El Sereno Middle School | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Rosalind Sagara/L.A. Conservancy

El Sereno Middle School

The campus of today’s El Sereno Middle School, located at the corner of Eastern Avenue and Gambier Street in the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno, originated in the nineteenth century and has served a number of schools and grade levels throughout its history. What began as the Farmdale School District served by a 1899 wood-frame schoolhouse was annexed by LAUSD in 1915. 

The name of the campus changed from the Farmdale School to El Sereno Area High School in 1936, before being renamed Woodrow Wilson High School in 1937. 

Wilson High School garnered national attention for the role it, along with four other Los Angeles high schools, played in the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts) of March 1968. 

Since 1969, following the relocation of Wilson High, this campus has been home to El Sereno Middle School.

In 2018, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the five Walkout schools, including El Sereno Middle School, on America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list.

With its range of architectural styles and building types, the campus has been identified as eligible for listing in the National Register. The campus is home to the Old Farmdale School, which opened in 1899 to serve what was then the Farmdale School District. The Queen Anne-style structure is a rare resource type: it is one of only three remaining one- and two-story wood-frame schoolhouses in LAUSD.  It was relocated on the same campus, restored, and rededicated as a museum in 1976.

The Italian Renaissance Revival-style Administration Building anchors the campus. Completed in 1940, the Administration Building features prominent arched windows, terra cotta detailing, and bracketed eaves under a clay tile roof.  Additional buildings from the 1930s and '40s contribute to the core of the campus, including the Girls Physical Education Building and Craft Building 1 (1937), Cafeteria (1938), Craft Building 2 (1939), and Boys Gymnasium (1941). The rear of the campus also contains postwar-era wood-frame bungalows that today serve a variety of uses, including a dental clinic.

1968 East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts) and Wilson High School

The campus of today’s El Sereno Middle School, which previously served as Wilson High School from 1937 through 1969, was the site of an unplanned walkout on Friday, March 1, 1968 that played a direct role in the subsequent East L.A. Walkouts that commenced the following week.

During the previous year, student organizers at Lincoln, Garfield, Roosevelt and Belmont high schools had formed Blowout Committees and worked on a plan to present a series of demands to the school board, with the threat of a walkout, in 1967. Wilson High came on board with its own Blowout Committee a little later than the others. 

It was the abrupt cancellation of the school play “Barefoot in the Park,” over concerns the romantic comedy was too risqué, that led to a mass walkout of approximately 500 students at Wilson High on March 1.

While the original plan to present a series of demands to the school board had lost its focus, the spontaneous reaction of the protesting students at Wilson High on March 1, 1968 led the organizers of the central Blowout Committee to call for walkouts at the remaining schools.  These walkouts took place simultaneously on Tuesday, March 5, with the first organized “official” walkouts at Garfield, Roosevelt, and Lincoln high schools.

The Walkouts continued throughout the week, with the students at various high schools protesting in solidarity.  On March 11, student body representatives from Wilson High and the other original schools associated with the Blowout Committees, in addition to Jefferson, Hamilton, and Marshall high schools, spoke at a special meeting before the LAUSD Board of Education to present a list of thirty-six demands.  At a school board meeting on March 12, Wilson High School student Peter Rodriguez waved his intact draft card to rebut authorities' claims that the protests were inspired by communism.

On March 26, 1968, the LAUSD Board of Education met in the packed auditorium at Lincoln High to discuss the Eastside high school students’ demands with students, parents, and community members. At this meeting, students representing each of the Eastside high schools transferred their leadership to the designated adult leaders of the Educational Issues Coordinating Committee (EICC), who would continue the effort to improve the conditions and quality of education for Chicanx students in the Eastside.

Photo by Laura Dominguez/L.A. Conservancy

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