Gillispie School plans extension for ‘The Sandbox’: A first phase will renovate early childhood classrooms

An application was filed with the City of San Diego for the Gillispie School to renovate its newly acquired building space next to its main campus, and upgrade some of its kindergarten classrooms, to improve student programming.

Work will be completed in two parts, the first of which would be underway in summer 2019.

The application states the school would like to amend its Coastal Development Permit to 1) add existing commercial lots to its existing school lots, 2) remodel a school building to add new programs, 3) add new signage, and 4) re-stripe its parking lot at 7380 Girard Ave.

The project is undergoing environmental review, and a public hearing before local community groups and the San Diego Planning Commission has not yet been scheduled.

Head of School Alison Fleming explained the first phase of the project involves renovating the early childhood and kindergarten classrooms in the main building at 7380 Girard Ave. to allow for increased indoor square footage and greater exposure to natural light. A workspace and lounge for faculty will also be upgraded.

“In an ideal world, most of this construction phase would be completed over the upcoming summer (2019),” she said.

The second phase involves the newly acquired 7,000 square-foot property (one building that previously housed the Art Shed studio space and Design Studio West) and 10,000-square-foot parking lot, next to the school at 7420-7426 Girard Ave., which the school purchased in March.

Collectively, this space will be known as “The Sandbox,” and while the interior will be “transformed,” the exterior will only be “cosmetically enhanced,” Fleming said.

“The Sandbox will house a performance and meeting space, music and recording studios, science lab and makerspace, library/media center, and a serving kitchen with outdoor seating,” she explained. “More than just housing new spaces for our students, The Sandbox will foster a mindset of collaboration and experimentation in spaces that are flexible, adaptable and inviting, and open to interpretation and creativity, where students can get in the zone, and where teachers and students can experiment and take risks. This builds upon the Gillispie educational philosophy of learning by doing.”

Included in the acquisition of the new property are 15 additional parking spaces for teachers and staff, which Fleming said “will provide welcome alleviation of some of the demand for street parking.”

This phase of work is still in the permitting stage, and when complete, a start date for construction will be set. But Fleming said the goal is for students to be in The Sandbox by September 2020.

“The project will be paid for mostly through philanthropic gifts,” she said. “Work is being done with architects and space planners to finalize the plans. Once this is completed, a general contractor will be hired and cost estimates will be finalized.”

About Gillispie School

The private school was established in 1933 and serves 260 students in preschool to sixth grade.

It started as a small cottage where hot meals were served to the children of single mothers and working parents in La Jolla during the Great Depression.

The school broke ground on its current site in 1953, building out further in the 1980s.

Today, the two-acre campus includes an Early Childhood Center with playground; a stand-alone cottage for Kindergarten; a two-story elementary building connected to a gymnasium; an outdoor sport court and a sports field; a fine arts center and library; and two historical bungalows that serve as an Art Atelier and a Science hub, connected by a sustainable learning garden.