Year in Review: Los Banos opens newest elementary school

Enterprise staffDecember 27, 2013 

Mercey Springs Elementary School opened its doors in August, just in time for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The school is at the former Merced College, Los Banos Campus, in the 16000 block of Mercey Springs Road. The district kept one building from the former college campus, which previously was used as a preschool.

Mercey Springs Elementary, which has around 300 students, is expected to stem the district’s overcrowding problem. Los Banos Unified is expecting more than 10,000 students districtwide.

The naming of Los Banos’ newest elementary school was in the hands of the school board late last year.

An eight-member committee submitted three names - Mercey Springs Elementary, College Greens Elementary and Harvest Elementary - for consideration.

Paula Mastrangelo, area administrator for elementary education, coordinated the committee. She said the public submitted 32 names. Mastrangelo emphasized that “Mercey” springs would be the correct spelling of the new school even though some portions of the road are spelled “Mercy” without the “e.” Committee member Mary Gonzalez researched the name.

According to Gonzalez, the springs near Los Banos were shown to John N. Merci by American Indians near the turn of the 20th century. Merci, who was an immigrant, changed his name to Mercy. The name “Mercey” was later used as a name for the bottled water that came from the springs.

Eric Sowersby, who was named principal of Mercey Springs, said his goal was to get parents and students familiarized with Los Banos’ newest kindergarten through sixth-grade campus.

Sowersby, 37, grew up in Watsonville in a family that owned a rose nursery. He spent time in Los Banos, working for the Merced County Department of Agriculture.

“I liked my job, but I wanted something different,” he said in a February interview. “I wanted something that was going to keep me busy.”

Sowersby started substitute teaching and eventually landed a full-time gig in the primary grade levels. Even though he’s no longer in the classroom, Sowersby looks back fondly at his time teaching.

“It’s my 12th year in education. I really enjoyed teaching reading. It’s really neat to see a kid in first grade who is just barely getting into reading. They come a long way to becoming proficient on their own,” he said in February.

The city’s newest school opened the school year with an iPad for every student and digital textbooks.

The school can accommodate 446 students and employ two teachers per grade level. There were 307 students enrolled on the first day of school.

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