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La Jolla Presbyterian finishes preschool remodel, church updates next

La Jolla Presbyterian church completed the first leg of a $3.1 million renovation project in September, upgrading the preschool to open up its classrooms and improve safety. The two remaining legs (to expand the church chancel and courtyard) are still underway and should be completed in November.

Preschool director Barbara Etienne, in her second year at the helm, beamed with excitement over some of the changes. “Our main focus was to bring the preschool classrooms up to date to better suit today’s standards of education,” she said, noting it has been almost 20 years since the last remodel. “We wanted to create an open and inviting environment for the classrooms and for the Sunday school.”

Funded by a capital campaign and the preschool’s first benefit event last year, Etienne said the original plan was to simply purchase new furnishings. “However, the money we raised far exceeded our expectations and dreams. We were able to purchase more furnishings than we thought and do more to create a natural environment,” she said.

Redesigned classrooms, complete with new furnishings, are part of the La Jolla Presbyterian Church preschool renovation.
Redesigned classrooms, complete with new furnishings, are part of the La Jolla Presbyterian Church preschool renovation.
Ashley Mackin

Watkins construction began the work in June and completed it in time for the first day of the school year, Sept. 14. changes to the floor plan included moving the director’s office, opening up the classrooms, adding new fixtures for adults and children, adding new furniture, and installing a ramp for strollers and wheelchairs.

Etienne’s office, which used to be across the courtyard away from the street, is now front and center facing Draper Avenue, so she can keep a better eye on who comes and goes to the school. The space that formerly housed the director’s office is now a computer lab for teachers. The adjacent administrative office has become an art closet filled with supplies.

The neutral colored palate for the new classrooms allows the students’ bright colorful artwork to take center stage. The new furniture and flooring come in sand and stone hues, Etienne explained.

To open up the classrooms and improve air circulation, Dutch doors, along with windows that open from the top down, were installed. Adult-sized and child-sized sinks were added in each classroom, and now each also has a bathroom with a child-sized toilet and sink. Leading into the children’s Wing entrance, a ramp was installed for strollers and wheelchairs. Additionally, the staircase was shortened and now leads to a sloping walkway to the main gate.

Chancel, courtyard improvements

The two remaining facets of the renovation project will be completed in the coming weeks to enhance the church and its courtyard. LJPC communications director Jim Sedgwick said a significant amount of work has gone into the worship center’s chancel area (around the lectern and choir staging) including making some fixtures movable and expanding the stage — but a “full million dollars” went to improving the church’s pipe organ.

“When we host big events, such as the Wheaton College Choir, we can clear that stage and showcase the music,” Sedgwick said, explaining that a behind-the-scenes storage area for the furnishings normally found on the stage is also being built. When the pipe organ is refurbished and expanded, it will be one of the largest in San Diego, he said.

The organ will go from 50 ranks (collection of pipes) to 81 ranks, meaning it will have more than 6,000 pipes in total. “There are ones smaller than a pencil and others that are a foot in diameter, and all are individually made and tuned ... it’s amazing,” Sedgwick said.

The second renovation project is the enhancement of the courtyard to encourage people to stay and socialize after services.An unveiling for the new facilities will follow the 10 a.m. services, Nov. 15 in connection with the church’s 110th anniversary

La Jolla Presbyterian Church

■ Address: 7715 Draper Ave.

■ Contacts: (858) 454-0713. ljpres.org

■ Church foundation: 1905

■ Preschool foundation: 1955

■ Preschool enrollment: 74 students

■ Tuition: Depends on age, number of week days attending: $3,500-$7,500 a year