PB students head back to school
by Dave Schwab
Published - 08/29/13 - 01:53 PM | 3383 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students, teachers and parents are preparing for the start of school on Sept. 3. 	DON BALCH
Students, teachers and parents are preparing for the start of school on Sept. 3. DON BALCH
With Labor Day looming, it’s back-to-school time for coastal San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) students as they turn the page on another summer and begin a new academic calendar year starting Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Principals at Pacific Beach schools like Mission Bay High School (MBHS) say they’re ready for students to return and have lots of great educational developments in store for them in the new year.

“The theme for MBHS this year seems to be change, with the biggest change to be the introduction of the Common Core Standards,” said principal Frederick Hilgers. “All summer, our teachers have been collaboratively working on new units of study and incorporating the Common Core Standards.”

Hilgers said MBHS staff produced over 30 new academic units ranging from art to science.

“Students will not only notice the new academic units, but that our school day is longer, dismissal is now 2:14 p.m. and that we have added a couple of more minimum days,” he said. “Those minimum days will allow staff to prepare for our accreditation visit in March.”

MBHS’s principal said the accreditation process, better known as “WASC,” is a normal process that high schools go through every three to six years.  

“We have been engaged in a self study related to this process for over a year,” said Hilgers, adding students will finally be seeing some structural changes as a result of that process.  

“Our schedule has been modified to be an eight-period schedule over two days,” he said.  “Students will attend periods one to four on one day, and then periods five to eight on the next.”

Hilgers said athletics at MBHS has been moved to after school, following the trend of other SDUSD schools.

“We’re really focusing on academic course offerings, and we have increased our elective offerings to include drama, choir and music theory,” said Hilgers.

Music theory — and practice — are hallmarks of Crown Point Elementary School, which has a new principal this year, Muriel Bartolini. Bartolini intends to further the high-profile school’s status as a music academy, offering Suzuki violin training for students and parents alike.

“I was just appointed here and I’ve been learning the school for the last 30 days,” said Bartolini, noting the K-5 school at 4033 Ingraham St. with about 333 projected students this year takes great pride in its “family connection” with music.

“That is unique, we are the only school that offers that,” said Bartolini about Japanese-based Suzuki violin training, which she said is “not just playing a violin. You’re learning how to read music and be part of its development, which goes all through the grade levels starting in kindergarten.”

The departure of Bayview Terrace Elementary School, which has been replaced by Barnard School, a Mandarin Chinese language magnet, has increased Crown Point’s student population.

“Bayview’s students have been dispersed to other schools like ours,” Bartolini said, adding her school has become something of a neighborhood magnet.

What’s new at Crown Point this year?

“We have purchased a whole new writing curriculum built around common core standards,” Bartolini said. “We’re going to be using the curriculum to focus in on writing to help our students become better communicators, and to expose them more to that medium.”

Bartolini said the elementary school’s mission this year will be to “really put ourselves out in the community and show everybody what Crown Point stands for.”

Scott Barnett, SDUSD board member for Subdistrict C that covers the beaches, said there are still some negatives with the district’s financial picture heading into the new year.

“The budget shortfall is close to $90 million and we’re going to have to sell about $60 million of real estate for one-time revenues just to balance the budget this year, and the following year it could be $50 million or more,” he said. “It’s not inconceivable we’ll have to go with the pink-slip scenario again in six months.”

But Barnett said there are some encouraging developments, with the state economy turning around and the governor and legislature committing more money toward schools. There are encouraging signs, too, he said, that the district is fulfilling its educational mission.

“I’m confident we’re going to have a much more accountable system in both the academic and business side of this district,” he said. “I’ve seen more change in the attitude and culture in just the 45 days since Ms. [Cindy] Marten has been superintendent than I’ve seen in the last three years as a board member.”

Barnett said the watchword along the beachfront with schools this year is “change,” with 40 new principals in the subdistrict.

Heading into the school year, Barnett stressed the importance of harnessing technology and using it as an educational tool.

“As many as 80 percent of the kids in this district have some kind of device — iPhones, laptops, iPads, etc. — that they bring to school and we need to be flexible and integrate those devices with our school technology,” he said. “We want to make it possible for every student to bring something home with them because learning doesn’t stop when school ends.”

SDUSD is the second-largest district in the state, serving more than 132,000 students in 223 educational facilities. The district includes 116 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 26 high schools, 44 charter schools and 14 atypical/alternative schools. It is also one of the most diverse districts, representing more than 15 ethnic groups and more than 60 languages and dialects.
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