84% of Bird Rock Elementary parents want in-person school instruction this fall, principal says

BRCC President John Newsam, artist Jane Wheeler, Bird Rock Elementary Principal Andi Frost, BRCC member Barbara Dunbar, 2019.
Bird Rock Elementary School Principal Andi Frost, second from right, joins Bird Rock Community Council President John Newsam, artist Jane Wheeler and BRCC member Barbara Dunbar in celebrating an addition to the Waverly Gate Community Wall near the school in 2019.

As questions loom about how La Jolla schools will provide instruction in the fall, Bird Rock Elementary School Principal Andi Frost was on hand at the July 7 Bird Rock Community Council meeting to discuss the latest.

The San Diego Unified School District has announced that the first day of school will be Aug. 31 and that it intends to let families choose from among on-campus learning, online instruction or a combination of the two. Some details still need to be worked out.

Area schools are making plans for the new academic year following months-long campus closures and distance learning forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

La Jolla public and private schools are planning to reopen their campuses following a June 15 county health order allowing San Diego schools to resume in-person classes following the months-long closure and distance learning forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The district is trying to gather information from all stakeholders so we can make a really good, solid plan moving forward that is safe for everyone,” Frost said. “All the logistics are being ironed out at the district level. And many of the logistics are specific to the precautions and regulations we need to adhere to when kids and community are on our campus.”

Parent preference, she said, has been widely in favor on in-person instruction.

“Parents were asked to give feedback as to what they were initially thinking as an option for their child. Bird Rock Elementary … had a high average, higher than the district average, of parents who wanted to return to an in-person school,” she said.

She said 100 percent of parents responded to inquiries and that 84.3 percent of them wanted in-person instruction.

According to a San Diego Unified poll of parents districtwide:

• Almost 59 percent of the respondents said they wanted to send their children to school for full-time on-campus learning.

• More than 30 percent preferred online learning combined with some onsite options.

• About 10 percent favored online learning exclusively.

However, outreach is not yet done.

“There are think tanks happening next week for [San Diego Unified] parents, and that information was sent out to participants with the different sessions and topics at each think tank. That will involve a lot of parent input,” Frost said. “I anticipate we will have information that will allow us to move forward in about another week or two, then I will be happy to share that with the BRCC.”

Seemingly echoing the desire for children to be in school this fall, she added that kindergarten registration is already ahead of years past.

“We have 87 students enrolled in transitional kindergarten and kindergarten,” she said. “It looks like the parents are registering early … generally we do have some significant lag time and we don’t hear from many of our families until summer is well underway.”

Other BRCC news

Calumet Park changes: As a possible silver lining to the coronavirus outbreak, several BRCC members said they’ve observed a decrease in off-leash dogs in Calumet Park.

“There are so many more people using the park at a social distance, and because you have more people, there is not the space for dogs to run around like they do,” Don Schmidt said. “That park is for the people to have open space.”

BRCC President John Newsam added that it was “encouraging” to see more dogs on leashes.

Residents gather at Calumet Park in 2017 with dogs on and off leash.

Dogs often are seen off leash at the park, despite it not being allowed. In 2017, San Diego County Animal Services Deputy Director Laurie Joniaux told the BRCC that there had been frequent complaints. Off-leash dogs at the park have sporadically been a topic of discussion at meetings since.

Vision Bird Rock: Following in the footsteps of volunteers in The Village who have taken to adding art to boarded-up windows, members of the Vision Bird Rock committee are considering adding art to windows and walls of empty storefronts.

“Several of us on the committee did a walk along La Jolla Boulevard last week for empty spaces and windows that could potentially have art,” said member Sharon Wampler. “One thought is, during the [coronavirus-related] shutdown, that having some public art would make the boulevard more vibrant and inviting. And in looking at wall space on which murals could be painted, many of us saw murals we hadn’t seen before because so many of us are looking down when we walk.”

Vision Bird Rock is a seven-member committee that has been meeting weekly since March 16 to address issues such as gathering spaces, walkability, a more viable commercial district and what Bird Rock could look like in coming years.

Currently, there are murals along La Jolla Boulevard installed as part of the Murals of La Jolla public art program, and others that have been painted independently by business owners.

Trash update: Following recent government orders that San Diego County restaurants cannot serve patrons indoors, some BRCC members said they are concerned that there will be a resurgence of takeout service and subsequent overflowing trash cans.

The issue was initially discussed in May, when residents said they had seen excessive use of trash cans at overlooks. At some locations, additional trash cans have been placed in case of overflow, and residents often empty trash cans themselves and put the refuse in their personal cans to help ease the load.

“I think it’s important to keep the neighborhood clean because when it looks clean, people are less apt to throw their trash on the street,” said BRCC secretary Barbara Dunbar. “I want to thank those that are out there picking it up and taking care of it. … The reason there is less trash is because residents are picking it up.”

The Bird Rock Community Council will not meet in August. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 1, tentatively via Zoom. Learn more at