Back to (private) school 2019: Changes underway at La Jolla campuses

The new Head of Bishop’s School, Ron Kim, greets students during his installation and student matriculation ceremony, Aug. 21
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Editor’s note: Last week the Light brought you a back-to-school roundup of all that’s new for the Class of 2020 at La Jolla’s public schools. This week, we caught up with the principals at La Jolla’s private schools to learn the latest news on their campuses:

The Bishop’s School, 7607 La Jolla Blvd.

For the first time in the school’s 110-year history, The Bishop’s School matriculation ceremony was held at the same time as the installation of a new Head of School — its 12th — Ron Kim.

Barbara Edwards, president of the board of trustees, explained that matriculation is an academic tradition of formally marking a student’s entry into a school and Bishop’s was welcoming 156 new students.

“When they matriculate, students are not only recognized as members of a particular school, they commit to uphold that communities’ values,” she said. “So it’s fitting that Ron’s installation and the new student’s matriculation coincide.”

At the Aug. 21 ceremony, Kim spoke to students.

“Institutions like this one must continue to make possible, dreams that are bigger than ourselves,” he said. “All of us gathered here today reinforce the belief in this place and in each other. I hope that this institution will provide for all of us, a re-commitment to all that it stands for, and I pledge to hold firm to a moral compass to guide me in the challenges ahead — foreseen and unforeseen.”

Greeting the 62 sixth-graders, 39 seventh-graders, 8 eighth-graders, 39 ninth-graders, eight 10-to 12-graders from 67 schools, he said: “You are an amazing and diverse group of young people, and you join an equally talented and interesting student body. I look forward to starting our Bishop’s experience together.”

Stella Maris Academy, 7654 Herschel Ave.

Over the summer, Stella Maris Academy improved its grounds, including a renovation of its main office.

Father Patrick Mulcahy — pastor of its affiliated Catholic Church, Mary, Star of the Sea — said his ear-to-ear smile at a small gathering of parents and students the morning of Aug. 21 was because “I’m really excited about this new school year … of grace.”

He went on to explain: “We have done some work on the school yards — replacing some ramps and rails to make it more accessible for students — but the front office face-lift was necessary because we know first impressions are important and we wanted to make the office welcoming. So, the front area was renovated and the principal’s office was moved to a new location — all to convey that we are here and at your service. We want to make this an awesome year and welcome everyone who comes here.”

He then held a blessing for the new office, followed by a ribbon cutting.

Once inside, principal Francie Moss further updated the Light: “We are bringing more art to this front office space; we have a new fourth and fifth grade teacher and a Spanish teacher from Madrid; and we’ve been working all summer to spread the word and increase our enrollment.

“We boosted our numbers from 112 students in July to 148 today. We also have new signage on Torrey Pines Road to let people know we are here.”

The Gillispie School, 7380 Girard Ave.

With expected completion around Labor Day, Gillispie will unveil a new Kindergarten facility this year. Construction began over the summer on the first of a two-part project on the Fay Avenue-side of campus to increase the indoor classroom square footage.

Said Principal Alison Fleming of Phase One: “Our circa 1970s Early Childhood classrooms have been transformed, expanding teaching space and bringing in elements that reflect the Reggio Emilia philosophy followed by our Early Childhood faculty in their teaching.

“Our two newly relocated Kindergarten classrooms provide students with more learning and play space and a communal ‘tinker-space’ between the classrooms where Kindergartners can engage in group project work such as science experiments and creative exploration.

“Additionally, this transformative renovation added two Early Childhood classrooms, enabling us to serve a community need for quality education at an early age and increase our enrollment for a more diverse student body.”

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 spring 2018.

A construction start date has not been announced, but Fleming said she hopes to have that space available for students by 2020.

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.

La Jolla Country Day School, 9490 Genesee Ave.

In addition to changes to its lower school facilities and installation of solar panels, La Jolla Country Day will see changes in programming due to two new partnerships.

School spokesperson Jennifer Fogarty said the Lower School has been renovated to add 3,000 square feet of hardwood to the exteriors, and new flexible furniture on the interior.

Further, “to continue our long-standing commitment to sustainability, we began expanding our solar panels from 80kW to 499kW to make the system capable of supplying 80 percent of our electrical needs and significantly reducing our carbon footprint.”

The school is also developing a “mental wellness” curriculum in partnership with Rady Children’s Hospital and will continue its partnership with the San Diego Diplomacy Council.

“In September, La Jolla Country Day School will accept the ‘Partner Agency of the Year’ award from the San Diego Diplomacy Council at the regional summit, which will convene 250 international affairs experts, business and civic leaders, diplomats, U.S. Department of State representatives and exchange alumni to discuss innovation, citizen diplomacy and collaboration in our bi-national region,” Fogarty said.

All Hallows Academy, 2390 Nautilus St.

A new playground structure at All Hallows Academy has been installed to encourage and support physical and mental development. Principal Mary Skeen told the Light via e-mail: “We were looking to create an environment where children could be challenged, creative, and playful in a safe environment. This one includes a Lava Leap, where students leap from one pod to another without touching the ground to help improve balance, coordination, agility and strength. The Mighty Max, rope wall climber, and using the Wall Clinger, students can traverse between two parallel walls.

“We also have a music section with drums, Titian Chimes, and three xylophones in different keys. It also includes interactive tactile memory game stations, climbing ropes, tunnel slides, and so much more!

“The Adventure Glider will help students learn to work together while developing their upper and lower bodies and their core and balance to keep the glider moving.”

The Evans School, 6510 La Jolla Scenic Drive South

Similar to the Transitional Kindergarten program offered at traditional public schools, the Evans School will launch its “Junior Kindergarten” program to “best prepare students for the Evans academic program,” said Director of Enrollment Sarah Brumfield.

“Evans has also expanded its technology curriculum to ensure each grade has a strong foundation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and digital citizenship. And as always, Evans is placing priority on developing students’ exemplary character and leadership skills.”

The Children’s School, 2225 Torrey Pines Lane

“We have a lot of changes going on here at The Children’s School,” said spokesperson Emily Williams. “All buildings on campus are almost done being painted, we are putting the final touches on our new Makerspace, and we have four new faculty members — a new first-grade teacher and three new middle-school teachers.”

The Makerspace is intended to provide students with an expansive collection of tools, machines and materials for designing, constructing and tinkering as they work on projects. The space includes a laser cutter and engraver, 3D printers, sewing machines, tools for soldering, robotics equipment, various saws, a drill press and more.