Talks of a fifth high school dominate IUSD agenda

Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) plans to open a fifth comprehensive high school in 2016 to accommodate projected increases in the student populations of all existing Irvine high schools. Known as “Site A,” this high school’s campus was  to be located next to the Orange County Great Park. However, on September 10, the IUSD Board of Education voted unanimously to consider an alternative location.

As of September 20, University High School (UHS) houses 2,410 students. Conservative enrollment predictions by IUSD state that by 2015, UHS will host 2,664 students – 64 students over UHS’s capacity. Housing development is believed to be the main contributor to student influxes; as more residents move to Irvine and real estate expands, Irvine’s school age population also grows, creating demand for another high school.

Overcrowding presents an ongoing conflict, especially relevant to the UHS community. Ms. Therese Sorey (English Dept.) said, “If all of a sudden, the population at UHS grows to three thousand, then we would not have the facilities for it.” An increase in student enrollment does not necessarily call for larger class sizes but rather for an increase in the need for staff. Teachers’ contracts specify that each teacher may instruct a maximum of 187 students a day. If a teacher has five classes, he or she is only allowed to have approximately 37 students in each class.

Additionally, more students require more space; lunch lines would grow even longer, the parking lot would only accommodate a small percentage of student drivers ,and there would not be enough lockers.

The UHS administration is currently working on solutions to accommodate the predicted enrollment of 64 students over capacity in 2015 until Site A opens in the fall of 2016. Mr. John Pehrson (Admin.) said, “A plan could include getting additional classrooms, a portable or two, and having a lot of traveling teachers who would teach one period here, one period there.”

With the opening of a new high school, district lines will have to be re-drawn to determine each school’s attendance area. Students who attend UHS today may be ineligible to attend in 2016, and instead be assigned to Site A. The Boundaries Committee will meet  on October 7 to determine new district lines; UHS will be represented  at this meeting by two staff members, one student and one parent.

Irvine students are encouraged to voice their opinions on a fifth school by contacting the UHS Associated Student Body (ASB) student representative, Andre Luu (Sr.) said, “Building a new high school will affect students the most, and so, it is in the best interest of IUSD to understand all issues and concerns that students may have regarding Irvine’s next high school.”

Staff Writer