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School finds what's in a name

March 29, 2001

Danette Goulet

COSTA MESA - They are forever being confused.

Substitute teachers arrive on the job late because they went to "Big

Kaiser" on Santa Ana Street, when they were supposed to be at "Little

Kaiser."

A grandparent is called to pick up a sick child and is terrified when

the office staff has never heard of the student, who in fact goes to

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school around the corner at "the other" Kaiser.

No more will this confusion exist, because the Newport-Mesa Unified

School Board gave Kaiser Primary Center permission Tuesday night to

change the name of the school back to it's original name -- Woodland

Elementary School.

"We're excited about it and there's something nice about going back to

the original name," said Kathryn Hofer, principal of the now Woodland

Elementary School.

There are some more serious reasons for the name change request and

some that are for mere convenience, Hofer said. But it is something that

has been brought up by parents every single year.

When the site originally opened in 1963 it was called Woodland

Elementary School, a name that was never officially changed, it seems.

A committee of parents hoping to change the name discovered this

recently when researching the schools' history.

During the 1988-89 school year two elementary schools, Lindbergh

School in Costa Mesa and Monte Vista School, closed due to a decrease in

enrollment. Students from those schools were sent to Kaiser Elementary

School, but there was not enough room for the kindergarten, Hofer said.

The kindergartners were put at the closed Woodland site, which was

dubbed Kaiser Primary Center to avoid the appearance that the district

was closing two schools and opening another, she said.

A year later the first grade was moved to Kaiser Primary and second

grade the year after that.

Gradually over the years, beginning with Hofer's appointment as the

first principal of the school seven year ago, "Little Kaiser" became it's

own entity.

Now, all the two campuses share is a Parent Faculty Organization.

"It's a long needed and exciting step to have the name changed back to

Woodland school," said Tammy Allee, the parent who chaired the committee

to change the name. "It gives, I think, ownership for the school itself

so it can stand by itself and be recognized for its own self. And I think

there's pride in that too for both the school and the students themselves

to be able to have their own school, with its own name."

For the office staff, the change will bring an end to many frustrating

and often potentially dangerous problems.

Kym Gordon, an office assistant at the school, said that the last time

she called 911 for the school, emergency vehicles nearly went to the

wrong place.

Despite her specifying "primary center" assistance still could very

easily have made the mistake of going to the more visible campus, she

added.

It is a mistake made every day during more mundane activities:

delivery services, guests, mail and a plethora of people every day.

Phone calls, Gordon said, are a problem all their own.

She spends most of her day dealing with student attendance because

parents are continually calling the wrong Kaiser.

Then there's all the calls meant for Kaiser Permanente. People often

are given the schools' number by the operator who types in Kaiser P,

Hofer said.

"It's humorous, but it's not when it happens every day," she said.

And so it is with great relief and excitement that work has already

begun to repaint the school marquee.

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