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j.o. ford elementary jim rogers

Richmond leaders hail completion of J.O. Ford Elementary construction project

on May 21, 2012

City and school district officials joined more than 100 residents and students to officially open the new facilities at J.O. Ford Elementary School in Richmond on Saturday, including new classrooms and playgrounds and modern, colorful facade.

“When our kids can go to a first-class, world-class facility like this,” Councilman Jim Rogers told the crowd, “we say we care about education, it’s important. The kids can see that we’re walking the walk.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony and pancake breakfast Saturday morning marked the realization of a more than 3-year project. The school’s newly rebuilt façade features sharp lines contrasted with smooth ovals, including a towering archway at the entrance. The buildings cradle a new playground and other nearby recreational facilities built with eco-friendly, nontoxic materials, school officials said. The color pattern features mild yellows and other rich earth tones.

Kids scampered about the playground and ballfield while speakers took turns at the lecturn Saturday, the school’s sharp new lines serving as a backdrop.

School District Superintendent Bruce Harter told the crowd the stunning architecture may be the most beautiful in all the district. “This will provide an environment essential to promote learning for the next 60 to 75 years,” Harter said

The school’s architecture not only enhances the surrounding community and will give elementary age children an educational foundation for high school and college, it will be part of a better future, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said.

“This is where our children will grow into better citizens,” McLaughlin said.

Several speakers also praised Principal Barbara Penny-James, who has lead the school during several challenging years as ongoing construction forced students and teachers to use temporary classrooms.

Penny-James paraphrased Nelson Mandela, telling the crowd that education is the best weapon for winning the future.

The money for the modernization of the school came from Measure J, passed by voters in 2005. The measure freed up $400 million in bond money to repair school facilities, improve classroom safety and technology, and relieve overcrowding shall the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Ford was a Measure J project with a construction budget at $18.7 million, which included $3.4 million in state funds, according to school coordinator Maria Resendiz.

J.O. Ford School was built in 1949, and was named after Jeston O. Ford, a city tax collector and assessor.

Rogers also highlighted the work of the city council, which in recent years has taken the unusual step of approving funds for school services—normally the province of school districts and the state—including helping to keep John F. Kennedy High School open despite budget cuts.

“There are no lines dividing the schools and the city,” Rogers said. “Our futures are joined together.”


  1. Don Gosney on May 22, 2012 at 3:30 am

    This was an outstanding community event. Seeing parents and their children coming together to be a part of this grand opening was an enjoyable and heartfelt inspiration.

    While the grown-ups were waxing eloquent with their speeches many of the children could be seen directly behind them enjoying the state-of-the-art play equipment. The joy and enthusiasm of these children showed me that there’s a clear need for recreational opportunities for our youth outside of the schools.

    Sadly, play areas like this have to remain behind closed fences on weekends and after school. The liability issues, the potential for vandalism and the cost of adult supervision is more than our cash strapped schools can endure. The days of our youth being able to use their school grounds after hours is long gone. Our neighborhoods don’t have enough neighborhood parks for our youth and those few parks that do exist don’t have nice facilities on them for the children to use.

    Starting off this event was a pancake breakfast available for all at no cost. Something very noticeable was that when the children went to the buffet they returned with plates filled not with cookies, chocolate chip cupcakes or other foods that adults might gorge themselves on. Their plates were heaped with fresh fruit. This was encouraging.

    This beautiful new school can only be a source of pride and inspiration for this community. Designed by Sally Swanson Architects, the beautiful color combinations both inside and out were a source of pride for the people of this community. The tiled roofs are an added bonus that helps set this house of education apart from the normal school buildings we see so often.

    When our children and their parents are offered an educational facility they can be proud of, their interest in education soars. When we pique the interest of the children at an early age–and maintain the support from their parents–we have a greater chance of seeing these young people become model citizens and, as they grow older, complete their education and matriculate to top tier colleges and universities.

    The people of this community need to hold their collective heads high for their willingness to do what’s necessary to provide their children with educational opportunities like this new school.

  2. deloiswilkins on May 22, 2012 at 3:58 am

    I too was very skeptical before entering into an online program from a High Speed Universities but have been very surprised at how much I have learned. They offers a wide variety of learning resources and very comprehensive study guides in all of their courses.

  3. Richard R Poe on May 22, 2012 at 5:53 am

    It’s a beautiful thing, when Richmond as a community puts Richmond first. I’m hopeful that as a community, Richmond will come together, putting education first, as a key element to the health of our community.
    With the huge advantage, Richmond has in its geographical location , with the finest educational region in the world , there is zero reason that all businesses and the community shouldn’t come together to create the environment were Richmond becomes a place young couples want to move to for their children to get a good education.
    Beyond a beautiful building, we need to create the beautiful minds. With LBNL coming to Richmond to the energy corridor, what can we do to have the UC system expand in Richmond and reach our kids ?
    Let’s create a business friendly atmosphere, were companies want to expand in Richmond , come to Richmond , and the employees want to live.

  4. Victoria Mason on May 22, 2012 at 5:54 am

    Though I now live in Seattle, I was raised in Richmond. My parents built a house on Humphrey Avenue because it was within walking distance of Ford Elementary, Downer Jr High, and Richmond High. When I returned for a visit several years ago I was dismayed to see the old JO Ford torn down. However, seeing the new school later near completion was an elating experience. It truly is the most beautiful elementary school I have ever seen! It makes me proud that Richmond has prioritized its children as deserving of this great campus. I can’t wait to come back and tour the grounds of my alma mater. Congratulations on a job well done from a native daughter!

  5. Anonymous on May 24, 2012 at 10:41 am

    A beautiful school indeed! And after all the hard work and the $22 million spent, I hope it is appreciated and not vandalized & ruined.

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