Name for New Middle School in Natomas Chosen

Principal Marnie Lynch addresses the Natomas Unified school board Wednesday night. / Photo: E. Sanchez

Principal Marnie Lynch addresses the Natomas Unified school board Wednesday night. / Photo: E. Sanchez

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

The Natomas Unified school board on Wednesday voted unanimously to christen a new school opening in fall as Natomas Gateways Middle School.

School board trustees also approved a $1.3 million operating budget for the 2014-15 school year – an amount that district officials hailed as a bargain. Natomas Gateways Middle School will be housed on the Natomas High School campus.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Principal Marnie Lynch said after the vote. “That’s why I have a smile on my face.”

A school names committee, which included a historian, parents and district staff, was charged with recommending three possible school names to the board – Natomas Gateways Middle School, Natomas Pathways Middle School and Francis Truxel Middle School.

The committee – which met three times in March and April – settled on the three names drawing from results of on an online survey of 5th through 12th graders on the Natomas Unified website and a running list of possible school names collected between 1993 and 2003. Natomas Academy Middle School, Natomas Academy of Sciences and Nisenan Middle School were contenders which did not make the final list.

The Natomas Pathways Middle School name was recommended partly because it would have honored the “college and career pathways” that the new middle school will create, according to a staff report. At least one board member voiced concern the name might be confused with the existing Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep Middle School.

And Francis Truxel Middle School was a finalist because he was “a wonderful man,” Anne Z. Ofsink, a member of the naming committee and president of the Natomas Historical Society said.

Truxel, who died in 1966, was an engineer for the old Natomas Company. The Natomas Company helped reclaim Natomas swampland by building levees along the Sacramento River and canals that carried water for farming purposes in 1914-1916, Ofsink said. Truxel Road, which borders Natomas High to the west, is named after Francis Truxel.

In the end, school board members took less than 10 minutes to choose a name.

The $1.3 million operating budget for staffing and instruction at the new school represents only $400,000 in new dollars, Superintendent Chris Evans said. It does not include the cost of the facility, which was not available Wednesday night.

Evans said the back-to-back 5-0 votes signaled “we have all the elements to move ahead” with the new school.

Natomas Gateways Middle School will be so popular, he added, “I do believe (it) is going to draw kids from other districts as well,” not just Natomas.

The new school is slated to offer college and career pathways to an estimated 180 seventh graders, with a curriculum that will include a Junior Doctors Academy and an Automation/Robotics Academy.

“The second year we’ll have about 400 7th and 8th graders, when the 7th graders become 8th graders,” said Lynch.

The school will be housed in what is currently Building K at Natomas High School. Building K will have 15 classrooms; another classroom inside will serve as the Natomas Gateways Middle School office, according to Lynch. The program will also share some on-campus facilities with high schoolers.

Construction of a stand-alone middle school in south Natomas would have cost untold millions, said Jim Sanders, the district’s public information officer. And, he reminded, “We have a building moratorium in South Natomas.”

Natomas Unified trustees discuss the school district's newest school on Wednesday, April 9. / Photo: E. Sanchez

Natomas Unified trustees discuss the school district’s newest school on Wednesday, April 9. / Photo: E. Sanchez

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