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New buildings, math questions, new sports and more: La Jolla’s public schools discuss changes

New buildings, math curriculum concerns, a growing athletic program and a temporary principal were among the primary topics discussed at the La Jolla Cluster Association’s meeting Feb. 23.

The Cluster Association is an organization of parents, teachers and principals from the five public schools in La Jolla that are part of the San Diego Unified School District.

New address for La Jolla Elementary School

A new two-story building at La Jolla Elementary School, part of a $48 million site modernization that began in January 2021, is complete, and the school offices moved into the new space over the Presidents Day weekend.

As a result, the school’s address has changed from 1111 Marine St. to 7337 Girard Ave.

Principal Stephanie Hasselbrink said the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms will move into the new building in late March.

“Our whole-site modernization project is touching every part of our campus, either completely gutting or renovating … or rebuilding,” she said.

The entire project, which eventually will include a new kindergarten building, a lunch structure and an upper-field restroom, is expected to be finished in 2024.

“It’s just been really exciting,” Hasselbrink said.

Math curriculum concerns

Parents’ concerns about the district’s new math curriculum persist, nearly a year after a cluster subcommittee worked through its frustrations with the district.

Much of the concern about the initiative, called San Diego Enhanced Mathematics, has focused on access to particular class pathways and how students are placed in accelerated courses.

Subcommittee member Eren Efe, a cluster parent, said parents were notified this year of new changes, namely that the district might implement the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum.

Efe said she reviewed curriculum resources and determined that Illustrative Mathematics is “weak” compared with the rigor of the current curriculum. She said that could lead to advanced students learning under their potential.

Efe said parents she spoke with would like to continue with the current math curriculum, and she implored district officials at the cluster meeting to “consider giving [flexibility] to the clusters to use the materials that may be [a] better fit for the students in those schools.”

Merino said the district’s curriculum committee has not yet recommended a curriculum to the school board, and she advised Efe and other parents to wait until the recommendation is made.

Any new curriculum adopted would go into effect next school year.

Merino said there might be a “waiver process” for schools to use a different curriculum, but the entire “school team would have to support the decision,” with parent support as well.

Merino said she didn’t know whether schools would have to fund curriculum resources under such a waiver.

Cody Petterson, the new San Diego Unified board member for District C, which includes La Jolla, said “the board is very much committed to closing the achievement gap from the bottom up, not reducing achievement at the top to close the achievement gap.”

Middle school athletics

The district’s middle school athletics program, in its second year, has proved popular at La Jolla’s Muirlands Middle School. The program offers sports such as soccer, volleyball, basketball and flag football.

Cluster Association Chairwoman Megan DeMott said “we’re very happy that the school district has rolled out this amazing middle school athletics program.”

Its popularity, however, has led to issues with field space. La Jolla High School Principal Chuck Podhorsky said his school runs 28 sports and that teams are often sharing field space at Muirlands for practice.

DeMott said having lights at Muirlands might alleviate the problem, as practices for middle and high school students could be scheduled after dark.

San Diego Unified School District Area 5 Superintendent Mitzi Merino speaks at the La Jolla Cluster Association meeting Feb. 23.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

San Diego Unified Area 5 Superintendent Mitzi Merino said installing permanent lights would be costly and take too much time.

DeMott asked whether the district might approve rolling lights.

Merino said any lights, permanent or rolling, would need to have support from surrounding neighbors. She said she is working on a solution with district officials.

Other Cluster Association members suggested looking at other fields, such as at nearby La Jolla Elementary.

Muirlands Principal Jeff Luna said he is open to all ideas but prefers to keep the middle school students at Muirlands.

He said he is working with Podhorsky and LJHS athletic directors to try to solve the issue.

Acting principal at Bird Rock

Bird Rock Elementary School Principal Andi Frost has been on personal leave since January and will be gone for an undetermined time.

Jamie Jorgensen, who retired in June as principal of Hearst Elementary School in Del Cerro, is the acting principal at Bird Rock.

The school is “such a fun place to be,” Jorgensen said. “The kids are so smart. The teachers are so smart. They all work so hard. The office staff is great.”

Next school year

Merino said district teachers and administrators are beginning to develop school site plans for the upcoming school year.

“One of the things we think is really important for us to consider … [is] setting goals this year for students who are farther from justice, making sure we’re really thinking about the students who we haven’t yet served in our school,” she said.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Cluster Association next meets at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, April 20, in the Muirlands Middle School library, 1056 Nautilus St. To learn more, visit lajollacluster.com.



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