Health care officials: High temperatures and wildfire smoke could pose health risk

The Orange County Health Care Agency is advising that higher temperatures are anticipated through the weekend in many Orange County cities, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses.

In addition, agency officials say smoke from the San Diego County wildfires could pose an added risk for some residents, noting that the South Coast Air Quality Management District has issued a Smoke Advisory for Orange County.

[UPDATE at 2:30 p.m.: The AQMD is indicating that the air quality in Irvine continues to be moderate, meaning "Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms." You can continue to track the air quality for Orange County on this interactive map.]

“Everyone should take precautions to stay cool and drink plenty of water to reduce health risks related to the heat and wildfire smoke,” said Dr. Eric Handler, county health officer. “Additional precautions are especially needed for older adults, those with preexisting medical conditions like heart or lung disease, those with disabilities, children, and those who may be working outdoors.”

Here’s some other useful information from the HCA:

Heat Related Illness Signs & Symptoms:

  • Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:  heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting and dizziness.
  • Warning signs of heat stroke may include: extremely high body temperature, unconsciousness, confusion, hot and dry skin (no sweating), a rapid, strong pulse, and a throbbing headache.
  • If symptoms of heat stroke occur, immediately call for medical assistance. Move the person to a shady area and begin cooling their body with water.

Precautions to Prevent Heat Related Illnesses:

  • Drink plenty of water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty.
  • Never leave children, elderly people or pets unattended in vehicles.
  • Stay cool indoors. If your home is not air conditioned, visit public facilities such as shopping malls and libraries to stay cool.
  • Check often on those at high-risk. This includes older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and young children. Be sure to check on your neighbors.
  • Avoid unnecessary sun exposure. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing, a hat, and use sunscreen.
  • Avoid unnecessary exertion outdoors. Take frequent rest and refreshment breaks in a shaded area.
  • Provide shade and extra water for your pets.

Precautions to Reduce Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke:

  • Avoid any vigorous outdoor or indoor activity.
  • People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should remain indoors.
  • Keep the windows and doors in your home closed.
  • Use your air conditioner on the re-circulate mode, if available, to limit the intake of outdoor air and keep your home comfortable.
  • Keep your airways (nose and mouth) moist by drinking extra amounts of water. This helps your body filter out potentially harmful particles in the smoke.
  • Seek medical attention if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or severe fatigue.


For more information on heat-related illnesses, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websiteFor information about the South Coast Air Quality Management District Smoke Advisory, visit the AQMD website.

OC Health Care Agency offers tips for keeping cool and safe during the heat wave

Well, we don’t need to tell you that it’s been extremely hot out there this week, and Southern California is in for another scorcher today. Even in generally-mild Irvine, temperatures are expected to hit triple digits.

SunNaturally, the rising mercury increases the risk of heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, particularly for those who are more sensitive to higher temperatures. The Orange County Health Care Agency is therefore advising the following precautions:

  • Drink plenty of water, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid unnecessary sun exposure. When in the sun, wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim, and use sunscreen.
  • Avoid strenuous activities if you are outside or in non-air conditioned buildings. If you are working outdoors, take frequent rest and refreshment breaks in a shaded area.
  • Never leave children, elderly people or pets unattended in closed cars or other vehicles.
  • Check on those who are at a higher risk to make sure they are staying cool, including seniors who live alone, people with heart or lung disease and young children.
  • Stay cool indoors. If your home is not air-conditioned, visit public facilities including shopping malls and libraries to stay cool.

The agency says signs of heat exhaustion can include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting and dizziness. If you experience these symptoms, move to a cool location, rest and drink fluids.

Warning signs of heat stroke may include an extremely high body temperature; unconsciousness; confusion; hot and dry skin with no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; and a throbbing headache. If these symptoms are present, immediately call for medical assistance. The Health Care Agency says heat stroke victims should be moved to a shady area where their bodies can be cooled with water.

For more information on heat-related illnesses, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Share your thoughts on IUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan

IUSD wants to know what you think about the latest draft of its new accountability plan.

Online Input Forum for IUSD's LCAPAs we’ve mentioned here before, California’s new funding model for K-12 education requires every school district and county office of education to develop, adopt and annually update a three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, with input from parents and other key stakeholders. (Irvine Unified began soliciting that input back in March.)

Districts will use these plans to identify yearly 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.

IUSD’s LCAP isn’t due to the county until July 1, but you can get an overview by checking out this slide presentation from the Board of Education’s April 29 Study Session, and you can access the latest draft of the plan by clicking here.

Parents, students, district employees and community members are encouraged to review Irvine’s LCAP and submit feedback by way of this online input form before the plan is adopted in June. (You can also click on the graphic above.) Again, this will be an important part of the process of budgeting and setting priorities for the district, so take the time to weigh in if you can.

Lakeside sending more students to National History Day finals than any school in California

Next month, the top National History Day projects from schools across the country will make their way to Maryland for a final competition on the national stage.

California is sending 18 of its best projects (along with the students that created them). And no fewer than three will come from IUSD’s own Lakeside Middle School.

Lakeside’s Grace Son and Bella An earned Co-Champion honors in the Junior Group Exhibit categoryThat’s right, Lakeside is sending more teams and more students to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest than any other school in the state.

“It was definitely a good year for us,” says Jon Pang, Lakeside’s history and social science department chair. “A lot of kids who participated last year in the seventh grade came back and did it in eighth grade, and that really helped them a lot.”

“Every one of these students was very committed,” he added. “They had to be motivated to meet with teachers during lunch and after school seeking feedback.”

Each year, more than 500,000 elementary, middle and high school students from the U.S. and beyond participate in National History Day competitions at the local, state and national levels.

For those unfamiliar with the program, students select a historical topic based on the year’s theme and conduct extensive research. Some visit libraries, archives and museums for their projects. Others conduct interviews and visit historical sites. Once the source material has been analyzed, the young researchers draw conclusions about their topics and present their findings in the form of a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a website or even a documentary.

Schools generally hold National History Day competitions in the spring, and county and state contests follow. This year, projects from a number of IUSD middle and high schools advanced to the California State Finals, which were held in Riverside in late April. All expounded on a topic connected to the 2014 theme, “Rights and Responsibilities in History.”

Cullen Darius, Thomas Jacobsen, Scott Armstrong and Mitchell Cronin earned honors in the Junior Group Documentary category of the state National History Day competition.Lakeside’s Grace Son and Bella An – they’re pictured above — earned Co-Champion honors in the Junior Group Exhibit category of the state competition, earning the duo a trip to Maryland. Cullen Darius, Thomas Jacobsen, Scott Armstrong and Mitchell Cronin – pictured to the right — did the same in the Junior Group Documentary category, and Stuti Agrawal punched her ticket as a Co-Champion in the category of Junior Historical Paper.

“It’s just so amazing what our kids do,” Lakeside Principal Gina Cuneo told us this week. “This is all extracurricular, so they do this on their own, and yet they do it with such passion — it is just inspiring.”

From Sierra Vista Middle School, the team of Rebecca Yu, Kiana Wang and Justin Yee earned Co-Champion recognition in the Junior Group Documentary category, meaning they’ll also be eligible for the national contest. Sierra Vista’s Cole Kawanami was a runner-up in the Junior Individual Documentary category, and Rancho San Joaquin Middle School’s Michael Wu was named a runner-up in the Junior Individual Website category.

At the high school level, Wei-Web Hsu, Margaret Huang, Tiffany Hu and Tina Sato of Woodbridge High earned a special honor, the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research (SHHAR) History Award, for their entry on Hispanic history. University High’s Ohshue Gatanaga was named a runner-up in the Senior Historical Paper category.

The 2014 Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest will be held June 15 through June 19 at the University of Maryland, College Park.

IUSD schools partner with local group Team Kids for record-setting show of support for troops

Team Kids Miles and Sam… Thank you for serving our country and risking your lives for all of us, people who you have never even met. …

… My name is Kylie and I am in kindergarten. I want to thank you for helping protect America. …

… Thank you for fighting for me and the country. If we didn’t have you then our country will not be safe. …

Inside a ’60s-era school bus adorned with glossy blue and white paint, thousands of handwritten notes were packaged and a handful were on display, each awaiting the opportunity to brighten the day of a member of the U.S. military stationed in another corner of the world. The messages were penned by children of different ages, backgrounds and interests, but all expressed a common sentiment:

Thank you.

IUSD students from 10 elementary schools, one K-8 and one high school have worked with the service-learning group Team Kids on the campaign to generate these notes of gratitude for troops serving overseas. As a little added motivation, the group set an ambitious challenge to write more than 10,000 letters in just 30 days — or enough to earn a spot in the Guinness World Records.

Monday marked the official deadline, and representatives from Team Kids staged a final writing session outside Vista Verde School, producing yet another stack of thank-yous. A few hours later, they had a record-smashing tally of 12,266 letters. And still more were coming in.

“It’s been such an inspiration to all of us to receive these letters,” Team Kids founder and CEO Julie Hudash told the NewsFlash. “For the kids, they get to know that they have the power to cheer someone up who is serving across the globe.”

Participating schools in Irvine included Alderwood, Bonita Canyon, Brywood, DeerfieldEastshore, Northwood, Oak Creek, Springbrook and University Park elementary schools, as well as Vista Verde (a K-8) and University High School. Though IUSD campuses were responsible for more than half of the letters, contributions arrived from as far away as Massachusetts and Maine after word spread through social media.

But it was fitting that the drive concluded at Vista Verde, where Team Kids sprouted from an outpouring of generosity about 13 years ago.

In 2001, the school pulled out all the stops to raise money for a 3-year-old boy who needed treatment for a rare heart condition. Students sold popsicles, held coin drives and organized a pancake breakfast with firefighters to reach their fundraising goal. But it didn’t end there. The success of that project inspired the creation of Team Kids, which quickly established a playbook for education-based community service in schools. Indeed, in just the last three years, 30 schools and nearly 22,000 students have taken the Team Kids Challenge.

Second-graders in Heather Caswell's class write thank-you notes to U.S. troops stationed overseas.This year, the organization also enlisted local campuses to join its letter-writing effort for U.S. troops, kicking off the campaign on April 12 — recognized as Youth Service Day — at South Coast Plaza.

Exactly one month later, a Team Kids crew rolled onto the Vista Verde campus in its highly recognizable a ’63 Ford B500. The big navy blue school bus carried nearly all of the letters received so far, and a preliminary count indicated Team Kids had surpassed its goal of 10,000. But there still were more on the way, with Vista Verde teacher Heather Caswell leading her class of second-graders outside to express their gratitude in writing.

Principal Catherine Holmes was there to assist, and IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker submitted a note of his own. And there were other proud grownups on hand, including Sandy Daniels, founder and executive director of Festival of Children, which was a partner in the record-breaking effort; Irvine Deputy Police Chief Mike Hamel; and Christopher B. Clark, chief development officer for Operation Gratitude, which will ensure that the letters reach their intended recipients.

Among the thousands of notes traveling overseas in special care packages will be a single page from 8-year-old Miles Silva, who on Monday thanked a man or woman he may never meet for “fighting for our rights and saving our country.”

“It felt good what we’re doing,” Miles said afterward. “We’re just kids.”

Northwood High principal receives county honors for outstanding arts education

Northwood High School Principal Leslie Roach earned double honors this week at the 2014 Orange County Music and Arts Educators Awards.

DSC_1772In addition to being named one of 43 Outstanding Arts Educators at Wednesday’s special ceremony in Costa Mesa, Roach was presented with a Music and Arts Award, recognizing her contributions as one of the county’s top arts administrators.

Both are fitting honors for a principal whose campus has received a sleu of recent arts accolades.

Last year, Northwood was among 13 recipients of the state’s new Exemplary Arts Program Award just weeks after being announced as a California Distinguished School. In addition, Choir Director Zach Halop was named a quarterfinalist for the national Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.

And Northwood was selected in March as a Grammy Signature School for the second straight year — and the fifth time since 1999.

“It is always nice to be recognized as a representative of the many hours and hard work that all educators put into making schools run effectively and efficiently,” said Roach, who’s pictured above with Dr. Jeff Hittenberger, chief academic officer for the Orange County Department of Education.

“Northwood High School is lucky that there was a strong foundation of visual and performing arts education built into the fabric of the school,” she added, “and I have been lucky enough to be part of helping support this strong tradition.”

Sponsored by Orange County Music and Arts Administrators, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and OCDE, the Orange County Music and Arts Educators Awards program annually spotlights exemplary teachers and administrators who oversee instrumental, vocal, theater, dance and visual arts programs at schools throughout the county.

This year’s ceremony was staged in the Samueli Theater at the Segerstrom Center.

Irvine Teachers Association announces eight scholarship winners for 2014

The Irvine Teachers Association has announced the 2014 recipients of its scholarship program.

Shabaan Qureshi of Woodbridge High has earned the Venture Scholarship, which is awarded to IUSD seniors or children of ITA members who are interested in continuing their education at a community college or technical school, while Woodbridge’s Viola You has secured the Future Educator Scholarship for IUSD seniors who will study in the field of education at a four-year university.

Sean Leavey of Woodbridge and Grant Tobenkin of Mission Viejo High School have both been presented with the ITA’s Carrie Valderrama Scholarship, which goes to children of ITA members who have been accepted to four-year universities.

And the Irvine Teacher Memorial Scholarship, which is open to all IUSD seniors who have been accepted to four-year universities, has been awarded to Alexandra Henderson, Dimitri Kaviani, Wei-Wen Hsu and Christopher Siino of Woodbridge.

In keeping with tradition, this year’s ITA scholarship winners were recognized at the start of the May 6 Board of Education meeting.

Board delays fifth high school vote as work continues on implementation agreement

The IUSD Board of Education was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would have formally selected a site for the district’s next high school and allowed ownership of the property to be transferred from developer Heritage Fields.

gavelBut because the final implementation agreement between IUSD and Heritage Fields wasn’t yet completed, the resolution was continued to the board’s next meeting on May 20.

Enrollment projections indicate IUSD will need to open a fifth comprehensive high school by the fall of 2016 to accommodate thousands of new homes slated to be built around the Great Park and to prevent overcrowding at Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools. To that end, the district and its developer partners agreed on a 40-acre site near the northeast border of the Great Park in July 2011, and IUSD has since been pursuing a rigorous due diligence process to ensure the land is suited for a high school campus.

Those efforts culminated with an April 15 letter from the California Department of Education, which formally approved the property adjacent to Irvine Boulevard. Eleven days earlier, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control similarly declared that the site meets California’s strict environmental standards for school construction.

Nevertheless, a small group of residents has questioned the district’s choice, mainly citing its adjacency to a capped landfill that once served the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Some spoke publicly Tuesday night, and board members continued to pose a number of detailed questions for IUSD’s environmental consultants and staff.

In response, Dr. Denise Clendening, an associate principal for PlaceWorks, reaffirmed that the state’s standards for school construction are much higher than for other property uses. She added that the nearby landfill, which would be at a lower elevation than the high school, was capped using scientifically-engineered remedies. Subsequent tests and long-term monitoring have consistently demonstrated that the remediation steps were successful, ensuring a safe environment for the high school site and the thousands of new homes surrounding it that have already been approved for construction by the City of Irvine.

Clendening told the board that her firm collected more than 100 soil samples and more than 40 soil gas samples from Site A during its evaluation.

“It was a long-term process … and not only did PlaceWorks make the determination that that there is no significant levels of chemicals of concern at the site, but the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has agreed, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Department of Public Health and CalRecycle, which used to be the Integrated Waste Management Board,” she said. “So it’s not one organization making that (determination), but it’s a group of scientific experts who have evaluated the site.”

Assuming the implementation agreement is completed and approved later this month, construction on the new campus could begin in June.

Outage temporarily disrupts lights, phones and Internet service at IUSD’s District Office

Equipment failure is said to be the cause of a local power outage that left IUSD’s District Office without electricity for most of the day Tuesday.

The outage began around 1 a.m., and we’re told it initially impacted schools, residences and businesses in the area. Most customers were restored relatively quickly, but the District Office and a handful of nearby buildings were without power until about 4:40 p.m., when Southern California Edison crews completed their repair work.

On the upside, the district’s maintenance and IT teams responded quickly to the outage, employing generators to keep phones, WiFi access points and some lights operating. But the full restoration couldn’t have come at a better time, with the IUSD Board of Education scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m.

Barring any unforeseen issues, tonight’s school board meeting will be broadcast as usual on channel 39 for local Cox Communications subscribers and via AT&T U-verse’s government and public television menu for AT&T customers.

Irvine Unified Council PTA to host forum for three school board candidates

The Irvine Unified Council PTA is hosting an upcoming “Candidate Forum” for the trio of school board hopefuls in next month’s special election.

The session, which is open to the public, is set to kick off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13 at the District Office, located at 5050 Barranca Parkway. It will also be aired on IUSD’s cable station for local Cox subscribers (Channel 39) and AT&T U-verse customers (through the government and public television menu).

Three candidates are vying to fill the board vacancy in the June 3 special election, which was triggered after petitioners gathered enough signatures to invalidate the appointment processCarolyn Inmon, a retired teacher, Bob Vu, an educator, scientist and entrepreneur, and Ira Glasky, an attorney, are each looking to secure the seat until November, when the regular board election will be held.

As in previous forums, each participant will have an opportunity to make a statement and answer uniform questions from an objective moderator from the League of Women Voters. There will also be a limited amount of time for questions from attendees, who will get an additional chance to speak one-on-one with the candidates after the program.

The Irvine Unified Council PTA, which comprises nearly 13,000 members from 33 individual PTA units, has traditionally invited school board candidates to share their views in advance of local elections.

“Hosting the Candidate Forum is consistent with PTA’s mission as a strong advocate for public education,” IUCPTA Advocacy Chair Petra Schaefer said. “California’s public schools are facing a significant sea change with Common Core, and Irvine is poised for exponential growth in our schools. We want to ensure all voters can make an informed choice in June.”