Irvine Council Members Beth Krom and Larry Agran are hosting a Townhall Meeting on Sunday, October 13, 2013, at 3 pm, at the Woodbury Community Center, at 130 Sanctuary, at the corner of Long Meadow, in Irvine, regarding the new north Irvine high school that has been proposed for a site near the James A. Musick jail. Krom and Agran are promoting switching the site of the school to the Great Park.
Questions that Krom and Agran will ponder at this Townhall meeting include:
- How does moving the proposed new north Irvine high school — from Site A (near the James A. Musick mega-jail) to Site B (within the western sector of the Great Park) — affect the planned Great Park Sports Park and the Great Park Master Plan? (See map.)
- And how should Irvine policy-makers decide on the Heritage Fields/FivePoint Communities application for zoning approval to build nearly 5,000 additional new homes on the eastern edge of the Great Park?
I am not sure why Krom and Agran want to move this new high school to the Great Park, which they totally mismanaged – wasting millions of dollars in the process.
The Superintendent of the Irvine Unified School District, Terry Walker, appears to disagree with the notion of moving this school. Here are excerpts from an article that appeared in the IUSD’s website last month:
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.”
Krom and Agran appear to be grandstanding as their townhall meeting does not include the IUSD or their Council colleagues.