Corona del Mar High School students walk through campus with books over their heads these days — trying to avoid being targeted by swarms of seagulls that have invaded the campus over the past few months.
"I got pooped on yesterday," one student said Wednesday as she scurried across the quad between finals, shielding herself from dozens of birds flying overhead.
The birds have long been a nuisance on campus, particularly around lunch, when they scramble for food scraps. But since October, the birds have become so pervasive and aggressive that school officials are working on finding a solution, Principal Tim Bryan told members of the PTA at a meeting Wednesday morning.
"They used to sort of sit up on the top of buildings and wait," Bryan said. "The birds were getting aggressive and flying through the quad. It's become a real problem. It's a serious concern for me."
This week, he said, a bird flew alongside a teacher who was carrying a tray of food, hovering menacingly as she walked.
"Now it's actually a safety issue," he said.
The birds have not injured anyone, but they have created a mess. Students are regularly hit by bird droppings, and feathers litter the campus along with bird droppings on the pavement. Custodians can't wash the droppings because the water drains to the bay, so they've had to wash each mess with a rigged device of a stick with a tennis ball on the end, doused in a cleaning solution.
"We were really grateful for the rain," he said.
The birds apparently are nesting in the roof of the school's gymnasium. The warmer weather has resulted in migration pattern changes, Bryan said, which is why there are more birds on campus than usual, all fighting for the same amount of food scraps.
School officials considered hiring a falconer to try to reduce the problem, but the expense and other concerns made that unfeasible, Bryan said. Currently, he said he and district officials are researching other remedies, including a sonic system that could frighten away the birds.
"At first it was sort of amusing," he said. "But we really do not want the birds hanging out."
Junior Guards to launch online system
For the first time ever, the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards program will require families to register online before swim tryouts this year, officials said.
"We go live on Feb. 6," said Mike Halphide, junior lifeguard and training captain for the Newport Beach Fire Department.
Beginning Monday, participants who plan to try out for the Junior Guards program should go online to preregister, he said.
Returning junior guard families will need to update their information, he said, and everyone should print the swim test form and bring it to swim tryouts. The online registration should take about five minutes.
Swim tryouts are scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 19, March 4 and March 11, as well as from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 27, March 5 and March 12. Families should bring proof of a child's age — they must be between 9 and 15 years old to participate — as well as proof of residency.
Additional online registration steps, including uniform try-on information, will be provided after swimmers pass their test. But the online system will reduce the time parents have to spend waiting in line to secure time slots.
"It seems silly to do it any other way in this day and age," Halphide said.
Halphide encouraged families to skip the first tryout, even if they want their swimmers to have multiple testing opportunities to make their time requirements.
"The first one is always going to be more crowded," he said. "You're going to have to wait."
The summer program accepts 1,250 students
*Fire map meeting at OASIS Center
The Newport Beach Fire Department will host a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the OASIS Senior Center to answer questions about the proposed adoption of Cal Fire's Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone maps.
About 5,000 Newport Beach homes fall within the state's Very High Fire Hazard Severity Map Zone, which includes homes along Buck Gully and Morning Canyon and stretches from Orchid down to Crystal Cove with most of Newport Coast also is included.
If the maps are adopted, homeowners would face more intense scrutiny of fire hazards such as location of woodpiles, tree species, where trees are and how many trees are clustered together as well as buffer zones for firefighters to access blazes. New construction also would face stricter regulation, and homeowners would have to disclose to future buyers that their houses fall within the Very High Fire Hazard area.
The Newport Beach City Council discussed the maps at a Jan. 24 study session, but council members delayed a vote on adopting the proposed ordinance, saying it needed refinement as well as more public outreach. The item will be on the council's Feb. 14 agenda.
The meeting at the OASIS Center will include an overview of the Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone Map, as well as an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.
The new map can be viewed at the Newport Beach Fire Department Administration Office (Building D), 3300 Newport Blvd., or on the city's website.
The OASIS Senior Center is at Fifth and Marguerite avenues.