The architectural plans for the construction of Belmont #5 Elementary School were approved in 1987. Final construction of the building was finished in December 1995; eight years after the initial plan approval. The school won the California Alternative School Housing Award for its unique design and style. The school features a multi-colored playground, as well as classrooms with non-traditional school colors: maroon, yellow, green, and purple. Workstations were built between the classrooms to allow for shared cupboard and work space for teachers. The school is built for the 21st Century and is networked with a Local Area Network (LAN), connecting the classrooms electronically. The school has the capacity to broadcast internal and external student-produced videos.
The school board changed its procedure and named the school after a person still living in the community; this was a first for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Evelyn Thurman Gratts was a petite, elderly African-American woman. She attended Union Avenue Elementary School, Virgil Middle School, and Belmont High School. Mrs. Gratts passed away in February, 1996.
Her main interest in life was to make the Westlake community a safe and productive environment for all children. Her two major contributions to the community were Head Start and the opening of the first integrated swimming pool in the Echo Park area. In her lifetime, Westlake was home to people of many cultures, including Africa-Americans, Europeans, Asians, and Hispanics. Mrs. Gratts believed in a rewarding future for all children regardless of their national origin or ethnic heritage.