NEWS RELEASE: Franklin Elementary Celebrates 90th Anniversary Ahead of Major Renovation

Posted: Saturday, April 6th 2019


The past meets the future as Franklin Elementary School celebrates its cherished long history and prepares to modernize its 90-year-old campus. Having served generations of San Diegans from in and around Kensington and City Heights since 1929, the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Arts & Mathematics) magnet school celebrated its 90th anniversary on Saturday, April 6.

Current and former students, faculty, principals, and staff enjoyed an open tour of the school grounds, classrooms, student art displays, historical exhibits, and gardens, followed by a showing of the Franklin Elementary Memories DVD. San Diego Unified Board President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne and Congresswoman Susan Davis addressed those in attendance. Rev. Darryl Kistler of the Kensington Community Church gave an invocation, and Principal Don Whisman presented the welcome address.

Bob Holmes, a former beloved teacher by the more than 1,100 students he taught over the course of his 33 years at Franklin, served as the guest of honor for the historical celebration. Dixie Blake, chair of the Franklin Elementary 90th Anniversary Committee, said, “Many former students are coming just to see him. He is just one of those teachers that was everyone’s favorite.” Holmes began teaching at Franklin in 1957 as a sixth-grade teacher. At 91 years old, he still jogs regularly and is a member of the Senior Olympics Program.  

Generations of alumni families were in attendance. Among them, 95-year-old Elizabeth Meyer, an alumnus from 1936, was accompanied by her son and grandson, also former Franklin students. Several renowned actors, professional athletes, artists, musicians, and public officials also graduated from Franklin Elementary, including:

·         Christian Hoff, who won a Tony for his Broadway performance in “Jersey Boys” 

·         Victor Buono, who appeared in numerous TV shows (“Batman,” “Wild, Wild West”) and films (“Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”) 

·         Sarah Airriess, who won awards for her graphic animation artwork on the “Wreck-It Ralph” films 

·         Ralph Havens, who was on the 1972 Olympic Luge team 

·         Mary Kathryn (Mickey) Wright, who in 2000 was ranked as the ninth greatest golfer of all time and the top woman golfer 

·         Dr. William (Bill) Frazier McColl, who played NFL defensive end and tight end with the Chicago Bears football team 

·         Andy Messersmith, who was a four-time All-Star baseball player in the 1960s and ‘70s 

·         Bill Kolender, who was Chief of the San Diego Police Department and Sheriff of San Diego 

Franklin Elementary became a STEAM Magnet School in 2013.  Since then, enrollment has steadily increased; over the past five years by more than 50 percent. 

Students work together in project-based STEAM learning throughout the year during and after school. Extracurricular STEAM activities include everything from robotics, drama and Science Olympiad to violin and math/chess club.  

Whisman, principal of Franklin, attributes much of the school’s success to an engaged community. 

“We have an active PTA with over 160 members and 60 community members who volunteer at the school, and the Friends of Franklin Foundation raises funds to bolster Franklin’s STEAM programs,” Whisman said. 

Although the school has gone through prior modernizations, there are many distinctive architectural features that remain as testament to its earlier days. A tour of the campus reveals a set of unique carved doors that graced the front of the school. The façade in the front of the school displays incorporated glass bricks. There is a pond with an attached fountain in the shape of a frog where kindergarteners raised tadpoles in that is no longer in use. Meander through the hallways and view the blue ceramic tile fountain areas. Finally, there are two historic trees: an orchid that was planted when the school was founded, and a Chinese elm in the courtyard where children sat and played. 

While the newest renovation of Franklin Elementary is still in the design phase, the plans include:  replacement of old steel windows, repairs to interior and exterior finishes, and updates to restrooms. A new public address system will be added, and plumbing will be repaired or replaced where needed. The campus will also be improved by repairing sidewalks and ramps, modifying the existing security fence, and installing additional fencing. The modernization construction is slated to begin in November 2020, with an estimated cost of $35 million. 

San Diego Unified’s capital projects are funded by San Diego Unified’s Propositions S and Z, which are local bond measures approved by San Diego voters to repair, renovate and revitalize neighborhood schools. In addition to renovation and replacement, bond projects include classroom technology, facilities to support College, Career and Technical Education, classroom air conditioning, safety and security upgrades, and other facilities improvements at traditional and public charter schools throughout San Diego Unified.  

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Media Contact: Maureen Magee, Communications Director, (619) 318-7930

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