Denby High School graduates receive diploma in historic 1930s auditorium as part of $16.5 million renovation project

More than 200 students of the Denby High School 2011 graduating class took a step back in time when they received their diploma today in the historic 1930s auditorium that was meticulously restored to its former glory as part of a $16.5 million renovation to the school.

Denby High School, 12800 Kelly Road, was renovated under the $500.5 million Detroit Public Schools’ capital improvement program to modernize the district’s schools.

“This year marks the moment where, we, the Denby family encounter our date with destiny,” said Denby High School Principal K.C. Wilbourn.

“We move forward with a truth that if we are to be saved, then we, ourselves, must be saviors.  If we are to rebuild our community, then we, ourselves, must be builders.  And, if we are to be productive citizens in society, then we, ourselves, must be thinkers.  We live with the promise that as we once was a proud people, today, at this moment, so shall we be.  That in the words of Frederick Douglass, where there is no struggle, there is no progress, power concedes nothing without demand.  It never has, and it never will,” she said.

The historic restoration of the 80-year-old auditorium was the largest and most painstaking project of the $16.5 million renovation to Denby High School.

More than 2,000 original wooden auditorium seats were removed and each hand-refinished by restoration experts.  Other historic repairs include:

  • Gold-leaf of the proscenium theater space and doors
  • Complete refinishing of the stage, wood doors and interior paneling
  • Cleaned and repaired terrazzo stairs
  • Historic tiered plaster ceiling, railings and metalwork, and light fixtures

Modern enhancements to the auditorium include a new state-of-the-art audio/video system, acoustic paneling, a new heat and air conditioning system, stage lighting, new aisle carpet, and a stage curtain.

In addition to the auditorium restoration project, the entire school is receiving extensive renovations that include construction of a new commons area for student dining that is being repurposed to provide adequate kitchen, serving, and delivery / receiving areas.  The area can also be used as meeting space for student clubs and organizations.

Other interior remodels include a media center with two computer labs, a small group room, and a team room. The upper level of the center allows for observation of the lower level while also providing additional remodeled group meeting rooms.  Classrooms are also being modernized and upgrades are being made to the lighting and electrical systems.

Exterior upgrades planned are a new roof, a new parking layout, and new decorative fencing at the front of the building.

The design build team is O’Brien Edwards / Turner, a 50 percent Detroit-headquartered joint venture. The architect is Kraemer Design Group.

Detroit voters approved Proposal S in Nov. 2009 which enabled the district to access $500.5 million for school capital improvement projects. DPS received the sixth largest allocation in the nation.

The improvement program also includes technology upgrades and security initiatives being funded with Proposal S dollars. To comply with federal guidelines, all bond dollars must be spent within three years and all projects must be completed by September 2012.

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