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Later start still possible for La Jolla schools? District meeting with parents to talk terms

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At the La Jolla Cluster Association meeting, Feb. 21, Fran Shimp (standing) leads a discussion about a potential screening of the documentary ‘Resilence.’
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Changes are happening at an accelerated pace when it comes to La Jolla High School and Muirlands Middle School’s plans for a later start time. In the days and weeks following the Feb. 6 announcement that La Jolla’s schools would not be participating in a pilot program to start at 8:30 a.m. next year, it came to light that the San Diego Unified School District may possibly renegotiate the terms of the pilot program to implement a later start time.

A proposal could be on the table as soon as the end of the week.

“Things went to turbo speed very quickly (after Feb. 6),” La Jolla Cluster Association (LJCA) president John May told La Jolla Light. The LJCA is comprised of parents, teachers and principals from La Jolla’s five public schools.

Although the Cluster Association has been advocating for a later start time for years, the most recent action was a boon to the cause. La Jolla High School and Muirlands Middle School drafted a pilot program to start La Jolla High School at 8:30 a.m. next year, and Muirlands Middle School around that same time. The School’s Site Governance Team (SGT) — comprised of teachers, parents and administrators — approved the pilot program on Jan. 17 and submitted it to the District for approval.

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However, a private notice went out shortly after stating the District had determined the pilot program was not “cost neutral” and could not be implemented (one administrator told the Light the District “jumped the gun” in issuing its denial). On Feb. 6, La Jolla High principal Chuck Podhosrsky and Muirlands Middle School principal Geof Martin sent an e-mail to parents announcing the decision.

“As soon as the e-mail went out, people started calling each other wondering what happened and what needed to happen next,” May explained. “Cluster parents quickly set up a meeting with the District about what is possible because there was a very specific ask (in the pilot program) and the answer for that specific ask was no. So they are looking at what perimeters need to change to get to yes.”

LJCA parent Sharon Miller reported at the LJCA meeting Feb. 21 at Muirlands Middle School that “we had a productive meeting with (San Diego Unified School District) departments of Transportation and Finance on Feb. 20” and that “we are hopeful we will find a way to get closer to the start time we had hoped for, but there are a lot of moving pieces that need to work together to make it happen.”

May added there would hopefully be a decision made as to what elements of the pilot program would need to be altered in order to get a later start time, and a counter-proposal issued at the end of February. From there, the counter-proposal would have to be approved by the appropriate departments, then District Superintendent Cindy Marten would bring it to the Board of Trustees for approval and then back to the schools SGTs for another vote.

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An update would be provided at the next LJCA meeting: 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at Muirlands Middle School, 1056 Nautilus St.

In other Cluster news:

LJ Elementary principal search update: District Area Superintendent Mitzi Merino reported: “The position was opened (and the job listing was posted online) and has now closed. There wasn’t … three to five strong candidates in the pool, but the team wanted to see the two strong candidates that did emerge. So the next phase in the process is the first round of interviews, then the community panel interviews.

“If the candidates pass all that, they will undergo a new process called ‘the walk-through,’ where they’ll tour a school with a similar demographic to La Jolla Elementary and narrate what they see and what they’re thinking … and if the person passes that, we will make an announcement.” She committed to keeping the Cluster updated on timelines and decisions.

Next movie screening: Spearheaded by LJCA parent Fran Shimp, the group is considering a screening of “Resilience,” a documentary about the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, and looks at how these experiences — which range from sexual abuse to parental divorce — can affect not just one’s mental health, but one’s physical health, later in life. The board agreed to purchase the rights to the film and plan a screening, with dates to be determined. To learn more about the ACE study, visit cdc.gov and search “Adverse Childhood Experiences.”

La Jolla Cluster Association next meets 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 at Muirlands Middle School, 1056 Nautilus St. lajollacluster.com