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Integral Elementary takes individualized approach

A relatively new school in La Jolla is getting its sea legs as it pioneers a holistic approach to education.

Integral Elementary School of La Jolla, which leases space on the campus of Congregation Beth El at 8660 Gilman Drive, presently has 24 students, but hopes its unique educational approach will win converts.

“We strive to meet the needs of children on an individual, social level,” said Prapanna Smith, school founder/principal. “We are big believers in the small-school and low teacher-student ratio models. It’s really about creating a solid community with parents, teachers and children.”

The three-year-old school serves kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

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Smith said Integral doesn’t teach all of its students the same things at the same time, but does assessment testing first to determine a starting point for each student.

“We start them where they are to help them learn and grow through an individual learning plan,” he said. “The idea is the child that needs remedial help will get it, and the child that wants to fly will be able to fly, with a student at a second-grade level doing fourth-grade math, or vice versa.”

Smith has plans for expansion.

“We anticipate growing up to 35, possibly 40 students next year,” he said. “In 10 years, we anticipate expanding to middle school and high school.”

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Smith said those who seek out Integral are looking for an alternative that values the arts and spiritual disciplines such as yoga as much as academics. “It’s a varied, diverse group,” he said.

Integral was recently a stop along the way for runners passing through La Jolla on their way to San Francisco in the annual World Harmony Run. Runners carrying a flaming torch were greeted by Integral students who sang songs and gave them a yoga demonstration.

“The run was founded in 1987 as a way to get people together with a united message that harmony begins in the heart of every individual,” said runner Atulya Berube of San Diego.

“This is a relay run with a flaming torch that represents the burning aspiration in each person’s heart for world peace and harmony.”