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La Jolla schools: Cluster reviews impact of local vacation rentals on enrollment and more school news

Christy Littlemore (speaking, center) leads a discussion on AB1731 that would regulate short-term vacation rentals in coastal communities, during the monthly meeting of La Jolla Cluster Association, Feb. 20, 2020 at Muirlands Middle School.
(Photo by Elisabeth Frausto)

During its monthly meeting, held Feb. 20, 2020 at Muirlands Middle School, the La Jolla Cluster Association (LJCA), discussed its stance on AB1731, a State Senate bill currently under committee revision. The bill, designed to regulate short-term vacation rentals (STVRs) in San Diego’s coastal communities, could impact the seemingly-correlated relationship between the increase in rental homes and the decrease in student enrollment figures.

Reviewing the latest numbers, the LJCA spiritedly debated how to proceed. LJCA is comprised of principals, teacher and parent representatives from the five La Jolla public schools.

“Ultimately, we want our senators and assembly people looking at how the increasing number of STVRs could be impacting our public schools’ enrollment and connect with the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). We want this data looked at and this to be part of the discussion,” said Muirlands Foundation president and LJCA parent member Christy Littlemore.

Leading the discussion, Littlemore cited numbers from the SDUSD website on declining enrollment at Muirlands Middle School, which went from 1,036 students in 2014 (when there were 145 STVRs in La Jolla), to 791 expected in fall 2020 (with January 2020 STVR numbers at 1,034).

“The concern of AB1731 is not school enrollment,” LJCA president Neha Bahadur told the Light after the meeting. “But as a school community, that seems to be something that may be related to low enrollment, and as enrollment declines we lose teachers, we lose programs … and our enrollment has been going down steadily the last few years.”

If STVRs are limited, Bahadur added, “it would open up more homes for families to move into the area.”

As it is, explained Littlemore, “families can’t find long-term rentals or buy into the market.” She wants the LJCA to “focus on enrollment impact and gather information” before it decides how to proceed.

A discussion ensued with some attendees expressing a desire to inform parents how various government propositions and bills affect public education funding, while others were reluctant to have LJCA formally take a stance on political issues. “We’ve worked really hard to bring everyone together, and we could lose our non-profit status if we get political,” cautioned La Jolla High parent and PTSA board member Fran Shimp.

Note: To read AB1731, visit bit.ly/trackab1731

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In other Cluster news:

Muirlands Middle School principal Geof Martin will retire at the end of the school year (June) to care for his parents and help run the family business in Alaska. He told those gathered: “The community at Muirlands is amazing,” and added he is confident the community panel to interview and select his successor will choose someone up to the task. First-round interviews begin March 23.

The Community Education reported that the screening of the documentary “Screenagers” last month was well-attended. The topic led LJCA to discuss student technology and social media use across the Cluster, along with the next steps needed to teach parents what they can do to limit or control teen screen-use. Some reps were in favor of a unified cluster policy on mobile phone use, while others argued in favor of letting individual schools and teachers decide.

• Fran Shimp reported that each school in La Jolla received $30,000 from the fundraising success of the 2019 La Jolla Art & Wine Festival.

• La Jolla Cluster Association has begun a search for an instructional focus for the elementary schools for the next school year.

La Jolla Cluster Association next meets 4:15 p.m. Thursday, March 19, 2020 at Muirlands Middle School, 1056 Nautilus St. lajollacluster.com

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Notes from the middle school parent coffee:

Muirlands Middle School principal Geof Martin and Muirlands Foundation president Christy Littlemore hosted a coffee at La Jolla Elementary School on Feb. 21, 2020 to discuss a range of topics with fifth-grade parents of incoming Muirlands students.

Topics included:

Geof Martin’s retirement: Martin discussed the reasons for his impending retirement and the process to find his replacement.

Later start time: The movement of the Muirlands’ start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8:35 a.m. is in its first year, and has already improved student attendance, which impacts learning. “Tardies are down 62 percent,” Martin explained, expressing pleasure at the preliminary results of the later start time.

New for 2020-21: Muirlands is doing away with the two-hour language arts block. Language arts will move to one hour (like the other core subjects). For the last hour of students’ schedules: “We’ve designed a wheel,” Martin said of the new model, which will rotate students in nine-week courses covering topics such as character education, nutrition, public speaking and performing arts.

Parents who want to get involved, impact school decision-making, or have input, can join the Muirlands Foundation or Site Governance Team, among other options.

Issues: Muirlands is looking into reassessing its process and placement for Seminar-identified students, as well as options for working parents and others who need to have their students at school well before the gates open at 8 a.m.

Upcoming 2020 events: Incoming students and parents are encouraged to come enjoy the ”Muirlands Rocks” event on April 10. Orientation for both students and parents will be Aug. 25; school begins Aug. 31.

For more information and to sign up for e-blasts, visit muirlandsfoundation.org