Students celebrate the first day of school last month at the new Loma Ridge Elementary School in Portola Springs.

New school opens in Portola Springs

Loma Ridge Elementary School is more than just the newest school in the Irvine Unified School District. It represents the future of education.

by TOM BERG

A Loma Ridge kindergarten class enjoys a reading of ‘How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?’

Each morning they arrive on bikes, scooters and on foot holding their parents’ hands.

“Everything is so new here,” says Luke Duong, 8, before entering Irvine’s newest school, Loma Ridge Elementary, in Portola Springs. “And I’m making new friends.”

Loma Ridge is more than just the newest school in the Irvine Unified School District. It represents the future of education.

“Our goal is to fill our state- of-the-art facility with the latest, greatest and most relevant technology,” Principal Jenna Berumen says.

The whole campus is designed to get kids excited about coming to school, she adds. It’s infused with ideas of modern learning, featuring the look and feel of a college or a tech startup office.

Almost everything on campus is intended to spark students’ curiosity in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Students have access to carts full of Chromebooks and iPads, and innovation labs where they can produce movies, program robots, and design and build race cars on 3D printers.

“We want to stimulate their creativity,” Berumen says, “and enhance their learning.”

Master-planned village

The Irvine Master Plan created a city designed around a series of villages, each centered around local schools.

This established schools as the heart of the community, says IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker, and it has created an environment in which residents support education and share both a sense of pride and high academic expectations.

“There should be no ceiling on what we and our students can achieve,” Walker says.

Schools near homes also offer convenience.

“I love that we can walk to school,” Loma Ridge parent Tina Kim says. “It’s great exercise, and I don’t have to wait in line to drop the kids off. I feel very fortunate.”

Reinvestment in 28 schools

New technology is not limited to new schools in Irvine.

Westpark Elementary School recently celebrated the completion of upgrades that include a new science lab, new media center and modern flex-classrooms to foster collaboration – a critical skill in the modern economy.

Westpark, which was built 30 years ago, is one of 28 IUSD schools being upgraded with funding from the Measure E bond voters passed in 2016.

“This is the community’s commitment to bring all of our schools up to the 21st-century technology and learning environment,” Walker says.