Kristen Nelson, San Clemente, Las Palmas Elementary School Principal

This year, Las Palmas Elementary School turns 90 years old. It shares this distinguished birthday with the city of San Clemente. This school opened in 1927-28 as San Clemente Grammar School and by its second year was educating 80 students. Bernice Ayers was the first teacher at the grammar school. It was a beautiful building overlooking Plaza Park that included a pond with swans in it. St. Clemente’s Episcopal Church served as a wonderful neighbor and still does to this day. Although the school lost its Ole Hanson charm in the 1950s to earthquake retrofit, several original buildings still exist.

Las Palmas is now a bustling Spanish-immersion program, serving close to 900 students. As the current principal of Las Palmas, I am writing to thank the community of San Clemente for its ongoing support of this special school. The Las Palmas neighbors give us ongoing patience with traffic issues, our law enforcement offers protection, our secondary schools send students to help, offer assemblies and welcome our students to games and activities. One team, one town.

I always enjoy when members of the community stop me to tell me what the school used to be like. A few years ago, a gentleman told me a great story—the pictures tell me this is true—but I’m really not sure.

“The nurse’s office was on a second story, and we had to go upstairs to see the nurse,” he said. “By the time you got up there, you were really sick and exhausted, or you could see the ocean and waves and decided you were really sick and needed to leave.”
Sounds like San Clemente to me.

I welcome you to visit Las Palmas/San Clemente Grammar School on San Clemente Day between noon-4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24. We are a stop on the historic trolley, or just come on by. We will have old photos, snacks, kindergarten rooms open, and you are welcome to walk our grounds. We look forward to seeing you and welcoming you into the historic San Clemente Grammar School and the futuristic Las Palmas Elementary School! Thank you, San Clemente.

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