Agreement Near in Irvine School Construction Dispute

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The Irvine Unified School District and the Great Park Neighborhoods development manager are nearing agreement to build schools that would accommodate projected growth in student enrollment.

Under the agreement, Heritage Fields — which is managed by FivePoint Communities — and the Irvine Co. would share the cost of building a high school, according to school board trustees. FivePoint Communities would build a yet-to-be-determined number of kindergarten-through-8th-grade schools in the Great Park Neighborhoods, trustees said.

The agreement, which could be approved at a school board meeting Wednesday, would end a behind-the-scenes battle between FivePoint and the school district.

“I think we’re dealing fairly now. I think everybody’s at the table,” said board Trustee Carolyn Mclnerny.

School district trustees were critical of the developer for dedicating funding from a special-tax district to building backbone infrastructure between the Great Park and the surrounding housing development. In Irvine, such districts traditionally have funded construction of new schools, a funding model used by the district’s usual partner, the Irvine Co.

School district officials were worried that without the special-tax revenue, the district wouldn’t have enough funding to build “Irvine quality” schools.

A source close to FivePoint had said that the school district was inflating its enrollment estimates and thus overstating the number of new schools that would be needed.

Both sides now appear to have reached consensus. School board trustees say the terms of the agreement allow the school district to draft the specifications for the high school, allaying concerns that the development manager might skimp on the project.

“Basically what we’re looking to do is to make sure those kids are able to attend a high school and that we have a high school that is similar in quality to, for example, Northwood [High School in Irvine],” said board Trustee Gavin Huntley-Fenner.

But while a deal may appear to be imminent, it is not yet sealed, Huntley-Fenner warned.

“There’s still a possibility that this whole thing might collapse like a house of cards,” he said.



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