IUSD at 40: Alderwood moves in 2005, changes its name six years later, but retains greatness


In 2005, after calling Woodbridge home for 25 years, Alderwood Basics Plus School packed up and moved, taking its name, its staff and its stellar reputation to a brand new community in Quail Hill.

And by now you’re probably asking a pretty common question: What does “Basics Plus” mean?

Well, in the 1970s, Irvine’s elementary schools generally reflected the progressive educational philosophies of the time, including the open-classroom model, which did away with interior walls to facilitate more cooperative methods of teaching and learning. But not everyone embraced the approach.

Alderwood Basics Plus and Westwood Basics Plus sprang up as attractive alternatives for families that wanted to “get back to the basics.” There weren’t assigned attendances areas for these schools, making them essentially schools of choice. Yet they had no problem drawing students whose parents agreed to support a number of key tenets. Among them, it was decided there would be a strong focus on basic skills, such as reading, math and language. There would be a structured discipline policy, as well as a homework policy, and expectations for students and parents alike. There would be no combination classes. And, unlike other elementary sites of the era, there would be walls separating classrooms.

Alderwood Basics Plus opened in 1980 on Alderwood, the street, and that should clear up another mystery. But even with the move in 2005, officials felt it was appropriate to preserve the school’s original name, which was embraced by local families and considered synonymous with a quality education. (Interestingly enough, a total of five Irvine schools have moved to new locations since 2005. While two have undergone name changes to reflect their surroundings, three have not, including Alderwood, Vista Verde School and Creekside High School).

That said, Alderwood Basics Plus did change its name six years later — to Alderwood Elementary School. The reason? The school and the district basically came to the conclusion that the “Basics Plus” tag was no longer applicable. With the rise of state and federal standards, the introduction of high-stakes testing and the district’s pursuit of best practices, campuses throughout Irvine began evolving along similar paths. The open-classroom trend faded at regular elementary sites, which also renewed their emphasis on language arts and math. Moreover, Alderwood took on an assigned attendance area when it moved to Quail Hill. The net result of these changes is that Irvine’s elementary schools offer similar instructional profiles, while maintaining the cultural elements that make each unique.

As for the old Alderwood site on Alderwood, it was sold a few years back to William Lyon Homes, which is building a new 48-home neighborhood that also has a name — “The Branches.”

Do you have an old photo of the Irvine Unified School District you’d like to share? Send it to ianhanigan@iusd.org, along with some basic caption information, including names, dates and locations. We may publish it on the NewsFlash as part of our IUSD at 40 project. Images from IUSD’s first four decades will be posted on Thursdays.