Pacific Beach Middle School has been an integral part of the community for almost 90 years. Since it first opened its doors as a junior high to 84 students in February 1931, the school has grown and changed in every decade. These changes include moving from north to central PB in 1950, becoming a middle school in 1984, and then an International Baccalaureate school in 2007.
This year, 700 students and 35 teachers call the school home!
Now, thanks to funds from Propositions S and Z, local bond measures approved by voters, the school is undergoing one of its biggest changes ever: a whole site modernization.
As principal Kimberly Meng told PB Monthly, the multi-million-dollar project will provide “state-of-the-art facilities with learning spaces designed for 21st century thinking. It shows students that the community values their education.”
The renovation project has two phases.
Phase 1, completed in 2017, included a new parking lot and a new athletic turf field on Felspar Street shared with the YMCA and dedicated in April 2018.
Phase 2 will be completed in the next two years, in two increments, according to principal Meng. Many neighbors, students and parents gathered on the corner of Ingraham and Diamond streets in July to witness the beginning of the first part of Phase 2: the demolition of a two-story classroom building built in the 1950s. It will be replaced by a new, two-story building with 26 classrooms. These will include cooperative learning spaces, couches and countertops facilitating team learning and conversation.
Currently, the site is being graded and construction of the new building will begin in January. The old administration building on Ingraham Street was also demolished.
In the meantime, the first part of Phase 2 has already included the addition of three new classrooms above the library and upgrades to the counseling, health, media and food services centers. It also calls for new air conditioning and fire alarm systems, a new intercom system, Wi-Fi, clocks, phones, an ADA-compliant bathroom in renovated locker rooms, and a new front entrance on Felspar Street.
After the new building is finished, the old, two-story building next to it on Diamond Street will be torn down in the second part of Phase 2. The site will become a plaza-like space. “It will be an outdoor area, with a stage, café-style eating and a Chinese garden,” Meng said.
The students are handling the changes well, according to Meng: “The new sixth-graders don’t know anything else and will see the finished changes.”
School staff planned for the transition “with intention,” as she describes it. Students were moved from the old building at the corner of Diamond and Ingraham to the old building next to it on the west. (Many of the classrooms were empty.) Students also continue to take classes in the one-story science buildings next to the Recreation Center and are enjoying air conditioning and upgrades in the three new classrooms.
“The new classrooms give them a taste of what is to come,” Meng insisted. When the new building is completed next year, students will move into it and the second building will come down. Most construction and mechanical work is being done in the summer months to keep disruptions to a minimum.
“We also redesigned our outdoor spaces to support a community,” Meng explained. The area next to the turf field now includes tables in the shade, two lunch carts with all school menu items except salad, extra activities and even entertainment, such as a recent performance by a Mariachi band.
Meng praises the construction company, Balfour Beatty, as “amazing.” (Founded in 1933 in London, England, the company has offices across the United States with headquarters in Dallas.) The company agreed to not use trailers on the school site, explained Meng, which saved taxpayers $2 million.
Her own workload has greatly increased, she said, doing double duty overseeing the running of the school and the renovation. Before taking over at PB Middle School six years ago, she was the principal at Rolando Park Elementary School and a vice principal at several other schools in San Diego, after graduating from UC San Diego.
The current school site was originally an elementary school, built in the 1920s at 1580 Emerald St. In 1931, PB Junior High opened at 1234 Tourmaline St. Students often came to class barefoot and walked through mud in the rainy season, since most of the streets were unpaved and the area was full of small vegetable farms.
During World War II, students oversaw a victory garden, sold war bonds and took Red Cross training. After the war, the school grew along with the baby boom and new housing, and in 1950, it traded places with the elementary school.
The location between Diamond and Felspar streets on Ingraham was thought to be a more central location for students in PB and nearby areas. The 1400 and 1500 blocks of Emerald Street were closed and incorporated into the growing campus. Its first classes were held on Sept. 11, 1950 and soon after, the school added a cafeteria, gymnasium and the two-story classroom buildings on Diamond.
A World School
In 1984, PB Junior High School became PB Middle School, for students in grades 6-8. In 2007, the school became an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School working in conjunction with Mission Bay High School to offer the Middle Years Programme.
Offered at a total of 5,175 schools in 157 countries, IB programs are designed to help students develop a positive attitude toward learning and to participate in a changing and interrelated world. Core parts of the program are community service and learner profile traits students are encouraged to develop. These traits include caring, being balanced, open-minded, knowledgeable, communicators, risk-takers, principled, reflective, inquirers and thinkers.
The school focuses on one trait each month, often starting the school year with “principled,” emphasizing taking responsibility and making smart choices. Next to “Riding the wave of excellence …” these traits have been prominently displayed on the Diamond Street buildings.
The new building will include new murals, assured Meng. In the meantime, she plans to engage the students in a community activity project and add the traits to the blue fencing surrounding the modernization site.
• Find Modernization Project information at fpcprojects.sandi.net