Gene Breckner, Valley Press

Friday, February 7, 2003

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press Saturday, May 17, 2003.
Valley Press Staff Writer

LANCASTER - With the hot sun beating down on their cherubic little faces, nearly 600 elementary students at West Wind Elementary School converged in the courtyard Friday to help celebrate the commemorative completion of the permanent site.

While the school band brought down the house with a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner," invited guests and students scarcely seemed to mind the warmth, caught up in the excitement of a long-awaited day.

"This day has been a long time coming," said Principal Ann Hurd, taking the crowd back in time to 1990 when the Lancaster School District's temporary school site was known as Lancaster Elementary and housed a mere 128 students and only six teachers.

GRAND OPENING West Wind Elementary School third grade teacher Kim Shostak cools down her students prior to the start of the school's grand opening celebration Friday afternoon in Lancaster.

Among the many things Hurd boasted Friday afternoon were all of the changes the students and staff endured during the transition from portables to a permanent campus.

"Our goal was to maintain a high quality of teaching and learning," Hurd said. That effort resulted in the school scoring the highest in the district on state standardized tests during 2001.

"We have an outstanding elementary district," Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts said, adding that one of the first things developers ask about when they consider an area are the schools.

"We're among the top, what else can we say?" he said.

By the end of the 2002 school year the decade-old vision was close enough to completion to start moving in.

Designed by district architects Flewelling & Moody and modeled in part after the award-winning Amargosa Creek Middle School, the more than 40,000-square-foot facility is tucked comfortably into a residential neighborhood at 44044 36th St. West.

The campus includes a 5,401-square-foot multipurpose facility, a technology room, a library and more than 15,000 square feet of classroom space.

Funding for the $8 million school came from a $29 million General Obligation Bond approved by the voters after the March 1999 "Classrooms for Kids" bond campaign. Funds from the bond also are at work building a permanent school for Jack Northrop Elementary School as well as for construction projects at Piute, El Dorado, Sunnydale, Mariposa and Linda Verde schools. Although West Wind is K-6, the campus room was built in for a 20-student state funded Head Start preschool program, which re-opened two months ago after closing when construction began.

During Friday's ceremony the school received proclamations and good wishes from state Sen. William J. "Pete" Knight's and 5th District Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich's offices.

Mayor Roberts said he forgot his proclamation at the office but approached the podium with city councilman Andy Visokey and Vice Mayor Henry Hearns, announcing the mistake but saying, "Instead I chose to bring a quorum," enough people, he explained, to make a valid proclamation. Hearns made a motion.

"I officially proclaim this day the official opening day for West Wind School." Visokey seconded the motion.

"It's my pleasure to second that motion," Visokey said.

Roberts sealed the deal. "This is certainly your day," he said. "Thank you so much for being a great school in the Antelope Valley; we love all of you," Roberts said.

Among the many thanks and recognitions made Friday was dedication of the school's Wildcat mascot to its designer June McGinnis and a special thanks from Superintendent Dr. Stephen Gocke.

"As your superintendent it gives me honor to officially dedicate this beautiful West Wind School," which he did to the students, the parents, the teachers, the staff and the community. As the adults headed in for refreshments following the ceremony, the students, after dutifully putting their little blue chairs back in their respective classrooms, headed for the new green grassy play area where no little feet had gone before.

"Today our students are going to have the privilege to play on a field that we never dreamed of ," Hurd said.

"I'm glad we get grass," said Jessica, a fourth-grader, "because there's more shade and it's better to dance and do gymnastics."