School board approves boundary adjustments to accommodate fifth high school

Fifth high school boundaries

Capping ten months of discussion and analysis, the IUSD Board of Education this week approved a new attendance area for the district’s next high school, along with additional high school boundary adjustments to take effect when the new campus opens in August 2016.

Board members voted 5-0 on Tuesday, Aug. 19 to adopt changes recommended by IUSD’s Boundary Advisory Committee and Steering Committee following a presentation by facilities consultant and former IUSD principal Tony Ferruzzo. In a separate vote, the board also decided that the new high school should open with only ninth-graders in 2016. A new grade level will be added each year as the inaugural students advance.

The boundary changes will not apply to any current high schoolers, and, as depicted in the map above, the majority of IUSD families will not be affected. But new boundary lines are needed to carve out an attendance area for Irvine Unified’s fifth comprehensive high school and to ensure secondary enrollment is properly balanced throughout the district. As such, they may impact future high school assignments for some Irvine students currently enrolled in kindergarten through grade seven.

“We recognize that any time you make changes to attendance boundaries it’s going to have an impact on families,” Board of Education President Sharon Wallin said after the meeting. “Yet, with the unprecedented rate of growth that we’re experiencing in Irvine, it is absolutely critical that we make prudent decisions now to ensure high school enrollment is balanced and manageable moving forward, giving our students the greatest opportunities to succeed.”

“Above all,” Wallin said, “we are driven to do what’s best for kids while minimizing disruptions to our families, and I am proud to say that the actions taken by this board meet that standard.”

Here’s a look at how the changes affect each of IUSD’s comprehensive high schools:

High School No. 5, set to open in August 2016. The new campus will serve Heritage Fields, Los Olivos, Portola Springs, Lambert Ranch, Stonegate and Woodbury.

Irvine High School. As indicated above, Irvine cedes some neighborhoods to the new high school while picking up the area bordered by Jamboree Road, Irvine Center Drive, Culver Drive and Barranca Parkway, which was previously in Woodbridge’s High attendance area. This, however, does not include a separate, non-contiguous area assigned to Stone Creek Elementary School that’s bordered by Jamboree Road, Irvine Center Drive, Harvard Avenue and Moffett Drive. (Residents in that area will continue to attend Woodbridge.) Meanwhile, the area bordered by Trabuco Road, the Santa Ana (5) freeway and Jeffrey Road moves from Irvine High to Northwood High. Cypress Village remains assigned to Irvine High School.

Northwood High School. Northwood High School also cedes some territory to the fifth high school, as indicated above. But the area bordered by Trabuco Road, the Santa Ana (5) Freeway and Jeffrey Road has been assigned to Northwood from Irvine High.

University High School. No new areas have been assigned to Uni, but to balance enrollment, the Los Olivos area that was previously in Uni’s attendance area will be served by the new comprehensive high school, and two other Uni areas will be assigned to Woodbridge High. (See the Woodbridge High section.)

Woodbridge High School. The area bordered by Jamboree Road, Barranca Parkway, Harvard Avenue and Alton Parkway has been transferred from Uni to Woodbridge, along with the area bordered by Harvard Avenue, Barranca Parkway, Culver Drive and Main Street. As indicated above, Woodbridge also cedes some of its attendance area to Irvine High.


The boundary adjustments approved Tuesday — click on the map above for an enhanced view — represent the work of the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee, which began studying this complex issue back in October 2013. (The committee includes a principal, a teacher, a student and two parents from each of IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools, along with district staff.) After an initial draft of the plan was presented to the board at its March 4 meeting, four parent forums were held to provide information and solicit feedback. A revised proposal was then brought back to the board for another discussion on May 27.

In related news, board members on Tuesday also asked staff to re-examine a non-contiguous area assigned to Stone Creek Elementary School to determine if it makes more sense for that area to be assigned to another elementary school’s attendance area.

Take a virtual tour of the Irvine Unified School District’s newest elementary campus (video)

Sliding glass walls that transform classrooms into large collaborative learning spaces. Windows that automatically dim to help control energy costs. Outdoor seating for small-group instruction.

It’s all part of Cypress Village Elementary School, the latest addition to IUSD’s lineup of award-winning campuses.

With a budget of approximately $25 million and a projected opening enrollment of about 600 students, Cypress Village is nearing completion on 10.2 acres south of Jeffrey Road and east of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway. Once finished, the site will occupy about 61,000 square, serving its namesake village at the address of 355 Rush Lily.

Irvine has a history of producing cutting-edge schools, and this one fits nicely with that tradition. Yet what’s unique about Cypress Village, set to open Sept. 2, is that it’s the first school built to the district’s new educational specifications, or ed specs. Embedded in IUSD’s Facilities Master Plan, ed specs detail the instructional activities that will be housed within a school and map out the special features needed to support those activities.

We toured Cypress Village in mid-August, and though construction crews were still at work, the campus revealed the influence of IUSD’s ed specs with an emphasis on flexible learning environments, collaboration and technology integration.

In addition to the sliding glass walls, which will enable a number of collaborative opportunities for each grade level, classrooms in grades one through six also open into courtyards for outdoor instruction. Other amenities include a cavernous multipurpose room that will feature video monitors and floating ceiling panels, a living skills lab for students enrolled in the school’s structured autism program, grade-level work rooms for teachers, student tables that tilt up to become presentation boards and adjustable skylights that bathe hallways in natural light.

“The environment is set up to create a very personalized learning experience for our students,” Susan Kemp, Cypress Village’s first principal, told us.

School leaders are planning to host an open house from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 28 for incoming students and their families to check out some of these features, but you don’t have to wait get a preview of the site. Click on the video above to take a virtual tour of the new Cypress Village Elementary School.

Board of Education set to vote on proposed high school boundary adjustments

Irvine’s newest comprehensive high school is on track to open in 2016, necessitating some adjustments to IUSD’s existing high school boundaries.

Those adjustments were the subject of in-depth discussions during Board of Education meetings in March and May, as well as four parent forums that presented information and solicited community feedback.

Now, following months of analysis, high school boundary changes are coming up for a vote, with board members scheduled to take action at their next regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 19. (To access the latest agenda, click here.)

IUSD's fifth comprehensive high school is expected to open in August 2016.It’s important to remember that boundary changes wouldn’t take effect until the opening of the fifth high school in August 2016, and most IUSD families won’t be impacted. But planning for the new campus is an extensive process that requires establishing a dedicated attendance area. At the same time, modest adjustments are occasionally needed to balance enrollment districtwide.

While no current high school students would be affected, altered boundary lines could impact some students entering kindergarten through grade seven in IUSD, as well as kindergarten-through-eighth-grade students living within the boundaries proposed for the new campus.

The latest boundary recommendation represents the work of the district’s Boundary Advisory Committee, which includes a principal, a teacher, a student and two parents from each of IUSD’s four comprehensive high schools, along with district staff. You may remember that an initial draft was presented to the board at its March 4 meeting, which was followed by a series of parent forums. A revised proposal was brought back for a board discussion on May 27. (You can read our recap of the last meeting here.)

Meanwhile, boundaries aren’t the only important consideration for the new school. There’s also the question of how to build enrollment.

The district could, for example, require all ninth- and tenth-graders living within the new campus’ attendance area to enroll; or it could start the school with just ninth-graders; or it could require ninth-graders to enroll but give tenth-graders a choice. Each of these options has pros and cons that will be carefully weighed by the board.

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room of the District Office, located at 5050 Barranca Parkway in Irvine. It will also be broadcast on channel 39 for local Cox Communications subscribers and via AT&T U-verse’s government and public television menu.

Five IUSD students picked for national ensembles, will perform at the Grand Ole Opry

Five IUSD high schoolers have been selected to perform at the venerable Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as members of the 2014 National Association for Music Education All-National Honor Ensembles.

Melissa Chang of University High School and Ryan Lim of Northwood High were both selected to join the NAfME All-National Honor Concert Band, while Grace Gee of Woodbridge High School and Northwood’s Claire Lee and Michael Suh earned spots on the NAfME All-National Honor Symphony Orchestra.

In fact, Irvine is sending the most participants to Nashville from any district in the state, according to Brad Van Patten, IUSD’s coordinator of visual and performing arts.

“I would like to thank the teachers from our music program for encouraging Irvine’s finest young music students to successfully audition for these high-profile national ensembles,” he said.

The ensembles will perform on Oct. 29 at the Opry as part of the NAfME National In-Service Conference. You can find more information here.

School’s back in session for students and staff at Plaza Vista, Vista Verde, Westpark and Woodbury

And we’re back.

Today marks the first day of the 2014-15 school year for nearly 4,000 students enrolled at IUSD’s four year-round sites.

Plaza Vista School, Vista Verde School, Westpark Elementary and Woodbury Elementary all start up in July but take three lengthy breaks during the year. The idea is to give families the choice of an alternate calendar, but Irvine’s year-round schools still offer the same number of instructional days as IUSD’s other campuses.

Speaking of which, the first day for students on the traditional calendar is Tuesday, Sept. 2, which also marks a new chapter for IUSD with the opening of Cypress Village and Portola Springs elementary schools.

And by that time, our year-round students and staff will be looking forward to their fall recess, which starts Sept. 22.

For more calendar information, click here.

IUSD NewsFlash closes the books on the 2013-14 school year

So that’s it. Another school year is in the books. And while we briefly considered recapping the last nine-and-a-half months of district news with a clever rewrite of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” it seemed like a daunting task and we weren’t really sure about the copyright implications.

Beach Chairs Watching OceanThe IUSD NewsFlash team would, however, like to congratulate the Irvine Unified School District’s Class of 2014, and let us not stop there. We’ll also take this opportunity to thank the tens of thousands of students, teachers, parents, staff members, volunteers and community partners who contributed mightily to the success of Irvine’s schools.

Oh, and a special thanks to all of you for checking in with the NewsFlash from time to time. We’ll continue posting items here throughout the summer, but probably less frequently, and we may go dark for a couple weeks as we cash in some vacation time.

But, of course, IUSD doesn’t stay quiet for long. Summer school starts on June 30 for all grade levels, and year-round schools will begin the 2014-15 school year on July 29. Irvine students on the traditional calendar will report back to school on Sept. 2. (You can access the 2014-15 calendar here.)

OK then. That’s all for now. The local beaches are calling.

IUSD Board of Education approves accountability plan, adopts budget for 2014-15

The IUSD Board of Education has adopted a spending plan for the 2014-15 school year.

The plan, which reflects the state’s latest projections from May, as well as the district’s priorities from a brand new accountability report, outlines $257.8 million worth of expenditures – both restricted and unrestricted – against $246.9 million worth of total revenue. The difference will be offset by one-time dollars, as IUSD looks to strategically spend down reserves it built up to weather the state’s fiscal crisis.

IUSD 2014-15 Adopted BudgetJohn Fogarty, assistant superintendent of business services, led a brief presentation on the district’s finances on Tuesday, June 24 before the board approved the plan by way of a 3-0 vote. (The “yes” votes came from President Sharon Wallin and members Lauren Brooks and Ira Glasky. Michael Parham and Paul Bokota were not in attendance.)

This is actually IUSD’s second budget under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, which has increased base levels of funding for K-12 education while channeling greater resources toward English-language learners, low-income students and foster youth. Yet it’s the first budget to factor in priorities from the district’s new Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, which documents measurable objectives for achievement and school climate with input from parents and other community stakeholders.

Based on the new funding levels and the district’s LCAP, IUSD’s budget calls for a decrease in class sizes by two students in kindergarten through grade six and one student in grades seven through 12. In addition, the district is investing in professional development opportunities for staff, as well as curriculum development, technology and mental health.

Before the budget vote, board members unanimously approved the Local Control and Accountability Plan, which had been recently revised based on stakeholder feedback. Alan Schlichting, director of student support services, said changes included the addition of a full-time mental health coordinator and an online learning coordinator, along with the restoration of site mental health support, including guidance assistants at the elementary level and Project Success staff at the secondary level. (You can access IUSD’s completed LCAP here.)

Here are some other takeaways from Tuesday night’s budget presentation:

●  Governor Brown’s new formula — the aforementioned LCFF — establishes a target level of funding for school districts for the 2020-21 school year. Until then, districts can expect to receive annual increases called “gap funding,” referencing the gap between what they currently get and the target amount for 2020-21. IUSD’s gap funding in 2014-15 is approximately $20 million, and an increase of nearly $18 million is projected for the 2015-16 school year, meaning IUSD will go through a similar process of analyzing its needs and priorities next year. (By contrast, IUSD was forced to make approximately $38 million worth of one-time and ongoing reductions during the state budget crisis.)

●  California’s proposed budget includes a plan to address the unfunded liability in the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS. Though the remedy asks employers, employees and the state to contribute additional dollars to resolve the shortfall — which has been estimated at $74 billion — much of the burden would fall on employers, which would see gradual increases through 2021. Under the plan, IUSD would pay $800,000 in 2014-15, part of a projected cumulative total of more than $15 million by 2020-21.

●  Though the state budget picture is bright for school districts, there are still a number of challenges and unknowns. Fogarty said there are no guarantees that the Local Control Funding Formula will continue to be implemented as planned — or that school districts will receive their targeted levels of funding. Moreover, the temporary tax increases that went into effect under Proposition 30 will begin to expire in 2016, drying up a source of state revenue. Enrollment growth, the Affordable Care Act and shifts in the state and national economies could also impact IUSD’s budget, Fogarty said.

●  IUSD’s budget projections were developed with the guidance of the Orange County Department of Education, School Services of California, the California Association of School Business Officials and other agencies.

Outdoor education programs remain a rite of passage for IUSD sixth-graders

Outdoor education trips have long been a highlight for IUSD sixth-graders, who get to travel to bucolic settings for five days of hands-on science instruction, hiking and games.

Boardwalk Through Lush ForestAnd that’s not changing, despite the Orange County Department of Education’s recent decision to end its overnight program.

In fact, nearly all of IUSD’s elementary schools and K-8s send their sixth-graders to private science camps for one week each year, and the two that have been participating in the county program — Santiago Hills Elementary School and Vista Verde School — have already secured spots at other camps.

“We are committed to outdoor science education for our students,” Cassie Parham, IUSD’s assistant superintendent of education services, told the NewsFlash on Thursday. “The changes at the county level won’t impact this commitment.”

Outdoor education programs have proven extremely popular in Irvine because — well, let’s face it — they’re fun. But they also represent a one-of-a-kind learning experience, Parham said.

“It’s an opportunity for students to learn team-building skills while engaging in hands-on science lessons,” she said. “It’s almost a rite of passage for kids.”

Superintendent responds to your questions on IUSD’s new Local Control and Accountability Plan

A new district webpage features your questions about IUSD’s emerging accountability plan and responses from Superintendent Terry Walker.

As we’ve said previously, the state’s new funding model requires school districts to develop and annually update three-year Local Control and Accountability Plans, or LCAPs, with input from parents and other key stakeholders.

LCAP Questions and Answers webpageIUSD began soliciting feedback back for its plan in March, but there’s another major step in the process: Superintendents are also required to respond in writing to LCAP submissions. In the interest of transparency, Walker has decided to post all of his responses on the following webpage:

The questions and comments addressed by the superintendent include those generated during recent Irvine Unified Council PTA meetings and District English Learner Advisory Committee meetings, as well as those collected through online surveys and paper forms from the June 3 Board of Education hearing. Some submissions that were similar were consolidated to avoid redundant replies.

The development of the LCAP represents a new process for California’s school districts, which must identify annual goals, take action and measure progress for student subgroups across multiple performance indicators, including academic achievement, school climate, access to a broad curriculum and parent engagement.

LCAP requirements were first introduced during the current year, resulting in a compressed timeline for 2014-15. In subsequent years, however, IUSD anticipates having more time to present information and collect feedback from its stakeholders, including parent groups, bargaining groups, school sites and the community.

Once again, IUSD’s LCAP isn’t due to the county until July 1, but you can get an overview from this slide presentation, or you can access the latest draft of the plan by clicking here.

And if you haven’t weighed in yet, there’s still time to express your thoughts through this online input form.

South Lake Middle School students bring ‘Aladdin Jr.’ to the stage for two performances

South Lake to perform 'Aladdin Jr.'

Following 10 weeks of rehearsals, South Lake Middle School students brought “Aladdin Jr.” to the stage for a pair of performances on June 10 and June 11.

“Aladdin Jr” is the middle school version of the popular Disney film that follows the adventures of Princess Jasmine, Aladdin and a certain wisecracking Genie. The South Lake show was directed by Ingrid Green in collaboration with the school’s choral program, which is led by music teacher Jason Grenier.

Both performances were held in the multipurpose room.