La Jolla Elementary School modernization progresses toward end of first phase

A rendering of a new two-story building to be constructed at La Jolla Elementary School.
A rendering depicts a two-story building to be constructed at La Jolla Elementary School to house administrative offices and classrooms, among other spaces. It will move the school’s main entrance from Marine Street to Girard Avenue.

La Jolla Elementary School is nearing the end of the first of three phases of a site modernization begun earlier this year, with the entire project expected to be completed in 2024.

“We are touching everything,” said project director Keith Kauffman of Pasadena-based construction firm C.W. Driver Cos.

The $48 million project will upgrade the school’s existing permanent buildings and add a two-story administrative and classroom building, kindergarten classroom buildings, a lunch structure and an upper-field restroom building.

An existing kitchen will be remodeled to provide an updated food service facility for students, and the current main campus administrative building will be converted to classrooms.

The new two-story building will be constructed along Girard Avenue south of the auditorium and will create a single point of entry for the campus, reorienting the main entrance from Marine Street to Girard.

The new building also will feature collaboration areas, restrooms and support facilities.

The modernization will include technology and infrastructure upgrades, outdoor learning areas, a maker space, a larger parking lot and an onsite student drop-off.

“We’re really looking forward to having a proper drop-off and pickup area because we’ve definitely impacted the neighborhood,” said Principal Stephanie Hasselbrink.

La Jolla Elementary is one of five schools in the San Diego Unified School District that make up the La Jolla Cluster. C.W. Driver is working on a similar project for the district’s John Muir Language Academy in Clairemont.

The new building shown in this rendering is planned for fourth- and fifth-grade students.
The new building shown in this rendering is planned for fourth- and fifth-grade students, though details are subject to change.

“La Jolla Elementary School has a lovely history,” Hasselbrink said. “It’s a very charming school, but we have a lot of buildings that are old and need a lot of work. We’re really looking forward to modernizing our campus and making sure that it’s a campus that matches our students’ and our families’ needs.”

Having a “campus that really matches some of our passions around engineering and robotics and having spaces for students together, having a lot of outdoor areas where kids can learn” is important, she said.

“One thing I really appreciate in the design is that they’re really trying to keep the new building consistent with the charm that we have at La Jolla Elementary,” Hasselbrink added.

The first phase of the project, which began in early January, is focused on “interim housing,” Kauffman said. Temporary classrooms are being added to the campus to “relocate the kids as we’re moving in and out of buildings.” Kauffman said the first phase is expected to be finished by Friday, May 28.

The second phase, which will begin in mid-2021, will include the new restroom building on the upper field, Kauffman said.

The third phase will begin during the second phase on “the entire rest of the campus where we’re touching every single building” and constructing the new buildings, he said.

The challenge of the modernization will be “trying to keep the flow of construction moving in a forward direction while keeping the campus safe,” Kauffman said. “Safety is our No. 1 concern. ... There’s a lot of kids on this campus; there’s a lot of moving pieces and parts.”

La Jolla Elementary currently has about 440 students enrolled. On Monday, April 12, LJES and other SDUSD campuses will open to all students who want to return from the coronavirus-related closures that have sent classes online for the past year. Instruction will be a hybrid of in person and online. Those who wish can remain in distance learning.

The LJES project is funded by Proposition S and Z and Measure YY bonds, approved by voters in 2008, 2012 and 2018, respectively. ◆