Parents drop students off for the first day of school at Logan Memorial Education Campus. Photo by Chris Stone
Overnight roasted turkey and beef, fresh local vegetables and new house jalapeño ranch dressing. And don’t forget the “very comfortable chairs.”
No, it’s not a restaurant. Rather, they are features of a new menu and seating at a new high school in Logan Heights — Logan Memorial Education Campus.
On Monday’s first day of school, with mariachi music playing, neighborhood ninth-graders walked through decorative yellow gates to the newly built first high school in their community.
Up to now, students had to hop on a bus to downtown’s San Diego High School. Now skateboards — local transportation — line a wall near the gate.
“We are elated,” said Strategy and Instructional Support Officer Adriana Chavarin-Lopez. “The community has been asking for this for many years now. And so we are now finally able to offer a high school option here for our students in Logan Heights.”
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Students also expressed their pleasure.
“I’m really looking forward to doing sports like a lot of kids,” said Amani Fulton, one of the ninth-graders. “And being the first graduating class, we literally get to set the rules of what we … want to make the school ourselves.”
She added that she likes Montessori education, hates desk chairs, and likes the “very comfortable seating” at the new high school.
About 200 freshman are enrolled this year, and they will be eating from a free breakfast and lunch menu that includes fruit yogurt cups, cereal and fresh fruit, build-your-own salad bar, plant-based chili, Mediterranean Greek salad, tacos and burritos.
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Mariachi Aguila of Logan Memorial Education Campus is a group of student musicians. Photo by Chris Stone Monday, August 29, was the first day of school for San Diego Unified School District. Photo by Chris Stone High school students walk past a board illustrating their new school. Photo by Chris Stone Skateboards are set aside until school is over for the day. Photo by Chris Stone New and returning students are welcomed to Logan Memorial Education Campus. Photo by Chris Stone Parents and students wait for Logan Memorial Education Campus to open at 8:35. Photo by Chris Stone As students pass through the decorative gates, they go to the high school on the right. Photo by Chris Stone The Logan Memorial Education Campus consists of an elementary, middle and high school. Photo by Chris Stone The high school opens for the new class of 2026. Photo by Chris Stone Classroom are set up with tables and groups of chairs rather than rows of desks. Photo by Chris Stone Healthier options including tacos and burritos are offered for lunch. Photo by Chris Stone A sign in Spanish saying “Make this a great day” greets the new high school students. Photo by Chris Stone
A $182 million building project, LMEC has two-story high school classrooms, a theater, gym, kitchen/cafeteria, dance studio and track and field area.
A public library also is part of the complex.
Construction began in the fall of 2018, and LMEC’s prenatal-to-career public Montessori campus is the first of its kind in California.
The Montessori approach a project-based learning approach that educators say values a hands-on experience for students, encourages creativity and fosters independence. Construction is expected to be complted this winter.
Besides the high school, the campus offers a child development center known as El Nido (the nest), a preschool, an elementary school and a middle school. Prenatal education for parents will start in December.
The modernized elementary and middle school replaced Logan K-8 and Memorial Prep Middle School.
Samer Nagi , the district’s facilities communication supervisor, called it transformative.
“I really feel like, when we come back in 10 years to see what this concept has done to this community, I really think it’s gonna be revolutionary,” he said
Nagi said a transition bridging ceremony will take place at the end of each school year, when fifth- and eighth-grade students will physically move to another building.
“It will be like a holistic support center for students,” he said.
Sixth-graders will have classes in their own building.
Chavarin-Lopez said: “The reason why we designed Logan Memorial to be from the infant program all the way through the 12th grade program was really to answer the question: How do we prevent the achievement gap from forming in the first place?”
The key, she said, was offering an infant program.
“That’s what really what it takes — that partnership between families and communities and students and the staff at a school to really get to know the students to be able to know like when we need to challenge them, when to be tracking their progress,” Chavarin-Lopez said.
That way, staff has the opportunity to see the students from the time they’re born all the way to the time that they graduate, she said.
Then students make the choice to go onto higher education or get a job — “and that we’ve prepared them with all of the skills necessary,” she added.
The campus has capacity for about 225 students per grade level, the school official said. With ages 3 through ninth grade, it has about 1,100 students in classes, so the campus capacity is up to 1,600.
Other new developments this school year are a change in the daily schedule and new guidelines for COVID and masks.
Due to a new state law, high schools must start after 8:30 a.m.
Asked about the schedule change, Chavarin-Lopez said research shows the developing adolescent brain may not quite be ready at 7:30 a.m. (the previous start time).
So the staff and faculty are hoping that students will be more ready to learn, and that they’ve gotten enough rest, she said.
On advice of health experts, the district is recommending — not mandating — mask wearing. School and district officials will watch transmission rates. Individual schools or classes may have required face coverings if necessary during the year.
At a 7:15 a.m. press conference on campus, school district Superintendent Lamont Jackson, said: “As we open this school year, … I want to share with our entire community that this year will be about equity.”
“It will be about making sure that we see and we hear each and every child,” Jackson said, “that they have a sense of belonging in our community and in our schools, that they have a voice and that they are listened to.”
Chavarin-Lopez spoke about how that relates to Logan Memorial Education Campus.
“Logan Memorial, as the whole concept of the school, was based on equity,” she said. “So this is a school that is very different. It is designed to transform learning outcomes for the children of Logan Heights, who historically have had a series of low expectations, low academic outcomes.
“So we really are trying to transform that because we really believe that the children of Logan Heights can do it. Our families are here, ready and willing to partner with us. And so we are the embodiment of that equity vision that the district.”