West Bloomfield School District's Board of Education Monday night.

The decision to tear down Roosevelt Elementary School was approved by a majority vote of 4-2. Demolition prep is scheduled to begin soon, but some community members were still fighting to keep it standing by making one last appeal to the board.

On Sunday, March 10, a group called The Concerned Citizens To Save Roosevelt donned hazmat suits to draw attention to their efforts in saving the historic school building.

At Monday's meeting, held at West Bloomfield High School, dozens of people wore "Roosevelt for Everybody" shirts while pleading with the board not to go through with the demolition.

One of the organizers of The Concerned Citizens To Save Roosevelt said they have been fighting the same fight since 2017 – when a bond was passed to renovate the building. The group wanted to turn it into housing or a community center, but since then, no renovations have taken place. 

Instead, the funds are being used for the demolition of the school – despite the group finding developers to buy the building and repurpose it.

"Take your foot off the gas pedal and let’s work together in the public interest and look at different (ways) of moving forward," said Kristen Nelson, the Oakland County Commissioner for District 10.

Joe Novitsky, a principal architect at JSN Architecture, even offered to buy the building for $1.7 million to turn it into an apartment complex. 


Group protests to save Roosevelt Elementary building

The group from The Concerned Citizens To Save Roosevelt donned hazmat suits to draw attention to their cause, to save the historic school building that has been closed.

"Each classroom is a perfectly sized apartment. It makes a wonderful apartment for some lucky residents," Novitsky said. "The reality is we’re not short on students. We’re short on affordable homes."

Two Board of Education members, Deborah J. Evans and Carol Finkelstein, voted against the demolition.

"Our goal is truly to support all students in the district. And one way of doing that is to be good stewards of taxpayer funds and exercising fiscal responsibility. So the best course of action at this point is to optimize our capital asset, which is the building end plan, and that is –in my opinion– to delay this demolition," Evans said.

However, the school is still set to be torn down.