Back to school

by TOM BERG

Terry Walker

The Irvine Unified School District is now in its third academic year since COVID-19 began impacting teaching, learning and the student experience.

“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that all of our students feel they are welcome, respected and supported,” Superintendent Terry Walker says of the district’s 36,000 students who returned to school last month.

We asked Walker to describe what students and parents can expect this academic year.

Tell us about the new school year.

IUSD remains committed to meeting the needs of our students and families. We are offering two academic models – full-time, in-person instruction and the IUSD Virtual Academy. While virtual learning met the needs of our families last year and some students excel in the virtual environment, the majority of our students benefit from and prefer in-person instruction and being on campus with teachers and their peers.

What’s new or different?

In addition to health and safety mitigation measures, our Board of Education has supported significant investments in three key areas: “Social Emotional Learning and Wellness” to meet students’ emotional and wellness needs, while optimizing the learning environment. “Professional Learning” opportunities for staff to support best practices in teaching and learning. And “IUSD Continuous Improvement Efforts,” designed to support equity and excellence for all students.

Any new IUSD accolades to report?

Yes, IUSD was ranked the best large school district in California by the review site Niche. Its 2020-21 Best Schools in America report analyzed several factors, including state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores and teacher quality, among other things. We were ranked the highest in the state among districts with at least 15,000 students.

What’s the latest on Measure E upgrades?

We have provided significant improvements at all 28 schools slated for Measure E upgrades. This includes 21 projects that are now completed. These upgrades continue to be pivotal in helping schools create flexible learning spaces that enable teachers to effectively reduce class size. This has helped support health and safety protocols on campus throughout the pandemic.


HOW IRVINE MEASURES UP

Irvine Unified School District’s mean scores in Advanced Placement tests are higher than those throughout California – and the world.