We are excited to open our doors for the first class at Portola High School. The class of 2020 will be the beneficiaries of over five years of expert vision, design, and construction. Our 42-acre campus sits in Irvine, CA adjacent to the Great Park. While we are opening with only freshmen in 2016-2017, we will add an additional class each year resulting in a full 9-12 comprehensive high school by the 2019-2020 school year.
Portola High School will offer the same opportunities for ninth graders as those offered at any other high school within the Irvine Unified School District. These opportunities include a rigorous and relevant curriculum, a visual and performing arts program, an athletics program with a complete offering of freshman level teams, and a robust activities program.
Portola High School was designed in partnership with HMC architects, and the planning process involved numerous stakeholders over the course of thirty months. The result is a state-of-the-art 21st Century facility complete with a Performing Arts Complex centered around a 700 seat theater, an Aquatics complex including an Olympic-sized pool, a three full-court sized indoor gym, a 3500 seat athletic stadium, a student union, and a Learning Commons. The school also contains several dedicated student and teacher collaboration meeting rooms. Finally, a fully equipped innovation lab (also known as a “Maker Space”) is located off the Student Union near a Design Room which will be used for a variety of purposes but which will most importantly provide a space for our learners to create and develop their Senior Passion Projects.
Technologically, Portola High School boasts a WIFI system capable of up to five devices per person at full capacity. As we move closer to a paperless system, our learners and instructors will use the latest software to manage and facilitate learning. Furniture is flexible and nestable throughout the campus, allowing each space to convert readily from one learner-centered arrangement to another.
It is no doubt that the physical plant and all its amenities are beyond incredible. That being said, what really elevates Portola High School is the quality of the staff that has been assembled. The leadership team has been in place for more than a year prior to our opening. Notable support from the district has afforded us time for the research and mind-work necessary to put structures and protocols in place that undergird an elite school for the 21st Century.
Our vision is that Portola High School will be a place where every learner belongs, contributes, and thrives. We purposefully use the word “learner” to include not only students but adults, as well. In this rapidly changing world, we all need to be continually growing, taking risks, and experimenting with new knowledge and skills. From the vision, came our mission and our Bulldog PRIDE (Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Drive, Empathy) motto which describes the characteristics we want each of our students to demonstrate on a daily basis.
The core of our work and what we are about as educators are what we call our Learning Outcomes. Our efforts each day are driven by our commitment to help each learner become Capable, Creators, Communicators and Contributors. Each of these Learning Outcomes (L.O.’s). is defined by a set of 21st Century skills that will be specifically addressed across the curriculum and through our advisement program.
The Portola High School Bell Schedule is unique in that it is a mixture of an eight- period, alternating block schedule with one day per week in which all periods meet for an abbreviated time. The Portola Leadership team decided that it was in our learners’ best interest that instructors teach six classes rather than five in an effort to minimize class size. Rather than the typical class size of 38-40, Portola will run classes at an average of 32 students per class.
Within the bell schedule, we have established designated time for teacher collaboration (professional development and staff meetings included), Office Hours (a time for students to receive extra support two times per week), and Advisement (a time for each teacher to meet with 25 students twice a week in a non-academic yet structured setting). The schedule has been purposefully designed to give students flexibility and options in selecting their courses, as well as fewer classes each school night to focus on for study.
When Portola High School students are in their fourth year, they will participate in what we call the “Senior Passion Project.” Course design across disciplines will support the students throughout a four-year process, from grade nine to grade twelve, so that, by the time they enter their senior year, they will be ready to address one problem or issue of personal interest and relevance, to research a possible approach or solution, and to create a product or model which they will present to a panel of experts from the community—whether academic, artistic or entrepreneurial.
Needless to say, we are excited beyond what words can describe. Our staff has fully embraced the concepts of risk- taking, continuous improvement, learning through failure, and Portola PRIDE. We eagerly await what 2016-17 has in store for us and the students we serve, and we very much look forward to your partnership with us.
Serving with PRIDE,
John Pehrson, Principal