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Abandoned Eden Park Elementary School unsecured, raises safety concerns in community

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BATON ROUGE - Unlocked gates swing open and fluorescent gymnasium lights are still on three years after an abandoned elementary school shut its doors for the final time.

Eden Park Elementary School closed its elementary operations in 2021 as East Baton Rouge Parish Schools opened Park Elementary, a $21.7 million school tucked away in the Eden Park neighborhood of Baton Rouge. The former elementary school was left vacant and with no clear plans for its demolition.

In July 2023, activists in the community petitioned to turn Eden Park Elementary into a skating rink. The petition gained the traction of 2,000 signatures at one point through social media efforts. The school still sits abandoned and collecting debris — and is a breeding ground for unwanted visitors — eight months later.

In one classroom, a Rita Pierson quote inscribed on a white board: "Every child deserves a champion: An adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be." The teacher's personal message lies beneath it in all caps: "YOU ARE THAT CHAMPION!"

Bradtisha Galmon graduated from Eden Park Elementary around 2004. She fondly recollects memories of her fifth grade teacher, Miss Shaw, who she credits as a woman who made young Bradtisha believe in herself, much like the words that sit in the classroom. With a smile on her face, Galmon retold the story of Miss Shaw making a young and "mischievous" Galmon sit at the front of the class, pushing her to become a better student. Galmon said that Miss Shaw is the kind of teacher who transforms a student from barely engaging in class to being the first to raise a hand up to answer a question.

After Galmon attended Eden Park Elementary, she went on to attend and graduate from Glen Oaks Middle School, two schools that have since been closed and are now abandoned. 

"It's actually sad because they had some great teachers then and did great work," Galmon said on the current state of her former elementary school. "But it's actually sad to see that the school is abandoned and in the shape that it's in when they have a neighborhood full of kids that could actually be going to school."

The school's current state looks like that of an apocalyptic movie. Fiery hornets buzz above a rickety and eroding stairwell where kids used to flood the steps to class. Stacks of science textbooks sit next to journals, notebooks with former students' names left behind in cabinets.

One racoon sits nestled in the beams of the outdoor hallways, an inhabitant of the abandoned school. A blue abandoned boat occupies a corner of the field kids used to play in at recess. It is an untold story of how that boat got there, much like the trash and tires that also found their way onto the eroding pavement.

"It is definitely sure that the school board shows us that they don't really care about these neighbors and these kids in this neighborhood because, obviously, it's a school that's abandoned that kids need to be at," Galmon said.

Galmon's Monday agenda was to continue finding where she would move to next. The Eden Park grad has lived on the very street she used to play in at recess for two years now. She said she is moving out of her current residence because she feels unsafe with the coming and going of unwanted visitors — trespassers.

"I'm moving because of the surrounding areas," Galmon said. "They have lots of different people coming across the street from our home, being that Eden Park is across the street. They come chill on the court, they play and do a lot of stuff and, who knows, they might attract attention to your home and may wanna do something."

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System said they are aware of of possible trespassing, have boarded up the school on multiple occasions and will continue to monitor the site to ensure it remains secure in the future.

The abandoned school grounds' broken locks and opened classroom doors tell a different story, especially to Galmon, who has seen adults going in and out of the gates.

"Who would want their kids in this area?," Galmon racked her brain. "That's the only reason it don't have kids. When I was younger and going here, it was flourishing, but that's only because it wasn’t abandoned and they were doing something with it. Now, it's abandoned and they're not doing anything with it. I wouldn't want my child to come and play and be around either."

Even with EBR Schools monitoring the site going forward, it cannot stop Galmon from packing up her home and heading out, closing the door to her home for one final time just like Eden Park Elementary closed its doors, too.

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