Washington was an experiment in school design, with just a single story. With few exceptions, most of Detroit's schools were multi-story buildings, which required less land. A study done by the Society of Michigan Architects compared Washington and Duffield School, a 3-story school building of similar enrollment and found that the Washington design was more expensive and required more land. The only other single-story school completed over the next 30 years was Oakman Orthopedic School, which had been designed specifically for handicapped children that could not use stairs.
Enrollment was 2,240 students when the school opened. In 1941, part of the school was converted into an industrial training school for the war effort. Over 17,000 workers were trained there throughout the war, after which the program remained as the Washington Trade School. The elementary school was discontinued at the end of the 1966 school year. The State of Michigan moved its vocational rehabilitation service program into the building in the 1980's or 90's.
In 2008, the name of the school was changed to the Detroit Transition Center East, and focused on students with severe mental and physical challenges. In 2010 the east and west transition center programs were combined at Drew School. DTC East closed due to problems with the facility, and the presence of several other nearby schools under capacity.
Though the school was leased to a church after it close, the building remained unused and was gutted by scrappers.