Since its establishment in 1951, BRE has been an integral part of the fabric in the tight-knit Bird Rock neighborhood. The school is more than a place of learning. It is a cornerstone where longtime residents began their friendships and share fond memories, a rallying point when it comes to difficult times for schools, and a place where all people, young and old, can learn the meaning of community.
Over the years — through the efforts of countless volunteers — Bird Rockers have helped ensure their local elementary school has not only survived through difficult times, but has thrived in spite of them.
This year’s efforts were no different.
Under the leadership of Celebrate 60! Committee chairwoman and kindergarten teacher Lorene LaCava and a dedicated group of volunteers, the school has undergone a number of campus beautification projects, BRE fundraising efforts and celebratory community events throughout the year to pay homage to the school’s 60 successful years at its La Jolla Hermosa Avenue location.
“Celebrate 60! has been a school yearlong opportunity for our entire community to celebrate 60 years of excellence in education and community building,” said LaCava.
Festivities began in July with the neighborhood’s annual Fourth of July Parade, which was appropriately themed “Happy Days on Beaumont” to commemorate the school’s inception in 1951.
Community celebrations continued at the Birdstock music festival, where guests made a mark on their neighborhood school by purchasing tiles for the Waverly gate entrance and help raise much-needed funds for the school.
More memories were created throughout the season, culminating in the school’s Halloween parade — a tradition that first began in the fall of 1951.
At this year’s first school assembly, students were welcomed by a “blast from the past” slideshow of photos, along with 1950s music and pop culture, from BRE’s earliest days. When it came time for students to turn back the hands of time for “’50s Day,” they were ready to dress the part, donning garb from throughout the decade.
Little by little during the school year, the campus grounds were increasingly splashed with vibrant color and displays of historic archives to memorialize the school as it was in times past, as well as enhance the campus’ beauty for generations to come.
Art projects like local artist Jane Wheeler’s Celebrate 60! staff bench and miscellaneous mosaic masterpieces scattered throughout the campus grounds honor educators’ dedicated service to the children in the neighborhood, as well as transform seemingly bland concrete slabs into works of art.
In November, local photographer Pearl Preiss captured BRE students in a class photo on the school’s blacktop to recreate a nearly identical black-and-white image taken of BRE’s first class of students in 1951.
“We duplicated an all-school photo taken in the same place on the same date, Nov. 2,” said LaCava. “The original photo shows a framed school building with palm trees in the background. The 2012 photo shows the same building with the same palm trees 60 years later.”
The school photos — along with 20 years worth of fifth-grade class photos and a rotating display of art created by students in Alyson Blum’s class — are displayed in the school’s main building hallway. In the same art and photo gallery, archived images from the school’s long history were revived by the careful efforts of Bird Rock Community Council board member Lynn Reineman and displayed along the hallway, representing 60 years of the school’s history.
To help capture and preserve the more intangible elements of the school’s past, LaCava and other Celebrate 60! volunteers collected nearly 600 writings of fond memories from current and former students, parents and faculty and compiled the stories into archived notebooks for future generations to enjoy.
The final project of the year brought students outside to create a sea-inspired Celebrate 60! garden under the direction of teachers Carol Shear and Heather Polen, with rotating artwork facilitated by Alyson Blum. After a thorough spring-cleaning to spruce up the campus, students got to work submitting formal competing designs for the placement of plants, hardscape and statuary to transform the area into a virtual underwater reef with ocean animals made of recycled materials.
“It offers a way for all of our students to apply math, art, science, reading and writing skills as they learn about animals, plants, sunshine, soil, water needs and how to be environmentally sensitive,” said LaCava. “In addition, this effort provides a way for our students to have a hands on connection to improving the world around them.”
The fruits of all of the volunteer labor throughout the year will be officially dedicated at the school’s special birthday celebration and open house on May 24.
“Our school was formally dedicated on May 26, 1952, so it seems quite fitting to have our culminating event so close to our official birth date,” said LaCava. “This is a public school at its best with a 60-year tradition of talented and dedicated staff, caring families and a very supportive neighborhood. This potent combination has long supported a high degree of accountability by all stakeholders, resulting in excellence in education and community building.”
A welcome reception will kick off the celebration at 5 p.m., where fifth-grade student ambassadors will usher guests to the kindergarten patio. Special guests from BRE’s graduating classes dating back to 1956 will be in attendance, as well as local leaders like Bird Rock Community Council President Joe Parker and assistant superintendent Shirley Wilson. District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner will also make a special appearance to proclaim May 24, 2012 as San Diego’s “Bird Rock Elementary School 60th Anniversary Day.”
At 6 p.m., a local Girl Scout troop will signal the beginning of the formal dedication presentation with a flag ceremony, followed by self-guided tours or tours by student ambassadors around campus until 7:30 p.m.
For more information about BRE’s community open house and birthday celebration, contact Lorene LaCava at email@example.com.