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The consolidation of Salvador and El Centro elementary schools in north Napa will result in one school featuring a new name, mascot and color scheme when it opens this August.

The new school, which will occupy the current El Centro campus, will be known as Willow Elementary. Its mascot will be the Owl, and the school colors will be willow green and copper.

“We wanted this to be a unification of two school sites,” Principal Pam Perkins explained to the school board last month, when she presented the new name and identity to trustees.

The school board on April 5 voted unanimously to approve the changes.

The Napa Valley Unified School District decided three years ago that Salvador and El Centro should be combined into one school due to declining enrollment.

The decision in 2015 meant all of Salvador’s students would eventually shift to El Centro’s campus, which has been undergoing considerable construction during the current school year so the new Willow Elementary is ready when the 2018-2019 school year begins come August.

This timetable means the district has only four months to finish everything. Perkins admitted the goal might seem ambitious given the furious construction activity currently underway on the campus.

“If you look at it, you might think, ‘Oh my gosh! How could that possibly happen?’” Perkins said in an interview last week.

The school district is constructing a new multi-purpose building along with two new classroom buildings, a new kindergarten wing, a new administration building, and new playgrounds.

Perkins, however, is confident that the district is “on track for meeting those deadlines.”

She said the concrete foundations are being put into place for the new buildings, and that the walls for some of them should be going up this month.

As for the new name and visual identity of Willow Elementary, Perkins said they began a process last spring to figure out what the new school should be called.

First, school officials sent out a survey to gain feedback from parents and others involved with both Salvador and El Centro.

The survey asked if the new school should bear one of the existing school names. About a hundred people responded, and most of them made it clear they didn’t like that idea.

Sixty people said “no” to keeping the El Centro name, and 91 rejected using the Salvador name.

Sixty-two said “yes” to renaming the combined school.

Following that, a 12-person task force was created to oversee the process for choosing a new name.

It consisted of retired El Centro teachers Jeff Johnson and Jim Sheldon, El Centro neighbor Sharyn Lindsey, Salvador alum Ashley Halliday, Salvador parents Melanie Merkner and Corinne Lavarias, El Centro parent Kim Brown, and Elba Marquez, whose children attend both schools.

The task force also included El Centro staff members Erika Ramirez and Kim Floyd,

Salvador staffer Shannon Hattyar, and Perkins, who was the principal of Salvador and was selected by the district to lead the new consolidated school.

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Perkins told the school board that in selecting Willow Elementary, the new school’s acronym will be “WE,” which represents “one school together.”

When NVUSD first proposed consolidating the two schools, parents from Salvador and El Centro raised concerns and objections to the idea.

Trustee Robb Felder noted at last week’s school board meeting that the process wasn’t always easy.

“It hasn’t been without its bumps as these kinds of things will have,” said Felder.

But, he added, the selection of the new name seemed to go smoothly.

In a presentation to the school board, the choice of Willow was explained in multiple ways.

“Willow—Green, like the leaves on the branches, symbolizes nature, fertility, and life. It also represents balance, learning, growth and harmony,” according to a document.

It further stated: “Our image of the willow tree represents the strength, stability and structure of the trunk, standing firm and withstanding the greatest of challenges. It also means imagination, intuition & vision.”

As for the new Owl mascot, one student was quoted as saying: “It’s wild like the mustang and strong like the wildcat. It also represents Wisdom – which is what we, as students, aspire to learn and develop here at school.”

Perkins said the references to mustang and wildcat came from the existing mascots at Salvador and El Centro, respectively.

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