Walking to school will soon be safer as Elk Grove elementary breaks ground for new campus

Students at Franklin Elementary in Elk Grove will soon have a new school – and a safer walk to get there

A ceremony on Tuesday broke ground for the new location, about a mile from the current campus at Hood Franklin Road and Franklin Boulevard.

Built in 1955, Franklin is one of the oldest elementary schools in the city. It was renovated in 1994, but it lacks the the appropriate infrastructure or safe ways for children to walk and bike to school, according to a news release from Elk Grove Unified School District.

“There are really aren’t any sidewalks in that area, and there really is only one main entrance into the school,” said district spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton. “Other schools might have a drop-off area, and ways to enter the community from different locations. But there is really no safe route to school. The majority of parents drive or students take the bus.”

Parents have long been concerned about the lack of sidewalks and the parking-lot traffic that bleeds into the street.

Today, Franklin Elementary is still surrounded by farmland. It’s adjacent to a historic cemetery where Alexander Hamilton Willard, one the last surviving members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is buried.

But Elk Grove’s new housing developments began encroaching on the farmland. Children in those new homes were assigned to attend Franklin Elementary, the nearest school.

The majority of Franklin students live closer to the new school site, at Dorcey Drive and Gilliam Way, Pinkerton said.

She said additional renovations to the current site would have taken 10 years, given all the upgrades needed. Students will move to the new school in fall 2020.

The project will cost $32 million, with funding approved in 2018.

Parent Randa ElMoazzen, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday with more than 100 parents, school staff members and children, said she has long advocated for the new school.

“We live only three minutes away from the school, but if we don’t leave the house at 7:30, my kids will be late for their 8 o’clock bell,” said ElMoazzen.

Starting in 2020, ElMoazzen will need to walk only five minutes on a pathway to reach the new site. Her son will be among the first graduating sixth-grade class there.

“We are fortunate that the school board listened to the parents,” she said. “They really took in all of the concerns we had, and I very much felt like we were heard. A lot of parents appreciated that.”

Today, Franklin Elementary serves nearly 800 students. Most live in the southwest suburbs of Elk Grove, which have grown quickly over the last several years. The new school will serve approximately 1,100 students and will likely remain on its traditional school year calendar.

It is unclear what will happen with the old Franklin Elementary site.

According to the school’s website, Franklin School District was formed in 1859 and absorbed smaller schools in what subsequently became the southwest region of Elk Grove Unified School District. Franklin Elementary was opened as Franklin Academy, with a mission to serve the area’s farm students, including those in high school.

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Students, parents, staff members and officials attend a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for a new Franklin Elementary campus in Elk Grove. The site at Dorcey and Gilliam drives is scheduled to open in fall 2020. Elk Grove Unified School District
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Sawsan Morrar covers school accountability and culture for The Sacramento Bee. She grew up in Sacramento and is an alumna of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She previously freelanced for various publications including The Washington Post, Vice, KQED and Capital Public Radio.