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  • Renée C. Byer /

    Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary on Tuesday.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    Christina Machado, 11, walks alongside her mother, Patricia Rojas, and her brother, Julian Rojas, 5, at Pacific Elementary. Christina used to attend Clayton B. Wire, which was closed; it's Julian's first day of school.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    Gabriel Casillas, 9, left, and Vincent Martinez, 10, right, leave for their first day of school at Pacific Elementary on Tuesday. They used to attend Clayton B. Wire.

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Sac City schools open, minus seven elementary campuses

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 5, 2013 - 3:12 am

More than 40,000 Sacramento City Unified students attended the first day of school on Tuesday, including about 2,300 routed to new campuses after seven elementary school closures.

At Pacific Elementary in south Sacramento, the new site for hundreds of former Clayton B. Wire Elementary students, children lined up for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and for the start of school at 9 a.m.

Principal Shana Henry greeted the long line of students with a warm smile.

"I think the biggest challenge is finding ways to make sure the children are welcomed," Henry said.

Some students switching to Pacific said they were looking forward to attending the campus. The top two languages spoken at the diverse school are Spanish and Hmong.

But the mother of sixth-grader Cristina Machado said she thought her daughter was nervous about the change from Clayton B. Wire.

"She is not going to have the same friends," said the mother, Patricia Rojas. "I am worried."

Some parents opposed the elementary school closures. Among their complaints, they said that the alternate, longer routes to school would expose their children to traffic and security risks.

"The area is not safe and 44th Street is a nightmare with buses, the post office and traffic," said Karen Casillas, grandmother to fourth-grader Gabriel Casillas, 9, and his brother, sixth-grader Vincent Martinez, 10.

The boys said their old walk to Clayton B. Wire was just a few blocks. The new school is closer to a mile.

"For the rest of the year, they are not going to be walking," said Casillas, one of the dozen plaintiffs in a federal suit filed in June to block the Sacramento City Unified school closures. In July, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller denied their request for a preliminary injunction.

The district began preparing children for the closures in the spring, providing recommended travel routes, as well as adding some bus service and walking attendants.

Teams of campus representatives and parents met to discuss how best to bring students together and help families transition from closing schools to their new campuses, said Sue Hulsey, transition team administrator for the district.

The groups met regularly and talked about what programs they could recreate that "families held dear" at their former schools.

Pacific, Earl Warren and Ethel I. Baker elementary schools provided walking attendants to assist students before and after school, officials said.

Henry, Pacific's principal, described that effort as akin to a "walking school bus."

Eight receiving schools – Hollywood Park, H.W. Harkness, Oak Ridge, Father Keith B. Kenny, Peter Burnett, Ethel Phillips, Theodore Judah and William Land – added bus transportation to the closed schools' neighborhoods.

Hulsey said staff members Tuesday were at all 41 bus stops to welcome students.

In addition to Clayton B. Wire, the district after last school year closed Maple, Washington, Collis P. Huntington, Fruit Ridge, Joseph Bonnheim and Mark Hopkins.

Call The Bee's Loretta Kalb, (916) 321-1073. Follow her on Twitter @LorettaSacBee. Read her Report Card blog at

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