Hundreds Celebrate Chavez School Opening

Hundreds of students, parents, school staff and community leaders this week celebrated the opening of Long Beach’s first new downtown school in five years, Cesar Chavez Elementary School. Christine Chavez Delgado, the granddaughter of labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, encouraged students to embrace her grandfather’s ideals. "He would want to be remembered as a person who inspired others, especially students, to dream big," Delgado said. She praised school and community leaders for making the school a reality. "The strong leadership you have all provided for working families and for expanding educational opportunities is a model for other communities," Delgado said. When her grandfather was alive, she worked closely with him to spread the word about the struggles of California’s farm workers. At the celebration, bouquets of red and green balloons adorned the entire campus. A large crowd gathered in the gymnasium, where banners were emblazoned with Chavez’s trademark ¡Sí, Se Puede! (Yes, We Can!) Poly High School’s Jazz Band filled the gym with smooth sounds. Children sang songs and told stories about Cesar Chavez. Later, the smell of barbecued hamburgers beckoned the audience to lunch in the adjacent Cesar Chavez Park. The festivities marked the completion of a $15 million construction project that is allowing more neighborhood children to attend school closer to home. Located at Broadway Street and Golden Avenue, the school opened this fall to 380 students in kindergarten through fifth grade with more expected. The school has formed a partnership with The Children’s Clinic, which is providing a community health center on campus, offering medical care and specialty referrals for children and adults from throughout the neighborhood. The clinic also is offering health education, health promotion, disease prevention and social services. A partnership with adjacent Cesar Chavez Park allows the public to use the school’s gymnasium on weekends and after 4 p.m. weekdays, in exchange for sectioning off a portion of the park as a playground during school hours. "The students really love having this wonderful, green, spacious area to play in," Chavez Principal Susan Rivard said. "We’re creating a school that I believe Cesar Chavez would be proud of." Built on 2.6 acres, Chavez Elementary offers 65,000 square feet of facilities, including gleaming, energy efficient classrooms, a workroom between every two classrooms and a computer lab and a large gymnasium. The school also will partner with the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific to provide field trips and science lessons to students. Funding for the school came from local Measure A school construction and modernization bonds approved overwhelmingly by voters in 1999. The new school is part of the Long Beach Unified School District’s largest construction and modernization campaign in half a century. The beautiful downtown campus was developed in close cooperation with the City of Long Beach. It provides urgently needed classrooms close to where students live.