Cleveland ISD held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 22 to celebrate the completion of renovation projects at Douglass Gym, located on the 900 block of Sam Wiley Drive in Cleveland. The gym, which is still in use today by Cleveland ISD students, is nostalgic for many in the Cleveland community as it has been around for more than 65 years.
The renovations came at a cost of roughly $200,000 and include a new roof, new doors, paint, new windows, replacement of rotten wood, floor refinishing, upgrades to the concession stand and a new hot water heater.
“We brought it up to modern standards,” said Cleveland ISD Superintendent Stephen McCanless. The building is now handicapped-accessible and compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). “Had we let this building sit longer, it would have eventually cost a whole lot more.”
The school district was able to keep costs relatively low for the upgrades by going with a contractor that is already performing work on Cleveland ISD projects, McCanless said.
“Our focus is to maintain this gym for many more years. There is too much history here,” McCanless said.
School Board President Willie Carter spoke to guests at the ribbon cutting about the significance of the gym to the Cleveland community, particularly to Douglass School alumni. Douglass School, before integration around 1968, was a campus for black students in the Cleveland community.
Named for the famed abolitionist Frederick A. Douglass, the school is now called Douglass Learning Academy and is used as campus for non-traditional high school students. A separate building behind Douglass Learning Academy is for students in the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program. Additionally, youth sports leagues like Little Dribblers use the basketball court for practices and games, and a local non-profit Share Your Christmas holds a toy distribution every year before the holiday season.
McCanless said he himself felt a sense of nostalgia when he first walked into the Douglass gym years ago after joining Cleveland ISD.
“So many of these old gyms have been demolished or torn down. I am glad the Cleveland ISD school boards, over time, have kept it. It really is a treasure for the Cleveland community,” he said.
When asked if the District has a plan to preserve the histories of Douglass School and all of Cleveland ISD for future generations, McCanless said a museum is being included at the entry of the new Cleveland ISD administration building that is currently under construction.
“There will be glass cases and there will be cables suspended from the ceiling where we can hang photos and other memorabilia,” he said.
At the ribbon cutting, Cleveland ISD also used the opportunity to hold a fall festival. Cleveland High School cheerleaders, Cleveland High School Indianettes and Folklorico dancers from Cottonwood Elementary performed routines.