‘Sensational at 70’: Bird Rock Elementary School celebrates anniversary with open house party

Bird Rock Elementary School Principal Andi Frost welcomes guests to the school's 70th-anniversary party May 26.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

“We are a community that gets to celebrate together tonight,” Bird Rock Elementary School Principal Andi Frost said as she welcomed hundreds of school and community members on the school’s blacktop May 26 for “Sensational at 70,” an open house party to mark the seven decades of BRES.

The event included dancing, classroom tours, a dessert truck, information tables from community groups such as the Bird Rock Community Council and a scavenger hunt for interesting features of the school’s 64-piece permanent art collection by local artists.

Bird Rock Elementary School mascot Rocky the Pelican leads a group dance.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

As Bird Rock Elementary mascot Rocky the Pelican led group dances and school representatives sold BRES logo wear, parents, alumni, current students and retired staff members gathered to chat and socialize.

“Part of what makes BRE so incredibly beautiful and special is the community,” Frost said. “It’s a beautiful school physically. And every one of you … are what makes BRE a gorgeous, gorgeous community.”

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava said he is most known in Bird Rock for being former teacher Lorene LaCava's husband.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, agreed that Bird Rock teachers and parent volunteers continue the BRES legacy.

“That’s what makes it special,” he said.

LaCava, a Bird Rock resident whose wife, Lorene LaCava, retired from BRES in 2020 after teaching there for 25 years, said “everything we do here is all about the kids.”

Jenn Beverage, co-president of the Bird Rock Foundation, the school’s parent-teacher organization, said “you really can’t look in any direction without seeing a piece of art or a structure or something in a classroom or a tree that was not donated or created or sustained by parents and teachers working together.”

Lorene LaCava said parent involvement has been integral to the school’s development since it opened in fall 1951 (the 70th- anniversary celebration was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic).

“One of the first concerns was about the impact TV was going to have on the children,” she said. “From the get-go, [parents] were forming opinions.”

A photo in a Bird Rock Elementary School hallway shows the first school assembly Nov. 2, 1951.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

BRES, part of the San Diego Unified School District, has always been at 5371 La Jolla Hermosa Ave. It welcomed just under 400 students in its first year to help ease crowding at La Jolla Elementary School.

Lorene LaCava said the school almost closed in 1979, as there were too many elementary schools in La Jolla (La Jolla, Decatur, Scripps and Torrey Pines elementary schools also served the area).

The district “sent all the fourth-graders that year up to Decatur,” she said, “and the parents here got so upset that they really rallied, and [BRES] ended up staying open.”

Eventually, SDUSD closed both Decatur and Scripps. The others remain open.

BRES owes its longevity to “the spirit of generosity that exists here and in the community,” Lorene LaCava said. “So many of the students that I’ve taught over the years, their parents ... went to Bird Rock.”

Before families attending the open house toured the campus and classrooms, which were opened to all for the first time since before the pandemic, first-grade teacher Lorraine Turner led the crowd in “BRE is 70,” a song she wrote to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Students and adults alike heartily sang along, adding gusto to the last lines: “BRE is 70, 70, 70; BRE is 70, oh what fun it’s been.” ◆