None of the youngsters knew for certain why a 50-foot-wide image of the front of their school was projected Thursday night behind Sen. John McCain as he accepted the Republican Party presidential nomination. But there were plenty of theories.
Sixth-grader Joshua Popue offered the explanation most commonly being floated Friday both at the Irvine Avenue campus and in political circles: Somebody in the McCain campaign mistook Walter Reed Middle School for the military's troubled Walter Reed Army Medical Center when preparing the Republicans' high-tech video background wall.
"McCain messed up. He was talking about Walter Reed hospital, and he used our picture by mistake," said 11-year-old Joshua.
Skyla Swafford, 12, took a more charitable view.
"They picked us because our school is one of the nicer schools in the city. They keep it clean and sanitary," the seventh-grader suggested.
Classmate Cassidy Boland, 12, said her jaw dropped when she spied her school beaming out from the Republican National Convention arena in St. Paul, Minn.
"I was like, wow! It's not a lot of times that you see our school on TV. I called my friends right away. I was on the phone all night," Skyla said. "Most of my friends don't watch CNN and all of that. They didn't believe me -- they said I was just trying to make my school look cool."
It turns out plenty of Reed Middle School youngsters were watching, however.
Eduardo Morales, 11, was tuned in. "There was nothing else on TV last night," he said.
Brian Perez, 14, let out a yell when he saw the picture of the school's two-story concrete main building looming behind McCain.
"He was yelling, 'Walter Reed is on TV!' It was cool," said his brother, James Perez, 13.
FOR THE RECORD:
North Hollywood middle school: An article in Saturday's California section on an image of Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood being used as a backdrop during Sen. John McCain's address at the Republican National Convention misspelled the last name of Jim Pezzullo, who lives across from the school, as Pezzmullo.
School officials were not amused, however.
Principal Donna Tobin declined to comment because she was too busy with the first week of instruction, aides said. Later, however, she issued a statement declaring that "permission to use the front of our school for the Republican National Convention was not given by our school nor is the use of our school's picture an endorsement of any party or view."
By late afternoon, McCain's campaign was characterizing the use of the picture as a way of illustrating the candidate's call "for public education reforms that empower parents and students before bureaucrats and labor unions," as spokesman Tucker Bounds put it.
But Tamar Galatzan, who represents the North Hollywood area on the Los Angeles Board of Education, was having none of that. She said she was "flattered that Sen. McCain chose to use a school from my district as backdrop to his remarks" but that more federal resources for education seems "not a priority for the McCain/Palin ticket."
Galatzan, who has endorsed Barack Obama, said she watched parts of McCain's acceptance speech while she helped her son with first-grade reading homework but did not initially catch the Walter Reed Middle School picture.