Planned site of IUSD’s fifth high school OK’d by Department of Toxic Substances Control

IUSD is another step closer to beginning construction on its fifth comprehensive high school after receiving word that the proposed site has been cleared for use by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Lloyd Linton, the district’s director of facilities planning and construction, shared the latest developments on high school No. 5 at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting. Holding a letter from the DTSC dated April 4, he said the agency has concurred with IUSD’s Preliminary Environmental Assessment in determining that the planned location for the campus near the northeast border of the Orange County Great Park meets the rigorous safety standards for school construction. The DTSC added that no further assessment is necessary.

IUSD needs to open its fifth high school by the fall of 2016 to accommodate new homes set to be built around the Great Park and to prevent overcrowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools. To meet that deadline, the district must secure all necessary state approvals, formally acquire the property from developer Heritage Fields and begin construction by June.

Because the DTSC is responsible for ensuring that communities are safe from contaminants, its stamp of approval is considered a significant milestone for school construction. Yet a number of additional steps remain before IUSD can break ground, and the timeline is extremely tight.

Linton said his staff has already submitted the DTSC letter to the California Department of Education, which must ultimately sign off on both the suitability of the site and the building plans. Those same plans also require a green-light from the Division of the State Architect, which looks closely at structural safety and accessibility.

The good news is that all remaining state approvals are expected within a week or two, according to Linton. Once that happens, and once the appraisal process is complete, IUSD and Heritage Fields can close escrow on the property. If all goes as planned, the Board of Education could be asked to approve an implementation agreement at its May 6 meeting, and school construction could begin in June.

In the meantime, IUSD continues to meet with Heritage Fields to coordinate next steps. Andreas Chialtas, who is serving as IUSD’s legal counsel, told the board that the developer and the district are in agreement on the timeline for transferring ownership of the property, and both sides are working together to ensure grading permits are in place from the City of Irvine and the state.

“The last few weeks we’ve had a number of very productive meetings in terms of how we would coordinate our grading with their grading, and how we might be able to start construction out there sometime in June,” Chialtas said.

Another update on the fifth high school will be presented at the board’s Facilities Study Session on April 22.

Also Tuesday:

  • Meeting an annual requirement of the California Education Code, the board approved the 2014-15 curriculum for grades seven through 12. The Course of Study, which is available online, contains a listing of course titles for each school by curricular area, along with codes to indicate new and deleted courses.
  • Following a public hearing, board members voted to adopt a joint proposal between IUSD and the California School Employees Association (CSEA), Chapter 517, to initiate the bargaining process. The action allows the district and its classified employees to address issues related to compensation and related benefits, as well as health and welfare benefits.