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School spirit: La Jolla public schools gear up for new year

La Jolla High School opens for its centennial year on Monday, Aug. 29.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Some students may grumble about waking up earlier after the summer break, and other locals may lament the thickening traffic around campuses, but principals of La Jolla’s public schools say they’re excited about returning for the 2022-23 school year.

The San Diego Unified School District, which operates the five public schools in its La Jolla Cluster, will open to students for the new academic year on Monday, Aug. 29.

Ahead of the return to campuses, SDUSD emailed parents Aug. 15 with updated safety protocols for COVID-19, which has caused various disruptions in schools since March 2020.

Face masks, which were required for the latter part of summer school as cases surged locally, will no longer be required districtwide.

“Instead, we will utilize our school site metrics and county data to determine whether masking is needed at each school,” according to the email.

The San Diego Unified School District will not require masks throughout the district when the new school year starts Monday, Aug. 29, signaling a retreat from COVID-19 rules the district established a month ago.

Here’s what principals of four of La Jolla’s public schools had to say leading up to the new year. Bird Rock Elementary School Principal Andi Frost did not respond to the La Jolla Light’s requests for comment.

La Jolla High School

La Jolla High Principal Chuck Podhorsky said navigating COVID-19 has made the past few academic years “extremely difficult” and that he is “looking forward to getting back to a normal high school experience and continuing our high expectations for students.”

The school is celebrating its centennial this year, and the LJHS Alumni Association has said it’s begun to plan festivities. The Light will publish a series about the school to mark the occasion.

Sophia Benito is a junior at La Jolla High School and an editor for the school newspaper, the Hi-Tide.

Muirlands Middle School

The field at Muirlands Middle School has been carpeted with new turf.
(Jeff Luna)

Across Fay Avenue from La Jolla High is Muirlands Middle School, where students can register for the new fall sports program that will offer track and field and basketball this season (sdusdathletics.com/middle-schools).

Once students return to campus, they’ll see Muirlands’ field carpeted with new turf to support its PE classes, athletic teams and community events, Principal Jeff Luna said.

“We are excited to continue and expand our sixth-grade STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts and math] Exploratory Wheel class,” Luna said. The class, in which students rotate through four nine-week courses, will teach health, music appreciation, technology tools and art.

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.

La Jolla Elementary School

La Jolla Elementary School opened in 1896.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Stephanie Hasselbrink, principal at La Jolla Elementary, said “it feels like we have more of a normal year ahead.”

Hasselbrink said she’s looking forward to parent volunteers returning. “They truly are the backbone of our school.”

LJES has hired a full-time visual and performing arts teacher who will provide weekly lessons to all students, Hasselbrink said.

As the school’s modernization project continues, first- and second-grade students will move into new classrooms on the first day of school, Hasselbrink said.

“We’re thrilled that the 2022-23 school year is just around the corner,” she said.

Torrey Pines Elementary School

Torrey Pines Elementary is one of the five La Jolla Cluster schools in the San Diego Unified district.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

New Principal Keith Keiper said he’s excited to begin work at Torrey Pines Elementary. He comes to La Jolla from the San Bernardino City Unified School District in his 25th year in education.

“I look forward to working alongside an amazing group of students, teachers and families to create an environment that fosters both high expectations and a sense of belonging for all,” he said.

Keiper said the school will provide “engaging and challenging learning opportunities” to foster critical thinking and connection to the larger world. ◆