WASHINGTON — After a historic African-American schoolhouse was vandalized with spray-painted messages of hate on Saturday in Loudoun County, a community has banded together to restore the structure and send a different message.
“This is a deplorable act that occurred here and it does not define the character of Ashburn or Loudoun County,” said Ralph Buona, Loudoun County supervisor for Ashburn.
Buona was among many state and local leaders who gathered at the Old Ashburn Schoolhouse to call for those responsible for the vandalism to be brought to justice and to encourage the community to help the students from the Loudoun School for the Gifted, who are raising money to clean up the one-room schoolhouse.
“We are going to stand side by side with them to make sure that we get this work done,” said U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va.
During times of segregation, the school was one of the few places where African-Americans from the community could get an education. The students are hoping to restore the schoolhouse and share its story with the community, from its 1892 opening to the day it was shuttered in 1952.
The rest of the community has stepped up to help: A GoFundMe campaign set up for the restoration project has seen donations more than triple over the weekend.
“What we were getting in donations per month, we are getting in donations per hour,” said Dr. Deep Sran, founder and principal of the Loudoun School for the Gifted.
Sran said thanks in part to the donations which came in over the weekend, work will begin over the next few days to fix the damage and remove the graffiti.
“We initially thought it would be about a two to three year project, the donations from around the community will probably shorten that in half,” Sran said.
Meanwhile, law enforcement continue to search for the people responsible for defacing the schoolhouse.
“This event is extremely important to us and we want to make sure that we get to the bottom of it,” said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.
Chapman said investigators spent Saturday combing the scene for clues and they are still working with area businesses to get surveillance footage which may have caught the suspects. The FBI and Virginia State Police have offered to help the Loudoun County sheriff’s office during its investigation.
The reward for information leading to an arrest has gone up from $1,000 to $2,000. The increase comes after county Republicans and Democrats came together over the weekend to double the reward.
“It is very heartening to see how the community has responded and said this is not Loudoun, this is not our community and this will not be tolerated here,” Comstock said.