New $300 million Portola High School opens in Irvine to 400 freshmen

By Tomoya Simura

IRVINE – Welcomed by the giant drawing of a bulldog mascot that faces a parking lot and the smell of pristine classrooms, students, teachers and staff kicked off the historic first day of Portola High School.

There wasn’t much celebration Wednesday morning, except for some parents taking photos of their children at entrances to the new campus. Still, there wasn’t a lack of excitement among the 400 students, all of whom are freshmen.

“I’m just so thrilled that we started this brand new school,” said Laurel Feldner, 14, who came from Jeffrey Trail Middle School. “All of the teachers seemed so excited to be here. I know that I’m super excited to be here, and they just all seemed very ready to teach us.”

The opening of Portola High, the Irvine Unified School District’s fifth comprehensive high school, is a reflection of what’s happening in Irvine, one of the fastest-growing cities in California.

Adjacent to the northeast side of the Orange County Great Park, the school serves students from the developing Great Park Neighborhoods and other parts of north Irvine.

“We are already beginning to see, because of the growth, increased populations of students at our other high schools that were reaching levels that were less than ideal,” Irvine Unified Superintendent Terry Walker said. “It’s why it was so critical that we open this school this year.”

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

O.C. REGISTER: State Agency says Portola High School Site Safe

By Sarah de Crescenzo

IRVINE – A state agency that in March ordered additional soil and soil gas testing at the site of Irvine Unified School District’s future Portola High School has determined the site poses no risk to those who will study or work there.

A report issued this week by the Department of Toxic Substances Control said the tests – prompted by community concerns over stained soil discovered at the site, once part of the former El Toro Marine base – revealed traces of chemicals at levels “well below” those that could cause harm.

The campus, which stretches about 40 acres at the northeast side of the Orange County Great Park, will eventually enroll as many as 2,600 students in grades 9 through 12. The Portola High freshman class – about 400 students are expected to enroll – is slated to kick off its first year Aug. 24.

“We’re happy there’s a conclusion to the report and hopefully that will put to rest any kind of concern that a few of our community members might have had,” John Pehrson, principal of Portola High, said on Friday.

Pehrson, who was previously principal at University High School, said the testing hasn’t affected preparations for the opening of the school, the district’s fifth comprehensive high school.

“To be quite honest, what’s been going on in the site along these lines hasn’t caused us to lose any focus,” he said. “We haven’t received a whole lot of concern from our parent constituents here.”

The report, finalized Tuesday and shared online by Irvine Unified late Thursday, summarizes the latest round of testing done of the soil and soil gas – the air in the spaces between soil – at the site. In total, 109 new samples were taken, at depths of up to 15 feet, the report states.

No petroleum hydrocarbons were detected in the soil samples. Low levels of volatile organic compounds were detected in the soil gas samples. The concentrations in which the compounds were found were similar to the levels found in previous testing done at the site, according to the report.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…