In the end, they went out as Doyle Park Dragons.
With balloons and flowers, hugs and tears, about 60 students and their teachers left their Sonoma Avenue campus for the last time Thursday. Their departure, which drew nearly two dozen supporters to cheer them on, marked the closing of a 62-year-old neighborhood school overtaken by the era of charters and school choice.
Officially Doyle Park School ceased to exist last summer, when most of the campus became home to the new Santa Rosa French-American Charter School. Those Doyle Park students who chose to return for a final year learned they now were enrolled at a satellite campus of nearby Brook Hill School.
Doyle Park Elementary School Closure
However, the advancement certificates issued to the 14 sixth-graders this week proclaim their school is "Doyle Park," said teacher Bob Grove.
"They were Dragons in their hearts," said Grove, who hugged virtually every student from his fifth-sixth combination class outside the school entrance Thursday.
Doyle Park was born in the midst of the Baby Boom, when Santa Rosa needed several new campuses to accommodate a rapidly growing city. Its death comes at a time when large numbers of residents are choosing to send their children across town to receive an education.
"It was a neighborhood school at a time when we had neighborhood schools," said historian and Press Democrat columnist Gaye LeBaron, whose children attended Doyle Park.
In 1950, the year before Doyle Park was built, Santa Rosa had nearly 18,000 residents. By 1970 the city's population had grown to 50,000.
To accommodate the post-World War II growth, the school district built Proctor Terrace School in the late 1940s and Doyle Park and Steele Lane in the 1950s. Those schools joined such existing campuses as Lincoln, Burbank and Fremont.
Former Santa Rosa councilman John Sawyer attended Doyle Park in the 1960s. In a phone interview Thursday, he recalled the fun of annual carnivals, the pride of being a sixth-grade crossing guard on then two-lane Sonoma Avenue and the long-standing ties he built with classmates.