Should Irvine’s new highschool be built near the Great Park or a Prison – you’re seriously asking?

Hmmm…. Decisions, decisions … what’s a council to do???

Let’s pretend for a moment we’re in charge of building a school for our city and there are a couple of different options as far as location goes.  Site A isn’t located near many neighborhoods and is also less than a mile from a prison.  Site B isn’t located near any prisons and is more convenient to many neighborhoods and roads.  Which Site would you choose for this new school’s location?

If you’re in-line with what’s going on in Irvine, you’d select Site A, of course.  How could this be?  It’s the usual result when indifference meets red tape.  At this moment, Irvine’s prospective fifth high school is slated to be built on a 40-acre parcel of land in the northeast part of the city and if built there, will stand less than a thousand yards away from Musick PRISON, currently a low-security jail.  Such an idea may be debatable but also consider that in the near future, said prison is planned to grow into a 7500 inmate maximum-security facility.  Would you like your children to attend school within a 2-minute walk of a building housing thousands of individuals imprisoned for serious felons?  Why does this question even need to be asked?

Surprising many, Councilman Larry Agran recently spoke for the side of reason; simply saying of Site A “this is the worst site.”  He pointed out the prison issue as well as the fact that no residential development in the area has even been planned for the next five years.  What’s more, most of the Heritage Fields/Five Point Communities organization’s future houses in the area will actually be part of the Saddleback Unified School District anyway!  Instead, Councilman Agran has proposed building the school on one of two sites located near Trabuco road.

Unfortunately any disagreement with the current plan has been met with stubborn resistance.  Regarding moving the school to an alternate site, Councilwoman Christina Shea stated “having this discussion tonight and wasting our time again when… the train’s left the station… it’s two years too late basically,” referring to the fact that this school building plan has been in motion for two years. As if this building plan is now in the hands of some all-powerful robot who can’t be reprogrammed!  She also argues that Councilman Agran’s preferred sites may create additional traffic near the entrance to the Great Park.

Well, heaven forbid a school gets built where people live!  Next to the Great Park… where it could also take advantage of proposed future athletic fields and facilities!  Plus, under the State’s school funding provisions, the Great Park would also stand to receive at least $60 million in assistance!  Nevertheless, Councilwoman Shea is joined in her refusal to budge by Irvine Unified School District Superintendent Terry Walker, who says, “Our enrollment projections show that we need this school completed by the fall of 2016, and that timeline is extremely important to us.”  In other words, we can’t afford class sizes to grow for a year or two so it’s a much better idea to plop down this very-permanent facility next to a soon-to-be maximum-security prison.  Councilwoman Shea added that “We don’t really have oversight with this.”  And she doesn’t plan to tell the district what to do. “I’m not of the mind to step in and be very directive,” she said.  What??

Well if a City Council doesn’t have any say in where a school gets built in the City it represents, it had better publish a list of other things it has nothing to do with, because this is getting very confusing!

Councilman Agran, his proposals having fallen on deaf ears thus far, has promised to continue to work on suggesting an alternate site for a high school elsewhere on city-owned land.  Councilwoman Beth Krom recently joined Agran, requesting that the community make its voice heard to speak in favor of moving the school’s location.  She asked residents to show up at the city council meeting tonight.  And they did in force.

During last night’s meeting, Councilman Agran offered up an amendment to Five Point concept a re-conveyance of city-owned land for the consideration of Site B for the 5th High School. He also offers for consideration $60 million for 40 acres of land payable in 6 installments.  Mr. Emile Haddad, a representative for Five Points Community who was in the audience, spoke to the amendment and stated very clearly that he is not opposed to the modification to the motion and “will go on record” that the school would still be built in the timeframe expected by IUSD.

Mayor pro-tem Lalloway opposed adding the amendment to 6.1 agenda item , and he “does not know what he wants to do”??

He is “MASSIVELY CONCERNED” that a “private” negotiation has taken place without him, and an appraisal done of the land. Lalloway feels before he can add the amendment he needs to hear from IUSD.  Lalloway feels that the citizens in the audience that were making their comments about a Prison in the playground of a high school were committing “fear mongering”.  He stated that he is committed to letting IUSD make that choice alone on where the site will be located, “NOT US”.

The bantering between Agran and Lalloway felt like a performance by both, particularly when Lalloway stated that “Jailhouse High v. Great Park High” would make a great campaign slogan.

Mayor Choi in his usual fashion stayed quiet and stone-faced through the entire process.

Watching Lalloway tonight, he was adamant and unyielding about staying out of the way of IUSD, but once his participation was engaged, appeared fixated on Agran, and the idea that Agran had planned this behind his back.  Lalloway was reluctant to voice words either affirming or denouncing this very important initiative, probably since he is up for re-election next year. I wonder if we will see a memorandum appear  in a Journal, so as to not face the voters for a decision he may or may not make

Business as usual politics before the health and well being of a great City, and like in a school playground all the boys and girls were able to concede to the amendment and propel it over to IUSD.

I will say that Mr. Emile Haddad was gracious and humbe, and from a business standpoint he came across as a positive influence over the City, a very impressive man.

Hopefully, more and more residents will make their voices heard now to the IUSD before this school’s location gets set in stone.

About Irvine Valkyrie

Irvine Valkyrie is Katherine Daigle, the once and future Irvine mayoral candidate, an independent-minded Republican who is aligned with neither of the two dominant Irvine political cliques.