This story was originally published by Longfellow, Whatever

Boards have gone up covering the first-floor windows of the vacant Cooper School, a response to an increasing number of break-ins and vandalism.  

Public records show at least 33 police calls to the property associated with break-ins and burlary in the past year. Workers hanging the boards told me there is extensive damage inside, including graffiti and torn-off drywall.

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) said it is "armoring" a few of its vacant buildings, which includes putting plywood over the ground-floor windows and beefing up the hardware on the doors. They said they've "experienced reduced intrusions" at other vacant schools where windows have been boarded.

The Cooper School served as the neighborhood's elementary school from 1923 until it closed in 2005 during a period of declining enrollment and school consolidation. The school board has hung on to the building and as recently as 2014 indicated that the school could re-open within a few years, but that never came to pass and doesn't appear on the horizon given the district's current budget and enrollment woes. It has never listed the property for sale, though that has plenty of precedent: MPS currently has three vacant schoolhouses on the market and has sold three different Longfellow schools for redevelopment in decades past. (Read all about that in our look at why the houses on the 3100 block of 38th Avenue are so much newer than their surroundings.)

Cooper had more recently been used for storage, but last year the board voted to lease an 80,000-square-foot centralized warehouse near the Minneapolis Farmers Market and move the inventory that had been stored at Cooper and the also-shuttered Victory Ice Arena.

The playground has continued to function as the de facto park for surrounding residents in the 20 years since the school closed, but an MPS inspection last summer found multiple issues with the current structure. A group of neighbors have banded together under the banner of Save Cooper Playground to try to spare the playground from removal.

The raw plywood boards brought back visions of 2020 when they first went up, but they’ve since been painted white to match the trim of the 1923 building’s stately windows.

The school board said it has talked to a Cooper resident about possibly painting art on the windows and that “there are some challenges with that, but it’s something MPS might explore.” (Is that person you? Respond if so!)