History Uncovered: Lindbergh-Schweitzer

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Principal Victoria Peterson, SDUSD Facilities Communications Supervisor Samer Naji and Special Education teacher Karin Wehsener at Lindbergh-Schweitzer School (photo: Bill Swank)

Shortly before the winter break, a meeting of the Site Governance Team at Lindbergh-Schweitzer Elementary School was held on December 19, 2019.

Kristen Straeter, a preschool special education teacher, apologized for being late. She had just come from making gingerbread houses with her students and reported that some of the gumdrops actually made it onto the houses.

The first item of business was re-naming the school (see December 2019 Squaremont column) and Principal Victoria Peterson welcomed input from the community. Dialog on this subject has been ongoing for approximately a year. A decision had been made that Clairemont should be included in the name to signify Lindbergh-Schweitzer is a neighborhood school.

Yomna Nassar, a concerned parent, wants Lindbergh-Schweitzer to remain a neighborhood school and if a name change helps, she supports it.

Cori Risty, a teacher at Lindbergh-Schweitzer, explained that consideration was given to naming the school Clairemont Mesa, because it stands upon a mesa top. It was decided that would too confusing since the school is located on Balboa Avenue and not on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Many names had been previously discussed, including Mark Hamill, the former Clairemont resident best known for his role as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films.

Michael Bessie, a Clairemont resident and former student at Sunshine School (which was later renamed after Dr. Albert Schweitzer), gave an impassioned plea to change the name of the entire school to Sunshine.

Former Sunshine and Schweitzer School student Michael Bessie stands beside the current school mascots outside Lindbergh-Schweitzer School (photo: Bill Swank)

The actual buildings and grounds of Sunshine/Schweitzer School, adjacent to the original Lindbergh site, have been Kavod Charter School since 2012. Kavod means “respect” in Hebrew.

Sunshine had been considered, but rejected for any possible stigma attached to the name because it was originally for disabled students. It is now the policy of the school district to mainstream disabled students. Lindbergh-Schweitzer retained the Schweitzer name because the school continues to serve one of the largest populations of special education students in the district.

Bessie took umbrage and gave examples of the wonderful teachers, staff and programs at Sunshine School. He said that he is proud to have been a student at such a caring school. The members of the SGT were visibly moved by his words and many personally thanked him for his heartfelt input.

Under final consideration, the top three choices for a name change were Clairemont Canyon Preparatory Academy, Clairemont Canyon Academy and Clairemont Elementary School.

Karin Wehsener, another special education teacher at the school, explained that the group’s intent was to recognize Clairemont for its canyons and open space. Canyons define Clairemont. For years, kids have explored Clairemont’s canyons and motorists have gotten lost trying to navigate around them.

Salazar Court backyard on Boyd Canyon floor, a half-mile from school (photo: Bill Swank)

Most dictionaries agree that a canyon is a “deep or large gorge or valley with steep sides, typically with a river flowing through it.”

It is accurate to state that Lindbergh-Schweitzer actually sits on a bank overlooking the “headwaters” of the most northeasterly tentacle of Clairemont’s largest natural landmark, Tecolote Canyon. Remarkably, Tecolote Canyon actually stretched a finger, known as Boyd Canyon, all the way into this Clairemont Mesa East neighborhood, but, for the most part, it can’t be seen.

Years ago, most of Boyd Canyon was filled, graded and terraced by developers for homes effectively burying the canyon for a half mile to the end of Mt. Albertine Avenue. Rumors persist the final remains of the canyon will eventually be developed to Genesee Avenue.

Undeveloped remains of Boyd Canyon at end of Mt. Albertine Avenue (photo: Bill Swank)

The gulch or gully seen below the southern edge of the school grounds represents the terminus of Boyd Canyon covered by homes, streets and… progress.

Principal Peterson immediately grasped the significance and suggested a tweak in the name to make it Clairemont Canyons. That single letter (“s”) articulates the importance of saving our collective canyons. The Governance Team will consider this slight change prior to referral to the school board.

Terminus of Boyd Canyon below Lindbergh-Schweitzer Elementary School (photo: Bill Swank)

Subsequently, Samer Naji, Facilities Communications Supervisor with SDUSD and Victoria Peterson tied the proposed name change in with the major renovation plan for the school site.

A joint City of San Diego/SDUSD park will be created and the team will also consider recommending the park be named after community activist Eloise Battle. She is the latter day Kate Sessions who saved Tecolote Canyon from the developers and inspired the definitive “San Diego Park District Procedural Ordinance” in 1969 that provided the blueprint for the concept of open space preservation for the entire city.

Eloise Battle Park would have a natural and historic connection with a school named Clairemont Canyons, but Clairemont and Preparatory Academy just don’t go together.

Email: Bill@ClairemontTimes.com