City Desk

Today in D.C. History: School Cafeteria ‘Unfit for Human Habitation’ Closes

On April 8, 1994, D.C. officials shuttered the cafeteria at Garnet-Patterson Middle School, declaring the dining hall "unfit for human habitation."

Complaints over the school's physical condition had begun a month earlier, when Darren Jones, then president of the Pleasant Plains Civic Association, had filed complaints about the building's upkeep after he toured the facility the month before. As Loose Lips reported in the April 15 edition of Washington City Paper that year:

"The place smelled like sewage," Jones said... "The cafeteria floods every time it rains." Puddles of water soaked the cafeteria floor, he said, and water stood two to three inches deep in a storage room where plates and utensils are kept. Students had to slosh through puddles to find a dry place to eat.

The shutdown was only the latest in a series of setbacks for the middle school, located at 10th and U streets NW. Underground Metrorail construction had damaged the foundation of the school's gym three years earlier, making it unfit for use. By the time officials shut down the cafeteria, a giant brace had been attached to one of the gym's walls, in an attempt to keep it from collapsing. The school's auditorium was damaged as well, and collected rainwater had started to cause the roof to buckle.

The school later became one of many embroiled in a legal battle between Parents United for the D.C. Schools, a lobbying group, and District officials. Parents United pushed for schools such as Garnet-Patterson to be shut down for a variety of issues, including fire code violations. However, the following year, Judge Kaye K. Christian dispatched with the lawsuits after the two sides reached a settlement. On Nov. 8, 1997, Garnet-Patterson reopened to the public.

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