All Irvine Unified schools and offices to be closed Monday in honor of Veterans Day

Just a friendly reminder that all IUSD schools and offices will be closed on Monday, Nov. 11, in honor of Veterans Day. The federal holiday honoring the men and women who have served in the military is observed annually on Nov. 11.

To learn more about the history of Veterans Day, click here. And we’ll see you back at school on Tuesday.

School board opts to fill vacant seat with provisional appointee, now seeking candidates

Members of the IUSD Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to fill a soon-to-be-vacant school board seat with a provisional appointment, avoiding the costly option of a special election.

The board will now collect applications, interview finalists and select one qualified candidate to complete the term of Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner, who announced at the last board meeting that he’s stepping down on Nov. 21. His successor will assume all powers and duties of a governing board member until the next regularly scheduled election in November 2014.

A two-member subcommittee of Sharon Wallin and Michael Parham was appointed Tuesday to develop selection criteria and interview questions for prospective candidates, who can apply for consideration by completing this IUSD Board of Education Provisional Appointment Application. These online applications must be submitted by noon on Friday, Nov. 8.

The Board will then review candidates and select finalists for interviews. Here’s a timeline of that process.

Regular board meetings are typically held on the first and third Tuesday of every month, with occasional special meetings. Board members, who must live in the district, typically spend about 15 to 20 hours a week participating in community functions, county and state events, trainings and meeting preparation.

Incidentally, the Orange County Registrar of Voters had estimated the cost of a special election to be between $338,657 and $380,450.

Also on Tuesday night:

  • Board members engaged in a lengthy discussion about the location, timing and financing of IUSD’s fifth comprehensive high school. We have more on that in this separate post.
  • The board ratified an agreement with the Irvine Teachers Association that raises compensation by 2 percent and includes a one-time payment equal to 1.7 percent of each employee’s pay based on the 2013-14 salary schedule. The new contract for certificated educators also ups the district’s contribution for health benefits. Board members had ratified a nearly identical agreement with classified employees at their last meeting, and they approved a similar settlement with the Irvine Supervisory Association on Tuesday. The agreements collectively mark the first cost-of-living increases for IUSD employees since 2008.
  • The evening began with a special presentation on traffic and safety around Irvine schools. Presenters included Lauren Sipelis, director of elementary education; Keith Tuominen, director of secondary education; Tom Allan from the Irvine Police Department and Laurie Grushka from the City of Irvine.

Stumped on your science project? Come to IUSD’s Ask-A-Scientist Night on Oct. 16

Students looking for help on their science projects will be able to seek the advice of real-life experts during “Ask-A-Scientist Night” at Rancho San Joaquin Middle School.

Ask-A-Scientist Night

The event will be held from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

As in years past, students in grades six through 12 will have the opportunity to tap the expertise of practicing scientists and engineers from places like Beckman, Allergan, Rockwell, the Irvine Ranch Water District, UC Irvine, USC, Irvine Valley College, Chapman University and other local science-related firms and institutions. In addition, district science teachers will be on hand to assist.

Attendance is free, but each child must be supervised by an adult for the entire evening.

Rancho San Joaquin Middle School is located at 4861 Michelson Road. We have it on good authority — and by “good authority” we mean the flier posted to the right — that visitors may park on Michelson and Yale without being ticketed, even though it says “No parking.”  (This special privilege only applies to Ask-A-Scientist Night.)

For more information, check out the flier, email or call (949) 936-5057.

New athletic facility at Uni to be formally dedicated during special halftime ceremony on Oct. 11

IUSD is gearing up for a dedication ceremony that’s more than two decades in the making.

Some 26 years after it was first proposed, a brand new 2,940-seat stadium now occupies four acres on the north end of University High School, serving as the home field for the Uni Trojans and the Woodbridge High School Warriors. On Friday, Oct. 11, with Uni’s football team hosting Woodbridge in a big crosstown matchup, school leaders will be joined by district staff, current and former members of the IUSD Board of Education and a handful of local dignitaries for a special halftime program to formally dedicate the facility.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m., so expect the halftime ceremony to begin sometime around 8.

University High opened back in 1970, but it wasn’t until 1987 that a master plan specifically included a stadium. The years that followed brought studies, delays, meetings, more delays, impassioned community pleas, school board votes and even two lawsuits.

Construction began on the $8.4 million venue last fall, followed by a brief groundbreaking ceremony. A year later, on Sept 6, the completed stadium hosted its first-ever football game, with Woodbridge taking the field against Lancaster High. Six days later, on Sept. 12, Uni had its turn in a game against Laguna Beach.

Along with nearly 3,000 seats, the new stadium boasts home and visitor restrooms, a ticket booth, a concession stand, elevated lighting, a press box, FieldTurf brand synthetic turf — that’s the kind used by a number of NFL teams — and a synthetic nine-lane track.

The Oct. 11 game is scheduled as a home game for Uni, but we have no doubt there will be plenty of fans from both schools — as well as scores of proud community members who helped make the long-promised athletic facility a reality.

Uni High is located at 4771 Campus Drive in Irvine. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $5 for senior citizens, children up through the eighth grade (with their parents, of course) and Woodbridge High students with ASB cards. Uni students with ASB cards get in free.

Irvine to host Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO featuring energy-efficient homes of tomorrow

The City of Irvine is hosting a unique educational opportunity — one that happens to align nicely with IUSD’s recent solar initiative.

Twenty solar-powered homes of the future, all designed by teams of college students, will be on display at the Orange County Great Park during the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO. The event is free and will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for two straight weekends, Oct. 3 through Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 through Oct. 13.

About 800 college students spent up to two years designing and constructing the fully functional houses, which incorporate features and technologies designed to reduce carbon emissions while maintaining modern comforts. Their efforts culminate in a final competition, with judges deciding which home has most capably blended affordability, efficiency, energy production and curb appeal.

Meanwhile, the rest of us get to play the part of the nosy neighbors.

Obviously anyone with an interest in innovative home designs may want to tour these houses, but organizers say this will also be a great experience for kids, particularly those interested in science, technology or architecture.

Speaking of kids, Irvine students from Scott Bedley’s class at Plaza Vista School have been participating in an ongoing series of video chats with the team from Santa Clara University, so there’s a bit of a local connection. Here’s a preview of Santa Clara’s house, as published in the fall 2013 edition of Inside Irvine magazine:

Santa Clara University’s Radiant House is driven by the three E’s: efficiency, elegance and economy. The house carries the University’s tradition of using bamboo to a new level, using the sustainable material for structural wall and joist systems. With a  spacious and versatile “Great Room,” a large deck and patio area, and clean separation between private and public spaces, Radiant House offers an elegant, adaptable and affordable solution that balances the cutting edge with deceptive simplicity.

Radiant House uses inexpensive, commonly available materials in new and innovative ways with features that push the boundaries of architectural design. Features include a structural system, including wall and joist systems, made completely of bamboo — much of which is in raw, unrefined form to avoid the need for unsustainable treatment; solar panels that are seamlessly integrated into the roof structure using an integrated rail system; a front carport with electric car charging station; a generous, living space with high ceilings and clerestory windows that fill the interior with light and open to allow hot air to rise and escape; and spacious, accessible elements including a fullsized bathroom, walk-in closet, spacious kitchen and expandable dining table that can accommodate up to 12 guests.


The Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO will also feature other interactive exhibits and activities, all promoting energy efficiency in home design, transportation, consumer products, food production and education. Check out the video above or the event’s website for more information.

Timing is critical as IUSD moves forward with plans for fifth comprehensive high school

If you build it they will come. And if you don’t build it, they will come.

That’s the reality facing IUSD’s facilities team as the district moves forward with plans to construct its fifth comprehensive high school near the northeast border of the Orange County Great Park.

Superintendent Terry Walker says the project’s timing is particularly critical: If IUSD is unable to open the campus in 2016, projections indicate that dramatic overcrowding would occur at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools, as new residential developments are bringing new students — and lots of them.

Fortunately, the district and developer Heritage Fields El Toro, LLC, have already identified a suitable property and entered into contractual agreements. But a city official has expressed criticism of the location and is now seeking to reset the timeline by suggesting an alternative site, though none has been formally proposed.

In an interview this week, Walker stressed the importance of opening the district’s fifth comprehensive high school on time and sought to clarify a few facts about the escrowed property and the district’s position.

Here’s what the superintendent had to say specifically:

  • Without a new school in place by 2016, Irvine High would be required to house 2,556 students by 2016, up from this year’s enrollment of 1,856; Northwood High would expand to 2,932 students, up from 2,144; University would have to accommodate 2,867 students, up from 2,440; and Woodbridge High’s student population would grow to 2,674 from the current total of 2,458. Overcrowding at these sites has the potential to cause significant adverse implications for instruction, facilities and safety, including a spike in neighborhood traffic.
  • IUSD has been more than willing to evaluate alternate sites but so far none has been formally presented for consideration, and time is running out. In July 2011, the district entered into a mitigation agreement with Heritage Fields, and the two parties entered into a high school site purchase agreement the following month for the property commonly referred to as “Site A.” IUSD and Heritage’s contractual arrangements do allow for a substitution of property if the two sides agree to a different location, or if Site A fails to receive the required state approvals for the high school project. But again, nothing has been proposed.
  • Though one opponent of Site A has repeatedly pointed to the presence of the minimum-security James A. Musick Facility less than a mile away, Walker noted that the area is in the initial stages of development and will become a thriving new residential community. This is precisely why a high school campus must be in place sooner rather than later, he said. Meanwhile, IUSD has worked with the Irvine Police Department and other state and education agencies to ensure the viability and safety of the location.
  • Responding to a claim that a number of new homes in the new development will actually be in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Walker noted that the location of IUSD’s fifth high school will not change that fact. IUSD students will attend schools in IUSD, and Saddleback Valley USD students will report to campuses in the Saddleback Valley district.
  • Walker said it may be the opinion of some that finding an alternative location for IUSD’s proposed new high school would yield the City much-needed funding for other endeavors. Indeed, there have been repeated references to $60 million in state funding that might be made available to the City. But Walker said it remains to be seen what, if any, financial benefit would be derived by the City should a new location be identified and approved.
  • As for alternative sites, Walker noted that IUSD would need to fully analyze the significant implications of any alternate proposal that might seek to place a school in the center of “The First Great Metropolitan Park of the 21st Century.” As publicized, the Orange County Great Park would draw hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the county and beyond. Though Walker said the district has confidence in its law enforcement partners to manage activity in and around this type of development, he said he would have “very serious safety concerns about building a school campus near the gateway to a heavily populated regional attraction that would need to be addressed.”
  • Lastly, the benefits of joint-use have been repeatedly touted in relation to an alternative site. Walker questioned whether this was a realistic expectation for a local school, given the Great Park’s billing as a county attraction.

“Will Irvine’s fifth high school be expected to open its doors to the general public to accommodate county and regional events, and how might that impact the safety of our students?”, the superintendent asked. “Again, to be able to evaluate these benefits, the Board of Education first needs to be presented with the specifics of such an arrangement to determine if they are aligned with the best interests of IUSD’s students.”

In an Aug. 29 letter addressed to Irvine Mayor Steven Choi and City Manager Sean Joyce, Walker urged “all parties to work together on behalf of the Irvine community with actions that are strategic, productive and transparent.”

“If the City and Heritage have an alternative site to consider, IUSD and our Board of Education will review the proposal in good faith — just as it has indicated it would do since 2011,” Walker wrote. “In the absence of a formal proposal and the mitigating factors outlined above, we urge you to demonstrate leadership to ensure that Irvine’s next comprehensive high school is ready to accommodate students by the fall of 2016.”

Autism, bullying, youth stress and bike safety will be topics at Mayor’s Forum on Children’s Well-being

Irvine community members are invited to attend the upcoming Mayor’s Forum on Children’s Well-being from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 at the Lakeview Senior Center.

Aligned with the City of Irvine’s Strategic Plan for Children, Youth and Families, the free event will feature a handful of breakout sessions led by experts in their respective fields. Topics are set to include autism, bullying prevention, youth stress and risky behavior prevention, and bicycle safety. You can check out the details here.

There will also be a number of informational booths staffed by local organizations that serve young people. Those resources will be available to the public starting at 5:30 p.m.

Again, admission is free, and child care will be provided for kids ages 4 and older. Speaking of which, one of the child care activities is a free hockey clinic hosted by former Anaheim Ducks defenseman Jason Marshall and the Anaheim Ducks Street Team.

Attendees can register online at or by calling 949-724-6610. For those who do sign up online, be sure to enter class number 131075 for the forum and 131076 for child care.

The Lakeview Senior Center is located at 20 Lake Road in Irvine. For additional information, call 949-724-6690.

Plaza Vista, Vista Verde, Westpark and Woodbury set to kick off a new school year

Come Monday, July 29, a new school year will begin for Plaza Vista School, Vista Verde School, Westpark Elementary and Woodbury Elementary.

Those, of course, are IUSD’s year-round sites, which power through most of the summer but take three lengthy breaks during the year. The idea is to give families the choice of an alternate calendar, but we should note that the year-round campuses offer the same number of instructional days as Irvine’s other schools.

Speaking of which, the first day for IUSD students on the traditional calendar is Tuesday, Sept. 10, which also marks the opening of the new Jeffrey Trail Middle School. By that time, year-round students should be merrily making plans for their fall recess, which starts Sept. 23.

For more information, or to access a 2013-14 district calendar, click here.

Commencement ceremonies are coming up for high school seniors and their families

We’re almost halfway through June, and that means graduations are right around the corner. Here’s a schedule of the commencement ceremonies that are coming up in IUSD:

Speaking of dates to mark on the calendar, June 20 will be the last day of classes for all K-12 students in the district — or at least until summer school, which starts on June 24 for high schoolers and July 1 for elementary and middle school students.

IUSD families on the traditional September-through-June calendar will also want to note that Sept. 10 is the first day of the 2013-14 school year. Year-round students will report back to class on July 29.

Oh, and Father’s Day is this Sunday, so be sure to pick up a card for Dad.

Parents of next year’s APAAS fourth-graders invited to attend math presentation

Parents of third-graders enrolled in the fourth-grade APAAS program for the fall are invited to attend a special APAAS Math Night on Thursday, May 9.

APAAS is short for the Alternative Program for Academically Advanced Students. Thursday’s meeting will focus on math changes as a result of the new Common Core instructional standards.

The presentation is scheduled from 6 to 7 p.m. at IUSD’s Administrative Center, located at 5050 Barranca Parkway in Irvine. Guests are encouraged to arrive early as seating is limited.