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  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Volunteer Ruthie Peterson watches for traffic as a student crosses the street at Maple Elementary on Thursday, the school's final day.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Students Diana Vargas, 11, left, and Alex Cholwell, 10, write comments for a time capsule buried Thursday at Clayton B. Wire Elementary School.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Friends console Alitzel Guitierez, 11, center, after a time-capsule ceremony Thursday at Clayton B. Wire Elementary. The school was one of seven elementaries in the Sacramento City Unified District closed permanently due to declining enrollment.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Principal Bao Moua places the capsule full of students' memories and wishes in the ground.

Students, teachers say final goodbye as seven Sacramento schools close

Published: Friday, Jun. 14, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 - 7:05 am

Hundreds of students at Clayton B. Wire Elementary gathered on the softball field Thursday for the last goodbye of the Sacramento City Unified School District campus.

The students buried under home plate a time capsule bearing stories of their school memories from the past year and their hopes for the future.

"It's an emotional day for all of us," principal Bao Moua told the children as the writings were collected. "This is the final last day."

Thursday marked the end of the academic year for all 80 schools in the district, including 56 campuses that serve elementary school students.

Seven of the elementary schools, however, are shutting down for good: Clayton B. Wire, Washington, Collis P. Huntington, Fruit Ridge, Joseph Bonnheim, Mark Hopkins and Maple.

The closures, tied to falling enrollment, will save the district about $1.1 million and help close a $5.6 million shortfall projected for the upcoming budget year.

In the fall, about 2,300 students will attend other campuses, many of them farther from their homes.

In a last-ditch move, a dozen students and their parents filed a lawsuit Monday asking the Sacramento-based U.S. District Court to block the district from shutting down the seven campuses.

They allege that the district illegally targeted the schools in neighborhoods with high concentrations of minority and low-income students who lack the political power of families in more affluent areas.

On Thursday, there appeared to be no public discussion of the lawsuit. There were, instead, farewells.

Moua noted that in the nearly 60 years of Wire Elementary's existence, generations of the same families attended the school.

The final day, she said, was difficult.

"I have been with the school (as principal) for three years," she said. "But I have bonded with the community."

In the fall, she said, she will become a site instruction coordinator at Bret Harte Elementary, four miles away.

Some family members attending the ceremony were angry about the closure.

"I don't like that at all," said Gwendolyn Brown, grandmother to a 6-year-old boy who just completed kindergarten. "He wanted to stay in the school."

Brown said her grandson adored his teacher and knows he won't see her in the fall. "He cries all the time," she said.

Another grandmother, Amanda Hinnen, said she isn't sure if the family's sister and brother will go to the same campus next year. "I don't think it's right that they are closing these schools."

Hinnen said she believes school board members "were really not worried" about closing campuses in the predominantly minority neighborhood.

"If it had been in a different area, they would have been more concerned about closing this many schools," she said.

Sacramento City Unified spokesman Gabe Ross said the closure decisions were difficult, but the district had to shut schools to save money now and in future years as enrollment shrinks.

"At its core, this difficult decision has been about matching the number of schools we operate with the number of students we serve," Ross said. "Our enrollment continues to decline, and operating schools that have more empty seats than full seats drains resources from other schools."

Two miles west of Wire, at Maple Elementary in south Sacramento, parents, children and workers said their goodbyes, too.

"This is where a lot of memories come from," said 12-year-old Angel Torres, as he prepared for his final day of attendance. "I made my first friends here."

As a sixth-grader, he is leaving the campus for good, no matter what. But he still was sad.

"I live on this street," said Angel's mother, Martha Torres. "The neighborhood kids come here to play in the afternoon, basketball and soccer. I feel very sad."

Angel Torres' two brothers, now teenagers, also attended Maple Elementary. Both came back later as campus volunteers.

Martha Torres' niece and two nephews also attended the school, which was built in 1952 and annexed to the district in 1958.

Just a few blocks to the south, the aging Campbell Soup plant stands as a testament to the struggling neighborhood. The last of 700 jobs at the plant are slated for elimination by July 1.

"I have been here since the spring of 2002," said Karen Sasamoto, whose part-time job in the school library is ending.

With the dual closures of the soup plant and the school, she said, "This neighborhood is going to be hammered."

Call The Bee's Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Loretta Kalb



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