The newly rebuilt Hermosa Vista School has finally debuted — and the eventual return to entirely in-person learning has taken a major first step.
Students in transitional kindergarten through second grade stepped foot on the Hermosa Beach campus, formerly named North School, on Tuesday, April 13, a day that also marked a full return to in-person learning for those in the second grade — for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit more than a year ago. It was also the first time that campus has held classes since the original, nearly century-old school building was demolished in fall 2019. The pandemic delayed construction of the new two-story building, a project that had been in the planning for five years, pushing its opening by about four months.
Hermosa City School District voters approved a $59 million bond in 2016 to refurbish the school, originally built in 1924 and now named Hermosa Vista, as well as two other campuses.
The new Hermosa Vista school cost $29 million, said district Superintendent Jason Johnson. The two-story building, which includes classrooms and administrative offices, has a maximum capacity of 510 seats. It also boasts a separate multipurpose building, an asphalt playground and a turf field. And the school is also environmentally friendly, using solar panels to help it generate as much energy as it uses.
“I’m really grateful to the Hermosa Beach community,” Johnson said. “This is such a major investment and is a big moment for our schools.”
A remodel of Hermosa View School is currently underway, with a modernization effort to follow at Hermosa Valley.
The three projects, though, has caused considerable shuffling among the various student populations.
Eventually, TK-2 students will attend Hermosa View, third and fourth graders will attend Hermosa Vista, and those in grades five through eight will attend Hermosa Valley.
But because of the Hermosa View remodel, Hermosa Vista will be the home of TK to second grade students until the 2022-2023 school year, Johnson said. Third to eighth graders are currently being taught at Hermosa Valley, though learning remains partially virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Once the Hermosa View remodel is done, the district’s youngest students will move there. Hermosa Vista will then become the new home to 300 to 400 third and fourth graders. Hermosa Valley will host fifth to eighth graders.
Despite the remodel, the youngest students began attending classes at Hermosa View in February, when hybrid learning began. Until then, district students had spent months learning entirely online.
But on Tuesday, second graders began their first full day of in-person learning, doing so at Hermosa Vista — becoming the first students to step foot in the new buildings.
Lisa Gardner, who is president of the Executive Board of the Hermosa Valley & View Parent Teacher Organization, said her second grader, Grant, had problems sleeping Monday night as he anticipated his return to school the next morning.
“I dropped him off, and he got his temperature taken and he walked in and I walked away, it was somewhat anti-climatic,” she said.
Still, “it’s a school and it’s open,” Gardner added. “Let’s get going on the education part.”
Gardner — who has been involved with the PTO since before her fifth grade daughter, Ellie, was born — said the opening of Hermosa Vista has been a long time coming. Her husband, Doug, was involved in the bond measure campaign before eventually being appointed to the school board.
“I wish we had the opportunity to make a bigger deal about it,” Gardner said. “On the other hand, (we’re) excited that they’re just getting in and getting educated.”
First graders will resume full in-person learning next week, and kindergarteners and those in transitional kindergarten will resume a five-day schedule the week after, according to the district’s reopening plan. Those in grades three to five will begin transitioning to full in-person schedules the first week of May, though exact dates have not yet been set. That’s because, according to the district’s reopening plan, officials “need an opportunity to solidify our procedures with the 6-8 hybrid return.”
The district has not yet determined when its oldest students will return to full-time in-person learning. The district’s reopening plan can’t manage that while following the rules for stable cohorts, which caps the number of students per group at 120.
Still, Tuesday was a celebratory occasion for the district.
“Opening a new school and transitioning to a full day is a fitting finale to this school year,” Johnson said in a written statement last week. “My hat is off to our extraordinary teachers, staff, and community who pulled together to place our small beach school ahead in facilities and instruction.”