Education

Washington Elementary School set to reopen in 2016 in midtown Sacramento

Andrea Ramirez, 12, graduated from Washington Elementary School and was one of many volunteers helping paint a mural there before the school was shut down in 2013. Half of the mural went to William Land Elementary and the other half went to Theodore Judah Elementary, the two schools to which Washington students were reassigned.
Andrea Ramirez, 12, graduated from Washington Elementary School and was one of many volunteers helping paint a mural there before the school was shut down in 2013. Half of the mural went to William Land Elementary and the other half went to Theodore Judah Elementary, the two schools to which Washington students were reassigned. rbyer@sacbee.com

Washington Elementary School, one of seven campuses the Sacramento City Unified School District closed two years ago, will reopen in fall 2016.

The district plans to reopen Washington at 18th and E streets with a new focus on STEAM, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, according to Trustee Jay Hansen.

The midtown Sacramento campus will give priority to neighborhood students, he said. But there are too few neighborhood students to fill the campus, so district leaders hope the STEAM program will attract students from beyond the neighborhood – including children of commuters who work downtown.

On Thursday night, the school board will consider approving $180,000 in marketing and staffing costs in the 2015-16 fiscal year related to reopening Washington. Some of that money will pay for a principal and two other key positions to help prepare the campus for the fall 2016 opening.

“I think we’re going to have such a unique program that families that work downtown will want to drop their children off,” Hansen said. “We’ll have after-school programming. So I think it’s going to be a very popular school.”

Hansen and City Councilman Steve Hansen, who are not related, have been meeting for months with community members in an effort to transform the closed campus into a destination school. Both, along with Superintendent Jose Banda, plan to be at the school Thursday at 10:30 a.m. for a news conference announcing the reopening.

Banda called the Washington reopening “an opportunity to be able to serve our kids and … to draw kids from outside the district to reverse the trend” of declining enrollment.

Sacramento City Unified trustees closed Washington and six other elementary schools in 2013 to save money as enrollment declined. The move triggered grass-roots neighborhood opposition and a parents’ lawsuit in federal court. The schools, mainly in low-income neighborhoods, displaced about 2,300 students to other campuses.

In its final school year, Washington had 222 students and capacity for 706, according to a district report that served as a basis for board discussion. Neighborhood students were routed to Theodore Judah and William Land elementary schools after the closure.

Councilman Hansen, who represents the central city, said the reopening is a vital step in the years-long effort to add residents to the urban core. City leaders have set a goal of adding 10,000 units of housing to downtown and midtown over the next decade, and many of those units are already under construction or are in the planning stages.

“We have a lot of families who were thinking about leaving (midtown) because there wasn’t a school,” the councilman said. “This helps us retain those families, and it gives the housing we’re trying to build more of a lift.”

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