As Bird Rock Elementary School prepares to welcome a “very small” number of students to in-person learning Oct. 13 as part of the San Diego Unified School District’s first phase for reopening its campuses from coronavirus-related closures, it faces a “heartbreaking” reduction of more than 7 percent in its student population.

The optional in-person sessions will be available only to students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade and will be held on campus in groups of no more than six students for transitional kindergarten to third grade and eight students for fourth and fifth grades.

To determine which students to return to in-person learning in this phase, school staff is evaluating whether students are meeting proficiency goals and is reaching out to those receiving special-education services.

“A lot of our parents still want to [have their students] stay home because they have concerns, which is perfectly acceptable. But some parents have reached out to have their students included in Phase 1,” Bird Rock Elementary Principal Andi Frost told the Bird Rock Community Council during its Oct. 6 meeting online. “But it is going to be very small. We need to start small because we need to make sure we are opening safely. …

“By starting small, we have the opportunity to see some needs we didn’t automatically think of in our preparation, so we are [first] inviting students in need of assessments for special-education services, then those that are receiving special-education services but not meeting their individual goals, then those that are not identified as needing services but not making progress toward grade-level standards.”

Frost said “we have been preparing for several months for our students to return, so [personal protective equipment] has been delivered, we also have had some painting done over the summer, we finished our air conditioning [installation] and our infrastructure for high-speed internet.”

“That last piece is super lucky because … teachers are permitted … to teach from their classrooms if that is where they feel comfortable,” she said. “A lot of our teachers have been teaching from their classrooms, so the stable internet has been helpful.”

Frost said neither she nor other area principals knew what subsequent reopening phases would entail or when they would be implemented.

Frost also reported that Bird Rock Elementary has lost “a significant number” — 7.5 percent — of its students to private schools this year. Bird Rock currently has 394 students.

“It’s quite heartbreaking,” she said. “BRE is an incredible community school, one where parents believe and unite as a village. But a fair amount of our parents were very interested in having in-person learning, and I can’t blame anyone for any decisions they have made. We hope that when we reopen they will return.”

She added that teachers and resources are tied to the number of students and that “we are still waiting to hear what the district will need to do with teachers as a result of decreased enrollment.” Bird Rock currently has 18 classroom teachers.

Other BRCC news

Fish farm frustration: Due to its planned proximity to Bird Rock, commercial fisherman John Law spoke about the proposed Pacific Ocean AquaFarms fish farm. The board took no vote following the report.

The proposed project, a venture of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and Long Beach-based investment group Pacific6 Enterprises, aims to produce 5,000 metric tons of yellowtail fish annually in federal waters four miles off the coast. The aquaculture facility would be composed of floating near-surface net pens.

“The first thing to understand is this is an industrial fish farm; this is not a small-scale farm,” Law said. “They are talking about a thousand square acres and 18 of these holding pens. It’s going to be right in your backyard. The currents here, as they come off Point La Jolla, form a circular pattern … so the water is going around and around and around, so you are not going to see the waste from these fish flowing out into deep water, it is going to come back and hurt this kelp bed.”

He encouraged people to participate in two upcoming meetings on the project, during which public comment will be taken online and by phone. The meetings are from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, and 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16. Learn more at

Halloween window-painting canceled: BRCC President John Newsam said an annual Halloween event during which Bird Rock businesses allow children to paint on their windows has been canceled because of coronavirus concerns. “We just couldn’t organize that event in a fully safe fashion, regrettably,” he said.

Coastal Overlook concern: Residents Don Schmidt and Mary Lynn Hyde, representing the Coastal Overlooks Committee, said a makeshift beach access under La Jolla Hermosa Park “will become an issue” in rainy weather due to slippery surfaces.

“Young kids and surfers use it to get down to the beach, and that’s pretty hazardous,” Hyde said. When the rainy season starts and the area is subject to mudslides, it will be an even bigger risk, she said.

Steve Hadley, representing the office of San Diego City Council member Barbara Bry, whose district includes La Jolla, said he sent an inquiry to the city Parks & Recreation Department about the gulley and would update the board with a response as soon as it is available.

Vision Bird Rock: The team behind Vision Bird Rock — an effort designed to address issues such as gathering spaces, walkability, a more viable commercial district and what Bird Rock could look like in coming years — is creating a web-based survey to be released in coming weeks for the public.

“It will not be the be-all, end-all, but it will give us some leads for discussions we can then hold at the smaller task force level,” member Tiffany Chow said.

Early ideas include more coffee shops and having art installations in vacant storefronts.

Next meeting: The November Bird Rock Community Council meeting will double as an annual meeting to report on the Bird Rock Maintenance Assessment District. It will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, online. Learn more at

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