Grayling Elementary School was built in 1917 just outside the northern border of the city of Detroit. Originally located in Greenfield School District No. 1, just a few months before construction was finished on the modern renaissance school, the township of Greenfield was annexed by the City of Detroit and became a part of the Detroit Public Schools system. The move was controversial because Greenfield Township had built the school along the "Gary System" of education, which emphasized work, study, and play, resulting in a larger school with a lower student capacity than similar Detroit schools being built at the time. Annexation meant that the full cost of the school would be taken over by the City, which was reluctant due to the budgetary and overcrowding problems that city schools already faced. An addition in 1927 to the western half of the school boosted its capacity to over 600 students.
Grayling had an unusual problem in the late 90's - overcrowding. Though it was only rated for 475 students, the student population was 533 in 1997. On Christmas Eve of 1999, the school was heavily damaged by fires that had been deliberately set by vandals throughout the building, large parts of which had to be completely gutted because of water and smoke damage. All educational materials including books and supplies had to be thrown out and replaced, as well as computers, windows, and kitchen equipment that had been smashed during the rampage. Workers were pulled from other jobs to get the school back open just 10 days later, with the price tag for cleanup totaling over $1 million dollars. The school remained an important part of the community, and over the summer of 2000, a new playground was built with help from the non-profit KaBOOM! organization. It was designed with input from students, and named in honor of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani youth who died fighting child labor.
Five years later though, the number of students had dropped by over half to 245 in 2004, and it was decided that the declining enrollment and the age of the school made it impractical to keep it open. Grayling was closed in 2005.
Grayling is a stark illustration of just how quickly a school can get trashed. In the summer of 2009 Grayling had been closed for four years, but was secured. In November of 2010, the Detroit News ran an article about scrappers and DPS locations that prominently featured Grayling. The steel panels designed to keep out intruders were only installed on the first floor, while second floor windows were boarded up with plywood. Like many other recently closed schools, Grayling was an easy target for metal thieves, who stripped the building of everything of value.
Demolition of Grayling was first proposed in 2011. Asbestos abatement, the first step in the demolition process began in April of 2013. By the end of May, the school was demolished.