Most of us in Irvine know that the Irvine Unified School District has an outstanding record of accomplishments. As a former IUSD teacher who is married to a former Irvine school principal, John Inmon, I can tell you that we proudly join with others in celebrating the award-winning achievements of our teachers, staff and students.
The list of awards for IUSD and its students and teachers is long and impressive: large numbers of National Merit Scholars, Teacher of the Year honors, remarkably high graduation and college admission rates, and many schools listed as California Distinguished Schools. These are the right lists to be on!
But there are wrong lists to be on, too. Among these are lists of schools that are known or suspected to be environmentally unsafe. With the recent discovery of significant toxic contamination on the site where Portola High School is being built, it looks like Irvine may be on its way to getting on the wrong list!
Across the country, an estimated 14 million children attend public schools that are environmentally unsafe. Here in California, some educators are starting to ask some tough questions. The April issue of California Educator, the magazine of the California Teachers Association, includes an article entitled, “Is Your School Making You Sick?” The article lists a number of very troubling cases.
- In Redding, accumulated mold caused teachers to be hospitalized.
- In Salinas, teachers are worried that pesticides that cause lower birth rates are also causing students to suffer from developmental delays and lower IQs.
- In Lake Elsinore, one school has a “cancer cluster” and many other illnesses.
- Malibu High School made national news when a cancer cluster and other diseases among faculty and staff were linked to on-site PCB contamination.
- Right here in Orange County, three schools in Huntington Beach were closed because of contamination with asbestos, a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).
Is Irvine going to soon be on this list? Let’s hope not. Hundreds of Irvine parents, grandparents and other concerned citizens have signed the online petition calling for a halt to construction of Portola High School until comprehensive soil and air tests are conducted at the site and the safety of the school site can be absolutely guaranteed.
So far, IUSD administrators and our elected School Board members continue to ignore the sensible concerns of the citizens and taxpayers they are pledged to serve. Perhaps our school officials believe that if they simply ignore the problem, it will somehow go away. Well, it won’t!