Groundbreaking for Ortiz Elementary happened on September 21, 2010. But the doors did not open until August 2014. The school cost $7.7 million. It was one of five schools that all opened at the same time.
Ortiz was built on the site of the former Arkansas Avenue School.
The Arkansas Avenue School District 1 was formed in 1922 and opened a two-room school building in September 1923.
Major additions were done over the years, ending with 28 classrooms, a library, a lunchroom, a gymnasium, and new office space.
School District 120 was annexed to USD 259 in 1964.
In April 1996, the Board of Education approved the closing of Arkansas Avenue School.
The school reopened in the fall of 1996 as the Gateway Alternative Program to help students expelled from the district.
Arkansas Elementary was torn down in 2009.
The school was named in honor of Wichitan, Martin Ortiz.
Martin Ortiz (1919-2009), an educator and founder of the Whittier College Center of Mexican American Affairs was born on November 10, 1919in Wichita, Kansas, to immigrant parents. He grew up in poverty as the oldest of 12 children in the El Huarache barrio on Old Lawrence Boulevard (Now Broadway). At the age of 13, he dropped out of school, after a teacher made him wear a sign that said, “I am retarded,” due to his struggles to speak English. He spent time riding the rails as a hobo and worked in various jobs that helped him improve his English. He returned to Wichita, enrolled at Wichita North High School, and became the first Latino student council president. In 1940, Ortiz graduated as class valedictorian.
Following his graduation, Ortiz’s plans to attend college were interrupted by World War II. In 1942, he joined the Marines and served as a language specialist and aerologist in the South Pacific for four years. After the war, Ortiz earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology at Whittier College and his master’s degree at George Williams College (now Aurora University).
Ortiz’s true passion was in teaching, and he returned to Whittier College in 1958 as a sociology instructor. In 1968, inspired by his experiences and a desire to empower Latino youth, Martin Ortiz established the Center of Mexican American Affairs at Whittier College. The center helped recruit Latino students, provide scholarships, and help them find jobs.
In 1994, the college established the Martin Ortiz Endowment Scholarship Fund to support Hispanic/Latino students. Ortiz also advised and consulted with organizations such as the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Ortiz died on January 12, 2009. He was 89. He is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.
Ortiz Elementary was the first school in Wichita to be named for a Latino Leader.
When Ortiz opened, architect Joe Johnson told the Wichita Eagle that, “Because the school’s gym doubles as storm shelter and children won’t have to huddle through storms in hallways and corridors, more areas of the building can feature bright, airy glass.”