Lyles-Crouch school during segregation

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Fifteen years after Parker-Gray School opened in 1920, another school opened to alleviate crowding of Alexandrias black students during segregation. Funding for the new school, which would serve elementary-school-aged children who lived south of Cameron Street, came at a time when George Washington High, a new high school for white students, was being built. After the superintendent recommended that the city renovate an existing building, an old silk factory at the southwest corner of Wilkes and South Pitt streets was acquired, and in 1935, Lyles-Crouch School opened there.

When it first opened, Lyles-Crouch, seen in this photograph, had 10 classrooms and could accommodate about 300 students. During the summers, the field at the school served as a recreational playground for black children. Lyles-Crouch students and their families regularly participated in wartime fundraising with efforts and donations to support the Red Cross and war bond sales. They also supported their own school, organizing benefits for the schools library fund and special PTA programs during Negro History Week, the precursor of Black History Month.

In the 1950s the student population of Lyles-Crouch grew, as children from the West End and other communities began attending. In spring of 1957, officials broke ground for a new Lyles-Crouch school building, which was erected in the 500 block of Gibbon Street, just south of the old one. The following year, with Alexandria schools still segregated, a Lyles-Crouch cafeteria worker was fired after she attempted to enroll her children at all-white George Washington High.

Lyles-Crouch was finally desegregated in September 1966, when the first white students enrolled there. The original Lyles-Crouch building was later known as the Wilkes Street School and served in the 1960s as a training center for students with severe developmental disabilities, before it was demolished in the early 1970s.

Out of the Attic is provided by the Office of Historic Alexandria.

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