The students of Ballou High School enjoy new renovations
WASHINGTON — The students at Frank W. Ballou Senior High School, which was founded in the early 1960s to serve residents in southern Anacostia, including Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, and Bellevue, have lots of which to be proud.
The school’s graduates include prominent athletes, film directors, attorneys, military officers and award-winning journalists. One of its former students was named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Its marching band has performed in theTournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
But nothing has students and faculty there more prideful and excited in recent years than what they are calling “The New Ballou, a $142 million new school that includes 87 classrooms, a two-story cafeteria, a movie theater, computer labs, a culinary arts kitchen and much more.
“It feels like ‘High School Musical,’” Dareona Rose, a junior at Ballou, said in reference to the Disney movie that featured a special high school setting.
It was last month that students gathered in a brand new three-story auditorium in the heart of Southeast as former Washington Mayor Vincent Gray cut the ribbon on the new facility. After coming back from winter break, the students of Frank W. Ballou Senior High School have been able to fully enjoy their new and improved high school.
The new building sits right next to the old high school. The old school is currently under construction as a new football stadium and auxiliary field, which will be complete in August.
The new school is separated into three wings built to enhance the body, mind and soul, officials said. The students are thrilled to be able to do so much in their new school, especially since it is in Southeast Washington.
“A lot of people don’t think that Southeast can do good,” said Takaya Griffin, a junior at Ballou. “It encourages us to be something in life, because we see that people care about the type of building that we’re in, so we should care about our education.”
Faculty and alumni are also excited about the new school. Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was very instrumental in making the new building a reality. It was one of the Barry’s last projects as councilmember of Ward 8 before he passed away in November.
“To go from the old school to the new school, it is such a privilege and an honor to have this new building,” said Melissa Jackson, the library media specialist at Ballou, who also graduated from Ballou in 1986. “And it’s at no cost to the students.” “However, I am so sad that Marion Barry wasn’t here to see it, but he was very involved, and I am very pleased from the front door to the back door, from the left to the right.
The “body” wing of the school has two gyms, a track, a swimming pool and a workout room with treadmills, along with elliptical and stationary bicycles.
Jerome Wade, health teacher and head coach of the track team at Ballou, said he is also excited by the new school. “I love the architecture,” Wade said. “I love the open windows. Just the space and opportunity that it provides a quality health and P.E. experience is great. I always say, ‘If you look good, you feel good.’”
The “mind” wing comes with 37 new classrooms equipped with built-in projectors and smart boards. There are also brand new science labs, auto mechanic training and a mass-media classroom. The old knight mascot stands in the new library as well. A new steel knight mascot that glows blue and gold stands in the courtyard of the school.
“What do I like about the new building?” said Loretta Allen-Simmons, who has teaches math and English at Ballou. “Everything, because I was in the old one for over 15 years. I love everything from the desks, to the lighting to even the restrooms. There are many, many things and I just love it.”
The “spirit” wing focuses on music and performing arts. There is a three-story auditorium, along with a movie theater. There are also a dance studio, greenhouse and cosmetology training centers.
“The new Ballou is a big step for the kids in the area, because it makes you want to come to school,” said Anthony Simpson, a senior at Ballou. “When you see the building and how nice it looks on the outside, you want to come inside and play the sports and be involved in everything going on.”
Malik Burrell, a junior at Ballou, agrees.
“It gives a sense of hope to a community that has kind of become hopeless,” Burrell said. “The fact that we have a new building is like a new light and showing us towards a different direction.”
For more information about Ballou High School, visit www.balloudc.org.