Board of Education to Hold Public Hearing March 1 on Facilities Measure

Dear IUSD Community,
I recently wrote to you about the Irvine Unified School District’s (IUSD) plans to update our aging schools to a similar standard as our newer schools, so that all of IUSD’s more than 32,000 students have access to 21st-century instructional technology and learning tools. To achieve this important goal, IUSD is considering placing a School Facility Improvement Measure on the June 7, 2016 ballot to provide a dedicated and locally-controlled funding source for the most urgent upgrades in our aging schools.SFIM Mailer Feb. 2016 Image_Page_2

Updating Aging Schools
More than half of IUSD schools are more than 30 years old and are in critical need of upgrades and modernization. While some of our more recently built schools have modern classrooms and science labs, others do not. IUSD has worked to develop a Comprehensive Facilities Master Plan for the improvement of our school facilities. This process included a thorough expert assessment of each of our school campuses and input from teachers, principals, parents and students to identify the highest priority needs.

Planning for the Future of Our Schools and Students
With the District’s school facility needs identified and prioritized, IUSD is now evaluating options for funding improvements to our schools. On March 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the IUSD Administration Center (5050 Barranca Parkway, Irvine) the IUSD Board of Education will hold a public hearing about placing a School Facility Improvement Measure on the June 2016 ballot. The public is invited to attend this meeting and share their thoughts.

Continuing IUSD’s Standard of Excellence
IUSD is proud that our students continue to perform among the best in Orange County and in the state. We are fortunate to have outstanding teachers, challenging and innovative academic programs and a community that supports Irvine students and schools. These are all essential elements of maintaining the top quality education for which Irvine is known. If passed, a School Facilities Improvement Measure would help support outstanding student achievement by ensuring students have equal access to facilities that support 21st-century education and career opportunities.

Your Feedback Is Important
We asked for your priorities for updating our schools and by clicking here, you’ll find information about the school facility planning process and how we are using your comments and feedback.  If you would like more information, please click here for frequently asked questions or visit our website  Thank you for your interest in IUSD schools and your ongoing support for our students.


Terry L. Walker
Superintendent of Schools, Irvine Unified School District

Portola Springs Dedications Showcase State-of-the-art Facility

IUSD hosted two Portola Springs Elementary School dedication ceremonies to welcome students, their families and community to the District’s newest elementary school.  Participants of both ceremonies learned about the features of this state-of-the-art educational facility, which is designed to leverage the talents of teachers and staff as they work to develop each student’s full potential.  PS Ribbon Cutting Group Shot (2)

The first dedication ceremony, led by Superintendent Terry Walker and Principal Heather Phillips, gave the Board of Education, IUSD principals, IUSD PTA presidents, City Councilmembers, community partners, and other local dignitaries the opportunity to experience an interactive tour of the school site.  During the tour, school staff demonstrated the unique features of Portola Springs Elementary, including the Design and Science Lab, high-tech and flexible-design classrooms, music and performing arts spaces, collaborative work spaces, the Innovation Lab, and the Learning Center.

Click here to read more about the innovative feature at Portola Springs Elementary.

During his remarks to the capacity crowd, Superintendent Terry Walker spoke about IUSD’s accomplishments and how Portola Springs is representative of IUSD’s vision for preparing our children for competitive 21st Century colleges and careers.

“Our relentlessly changing world requires that we adapt and evolve to best meet the needs of our students,” said Walker.  “Portola Springs Elementary is strategically designed to leverage the power of discovery, collaboration, adaptability and inquiry.  It reflects our own relentless commitment to excellence and exemplifies our award winning education specifications.”

The District also held a special ceremony for Portola Springs students and families, who heard comments from students about how they utilize and love their new school, from Principal Phillips and Superintendent Walker.  Board of Education Members joined the festivities and celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony with Cub Council members. PS School Ribbon Cutting (2)

Principal Phillips addressed the importance of community and the dedication of her staff in opening this new facility.  “When I was thinking about what to speak to that captures what has happened over this past year, as we began building the Grizzly community, it occurred to me that the word “Dedication” is very fitting,” said Phillips.  “That is what I’ve witnessed this community of teachers, parents, and students demonstrate each and every day.”

She went on to discuss the importance of this new school in providing teachers, staff and students with innovative tools.  “What is truly beautiful about this school is that it allows us to focus on what is really important – students, learning, inclusion, relationship building,” said Phillips.  “We have the opportunity to be creative, to connect with each other and with the world outside the walls of our school.  We aren’t limited by our facility…instead it enhances what we are able to do every day.”

Portola Springs serves north Irvine and is home to 630 students in grades K-6.

Board of Education unanimously approves name for IUSD’s next K-8

In accordance with the district’s policy to assign names based on an adjacent street, park or village, the IUSD Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday night to name IUSD’s third K-8 campus Beacon Park School, referencing the village in which it will be built.

With construction underway, the school is scheduled to open in August 2016.

Beacon Park School will be located south of Sand Canyon Avenue near Irvine Boulevard.  The address will be 200 Cultivate, though you probably won’t find that on a map yet.

Board members had five names to consider Tuesday, with other options being the nearby street names: Beacon, Benchmark, Cultivate, and Paramount.

The groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Wednesday, April 1 at 3:30p.m.

IUSD adds more solar panels, forecasts up to $8 million in long-term savings

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IUSD has reached another milestone in its ongoing drive to offset energy costs with solar power.

Last week, it was announced that solar installations at three schools have been completed, capping the second phase of the ambitious district-wide initiative.

Vehicle shade structures topped with solar tiles are now producing electricity at Stonegate and Woodbury elementary schools, as well as University High School. With these new structures online, IUSD now powers 22 sites with the help of photovoltaic systems, and the district is expecting to avoid $5 million to $8 million in utility costs over the next 20 years.

“We accomplished this with zero up-front costs and zero maintenance costs through a power-purchase agreement with SunEdison,” says Mark Sontag, IUSD’s director of math, science and career technical education. “That extra budget means more resources for our teachers and students.”

NorthwoodHS-039 (1)Since 2010, IUSD has authorized the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of more than a dozen schools — that’s Irvine High School pictured above — and vehicle shade structures capable of harnessing the sun’s rays have been constructed in the parking lots of 11 sites, including the District Office and the Maintenance and Operations center. (Shade structures at Northwood High are shown to the right.)

The systems were all built by SunEdison, which agreed to sell power back to IUSD at a rate that is both predictable and consistently below what the local utility charges. In exchange, SunEdison qualifies for tax incentives that public agencies can’t access.

IUSD’s solar panels generate about 25 percent to 60 percent of each campus’ electrical consumption, but Sontag notes that the benefits go way beyond savings. The installations also serve as the basis for standards-based instruction, allowing students to learn about photovoltaic technology on their own campuses as they track energy production and consumption in real time.

“The Irvine Unified School District is a wonderful success story and a role model for other school districts,” said Sam Youneszadeh, managing director of west coast distributed generation at SunEdison. “They’re inspiring to us, and we hope many more schools are able to follow their lead and invest more on education by reducing their energy bill.”

A third phase of IUSD’s solar initiative would add panels at Cypress Village and Portola Springs elementary schools in 2015.

Portola High groundbreaking celebrated as a testament to collaboration, perseverance

In less than two years, a state-of-the-art high school is expected to occupy this vast stretch of undeveloped land south of Irvine Boulevard. There will be classrooms, a 720-seat theater, a gymnasium, a building to house elective courses, and the kind of student center you might find on a college campus.

But IUSD school board President Sharon Wallin sees more than the promise of new facilities. She sees memories waiting to be made.

“I see pep rallies, homecoming dances, basketball games,” said Wallin, flanked by blue and white balloons. “I see band performances, spring musicals and campus clubs. I see the first encounters between students, and the lifelong friendships being made. That to me is what this project is all about.”

Portola High groundbreaking 3Joined by local dignitaries and community members, IUSD ceremoniously broke ground on Portola High School Thursday afternoon, marking the start of construction on the district’s fifth comprehensive high school after years of diligent planning, collaborative negotiations and rigorous environmental reviews. The event was held just three weeks after a groundbreaking celebration for the similarly named Portola Springs Elementary School.

“You know, they say that the best things in life don’t come easy,” Superintendent Terry Walker said during his introductory remarks. “So if that is true, then I have no doubt that this high school is going to be the greatest high school in the world.”

Along with Wallin and Walker, ceremony speakers included state Assemblyman Don Wagner, Irvine Company Senior Vice President Mike LeBlanc, FivePoint Communities Executive Vice President Lynn Jochim, Irvine Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway and representatives from the offices of Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer and state Senator Mimi Walters.

Portola High groundbreakingFEATUREDIUSD Board of Education members Paul Bokota, Lauren Brooks, Ira Glasky and Michael Parham were also on hand, as was former trustee Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner. And the Northwood High School band, led by music teachers Ben Case and Whitney Tavlarides, cheerfully loaned school spirit to the ceremony with a setlist of contemporary songs, including Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Both were fitting.

Naturally, there were photos to commemorate the occasion, featuring board members, staff and others breaking ground with shiny silver shovels near what will become home plate on Portola High’s future baseball diamond. (“So all kinds of references to hitting home runs would be very relevant to today’s events,” noted Walker.) But first it was time to acknowledge the moment’s significance — and to recognize those responsible for getting Portola High to this point.

“The story of this school, like most of the great stories, is one about people,” Walker said, “and in this case their selfless dedication to serving our students and this community.”

“The people responsible for making this school a reality … embody the same characteristics we aspire to cultivate in our students — courage and resilience and perseverance and grit, as well as thoughtful planning,” the superintendent said.

Portola High groundbreaking 2Indeed, planning had been long underway before IUSD and its developer partners reached agreement on the school’s location in 2011, kicking off an exhaustive evaluation and testing process that culminated with approvals from the California Department of Education and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. In May, the Board of Education passed a resolution formally selecting the more-than-40-acre site along Irvine Boulevard and west of Alton Parkway, and the school was given a name nine days before Thursday’s ceremony. Portola High School, designed by HMC Architects, is now set to open in August 2016 with an inaugural class of freshman students.

“Here’s an understatement for you: This is a big day for our school district,” board President Wallin said, drawing an enthusiastic round of applause.

“Though our groundbreaking ceremonies traditionally mark the beginning of construction, our district’s vision is long-term,” she said. “Our commitment extends to many generations who will go on to shape this campus and establish its own identity, ensuring that Portola High is indeed synonymous with all that’s great in Irvine.”

Photos by IUSD Webmaster Shane Cline

Latest federally-mandated asbestos inspections reveal no hazards in IUSD

An “extremely thorough” asbestos inspection that assessed every room on every IUSD campus over the summer has resulted in a clean bill of health for local schools.

Under the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act, or AHERA, school district facilities are required to be re-inspected for asbestos-related hazards every three years. A team from the environmental services firm A-Tech Consulting Inc. was dispatched to Irvine to perform that work in late August and spent about a week examining IUSD’s campuses.

In a letter dated Thursday, Oct. 9, an A-Tech Consulting official confirmed that his company’s comprehensive evaluation revealed no asbestos hazards in Irvine Unified.

“The re-inspections were extremely thorough,” Project Supervisor Joseph A. Williams said. “We made it a point to go into every building, room and closet within each school and look at every material. At this time, our findings indicate that there is currently no asbestos hazard throughout the Irvine Unified School District.”

IUSD, which will be re-examined again in three years, tends to go above and beyond in testing its schools for potential hazards, says Joe Hoffman, the district’s director of Maintenance and Operations.

“We follow all the AHERA guidelines and re-inspect our schools continually to make sure they’re safe for students and staff,” Hoffman said.

Board of Education unanimously approves a name for IUSD’s next high school

We now know what name will be stamped on the marquee outside Irvine’s next high school: Portola High School.

gavelThe Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday night to brand IUSD’s fifth comprehensive high school with that moniker after considering a lengthy list of community submissions — and a handful of staff recommendations based on those submissions, including Great Park High, Modjeska High, Veterans High and Park View High.

Despite more than 300 community suggestions, the early board consensus was that there was no runaway favorite, and there was talk of postponing a final decision. But board members ultimately agreed that Portola High was the right choice, and one that fits with IUSD’s other high school names.

“Believe me, I’ve been thinking about it,” Board President Sharon Wallin said, “and there’s not a name great enough for what this high school is going to be.”

Joining an award-winning lineup that includes Creekside, Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools, Portola High is on track to open with an inaugural class of freshmen in August 2016. In the meantime, an Oct. 16 groundbreaking ceremony has been planned to mark the beginning of construction.

Groundbreaking ceremony to be held Oct. 16 for IUSD’s new Portola High School

A date has been set for the groundbreaking of Irvine Unified’s fifth comprehensive high school.

The IUSD Board of Education, district staff and local dignitaries will gather for a special ceremony to mark the beginning of construction on Portola High School Thursday, Oct. 16. The event, which is open to the public, is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. at the future site of the new campus, which will be located on the south side of Irvine Boulevard, west of Alton Parkway. (Click to enlarge the map below.)

Because there’s not exactly a parking lot yet, guests are encouraged to carpool. For safety reasons, they’re also encouraged to wear flat, closed-toe shoes.

HS5 mapIf all goes as planned, the state-of-the-art secondary school will welcome its first batch of freshmen in August 2016. That’s significant, because enrollment projections indicate IUSD will need a fifth comprehensive high school campus in place to accommodate thousands of new homes — and to prevent overcrowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools.

In 2011, IUSD and its developer partners reached a tentative agreement on the school’s location, setting the stage for an exhaustive evaluation and testing process that culminated with approvals from the California Department of Education and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control. Nearly three years later, the Board of Education passed a resolution formally selecting the 40.2-acre site along Irvine Boulevard and allowing ownership of the property to be transferred from developer Heritage Fields.

In anticipation of the Oct. 16 groundbreaking ceremony, the Board of Education recently named the school Portola High after considering a lengthy list of community submissions, as well as a handful of staff recommendations based on those submissions. Other potential monikers included Great Park High, Modjeska High, Veterans High and Park View High.

Note: This post has been updated to include the school’s new name.

IUSD officials break ground on a permanent home for Portola Springs Elementary

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A little more than 15 months after breaking ground on Cypress Village Elementary School, IUSD officials were at it again on Thursday, ceremoniously kicking off construction of the new Portola Springs Elementary campus.

This time around, the celebration included dozens of children, many wearing red and black Portola Springs T-shirts. It was a genuine display of school spirit, attributable to the fact that Portola Springs has already opened and is serving an inaugural class of 240 enthusiastic students at an interim site just a few miles away.

Against a backdrop of dirt and earth-moving equipment, Principal Heather Phillips welcomed many of those students — along with parents, teachers and staff members — and delivered the day’s opening remarks before turning the mic over to IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker, who in turn introduced Board of Education President Sharon Wallin. Then it was the students’ turn to take the stage, dutifully singing “America the Beautiful” under the direction of their teachers.

Other local dignitaries were on hand, including Board of Education members Paul Bokota, Lauren Brooks and Ira Glasky; Irvine Mayor Steven Choi and City Councilwoman Christina Shea; Irvine Company Senior Vice President Mike LeBlanc and Vice President of Community Affairs Robin Leftwich; and IUSD assistant superintendents John Fogarty, Eamonn O’Donovan and Cassie Parham.

[Update: You can watch highlights of the ceremony here.]

At a cost of about $33 million, the new Portola Springs campus is on track to open in August 2015 at the address of 12100 Portola Springs in Irvine. It took a little imagination to envision the completed school near the intersection of Portola Parkway and Portola Springs on Thursday, but its layout will mirror IUSD’s other new elementary school, Cypress Village, which opened its doors on Sept. 2.

PortolaSpringslogoPrincipal Phillips told the gathered crowd that Portola Springs Elementary will embrace Irvine Unified’s traditions while establishing many of its own.

“We gather today to celebrate not just the groundbreaking for a new school, but the beginning of a new chapter in the story of IUSD,” she said.

Superintendent Walker followed, introducing the board members, district staff, city leaders and Irvine Company executives in attendance and offering praise for those who made the project possible. He also noted that the presence of Portola Springs students added a new level of energy to this type of ceremony.

“What strikes me as very uniquely great and wonderful about this event is that you’re here,” Walker said. “You’re going to be here from the beginning to see this grow, and I agree with (Principal Phillips) that there isn’t anything more exciting than to watch something that’s going to be so profoundly important in the lives of our community, our students and our families.”

Board President Wallin said Portola Springs is just the second school built from the district’s educational specifications. Approved in 2011, ed specs spell out desired instructional activities and the physical spaces needed to support those activities.

“But the ed specs and the state-of-the-art facilities alone do not make a successful school,” she said. “It takes talented teachers, involved parents, a dedicated staff and engaged students to breathe life into a campus, and fortunately we have all that right here.”

After the speeches were over, board members and district staff were presented with white hard hats and silver shovels to pose for a few photos, symbolizing the start of construction. Others joined in as well.

“To those who will be working and learning here a year from now, I have three requests,” Board President Wallin shared a few moments earlier. “Love your new school, make it your own, and set the bar high for those who will follow in your footsteps.”

Picture above, from left to right: Assistant Superintendent Cassie Parham, Portola Springs Principal Heather Phillips, Board of Education member Paul Bokota, Board of Education member Lauren Brooks, Superintendent Terry Walker, Board of Education President Sharon Wallin and Board of Education member Ira Glasky.

What will be the name of Irvine’s next high school? IUSD is seeking your suggestions

Irvine’s next high school is on track to open with an inaugural class of ninth-graders in August 2016.

But first things first: The school needs a name, and you can help.

IUSD is asking community members to submit suggestions for what to call the new campus via this online input form. All entries received by the Sept. 26 deadline will be reviewed by Superintendent Terry Walker and his staff, which will then make a recommendation to the Board of Education.

HS5studentunion_000Board members are expected to vote on an official moniker at their Oct. 7 meeting, ensuring IUSD’s fifth comprehensive high school is no longer referred to as IUSD’s fifth comprehensive high school by the time students arrive.

Enrollment projections indicate a new campus will be needed in 2016 to accommodate thousands of new homes in the area while preventing overcrowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools. Following nearly three years of analysis and environmental reviews, board members approved a resolution in May to do just that, securing more than 40 acres along Irvine Boulevard, west of Alton Parkway, for the new school.

And now comes the question of what should be stamped on the marquee.

The Board of Education’s policy for naming campuses and facilities states that elementary schools should be named after an adjacent street, park, or village, and middle schools should reference significant landmarks in the community. (You can find recent examples here and here.) As for high schools, the same policy says their names should be considered individually. It also suggests the process for naming sites should include community input where feasible.

So here’s your chance to brand a future Irvine landmark. To suggest a name for IUSD’s next high school, click here, or visit