Return to class: La Jolla private and charter schools are ready to welcome students back from summer break
Though summer is still going strong, things are heating up at La Jolla’s private and charter schools as they get set for another year of learning.
Here’s the rundown:
The Preuss School
The Preuss School, a charter middle and high school on the UC San Diego campus that serves low-income students from all over San Diego County who strive to become the first in their families to graduate from college, began classes Aug. 8.
Helen Griffith, the school’s executive director, said Preuss will be focusing “more strongly on connecting college to career” through job shadowing in the UCSD Take a Triton to Work Day, citywide internships, Career Day, personalized career assessments and classroom guest speakers from different fields.
Griffith said she’s excited that Preuss students, many of whom commute from south of Interstate 8, can access the recently opened Blue Line trolley extension, which has stops at UCSD.
“One of the two new stations at the university is located just across the street from The Preuss School, providing a reliable, safe and inexpensive form of transportation,” Griffith said. Preuss students are able to ride for free during the first year of operation.
The Preuss School will continue to follow UCSD’s COVID-19 safety protocols under the direction of school physician and UCSD School of Medicine professor Dr. Robert “Chip” Schooley.
Students and staff will continue to wear face masks in classrooms and other academic areas, comply with the COVID vaccination mandate and participate in coronavirus testing onsite.
Stella Maris Academy
Stella Maris Academy, a private campus on Herschel Avenue serving nearly 200 students in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, begins the school year Wednesday, Aug. 17. Stella Maris is the parochial school for Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church.
Principal Francie Moss said the school will partner this year with one in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to offer support by way of computers and fundraising for the students there.
The San Juan school is connected to a cathedral that was damaged during a hurricane a few years ago. Deacon Jim Vargas of Mary, Star of the Sea has been heading up outreach projects for the affected area for years.
Moss added that Stella Maris middle schoolers will be able to participate in a new exchange program with a boys school and girls school in Spain in the spring.
Stella Maris will have a new safety program called “Parents on Patrol,” in which parent volunteers in neon-colored vests will walk the blocks surrounding the school to “keep an eye on the streets” in the 15 minutes before and after school, Moss said.
“That’s when our gates are open,” she said.
Masking and coronavirus testing are optional, Moss said, though testing at home before the first day of school is recommended.
“We’re just excited about starting and being a little more normal,” Moss said.
The Bishop’s School
The Bishop’s School will open its campus on La Jolla Boulevard for its 114th year on Thursday, Aug. 18.
The school, which serves about 800 students in grades six to 12, will implement key aspects of its four-part strategic plan, including well-being, belonging and inclusion, adolescent learning and development and purpose.
“I think we are poised this year to make good headway in each of these areas of school life,” said Associate Head of School Michael Beamer. “They build on one another well and dovetail nicely with our year-long theme of integrity.”
Head of School Ron Kim said “well-being and belonging are at the core of students’ learning and development. We look forward to continuing our initiatives and work in these critical areas.”
Masks will be optional at Bishop’s, though people who have been close contacts with someone with COVID-19 may be asked to wear masks for a set time.
Bishop’s will have rapid antigen tests for the coronavirus on hand, though testing will not be mandatory.
“It is hard to believe that this is the fourth academic year that we have had to manage COVID,” Beamer said in a message to the school community. “Over that time, we have learned that the best way to manage this pandemic is by working together and being mindful that our actions impact the experience of others.”
La Jolla Country Day School
La Jolla Country Day School on Genesee Avenue opens to students Wednesday, Aug. 24, serving preschool through high school.
Head of School Gary Krahn said the campus is focusing on mathematics instruction and increasing education in its data analysis track.
Data analysis is how “we make informed decisions with the data that we’re presented,” said Krahn, who was head of the math department at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
He added that Country Day’s “design and innovation program is really expanding,” encouraging students to identify and solve problems multi-dimensionally.
Country Day also will focus on teaching students to have difficult conversations with dignity, Krahn said. “Schools need to be a place where people can express themselves without being judged,” he said.
Krahn said masking and coronavirus testing will be optional, marking a shift from the past two years.
San Diego French American School
San Diego French American School on Soledad Mountain Road will open Thursday, Aug. 25, to its students in preschool through middle school.
Head of School Mark Rosenblum said he’s looking forward to the expansion of the campus, as renovations are underway on the adjacent former site of Montessori School of La Jolla, whose lease ended in June. SDFAS manages that property under a master lease with the San Diego Unified School District.
The renovated spaces will be home to SDFAS’ “Maternelle,” its group of kindergarten and preschool classes. The former kindergarten classrooms will become indoor-outdoor spaces for a library/media center and a visual arts room.
Two teachers moved into new leadership positions to further develop and improve how and what the school teaches, said Rosenblum, who added that it will “take SDFAS to its next level of excellence.”
He said he’s also looking forward to the return of “travel normalcy,” as the school will “more easily welcome international families and staff in a school whose very mission is multilingualism, internationalism and open-mindedness.”
Masking will be optional and coronavirus testing will be available on request, Rosenblum said. “Each person will respect every other person’s choice around masking,” he added.
The Children’s School
The Children’s School on Torrey Pines Lane will open to its preschool through middle school students on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
The school is “thrilled to be celebrating [its] 50th anniversary,” said Head of School John Fowler.
“We work hard to build each child’s interests and passions into a foundation for lifelong learning,” he said, “and we’ve given three generations of great kids the intellectual and interpersonal skills to meet challenges with confidence.”
Fowler said the school is following all state and county health guidelines for COVID-19.
Representatives of The Evans School and All Hallows Academy did not respond to requests for comment. Gillispie School, which begins classes Tuesday, Aug. 30, declined to comment.
The public schools in the San Diego Unified district start the new year Monday, Aug. 29. They will be covered in an upcoming story. ◆
2:58 p.m. Aug. 10, 2022: This article has been updated to clarify that The Bishop’s School has about 800 students total. The 180 referred to earlier is the number of new students.
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