Northwood High School (Irvine, California)

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Northwood High School
4515 Portola Parkway
Irvine, California 92620
Coordinates 33°44′02″N 117°45′02″W / 33.73395°N 117.75043°W / 33.73395; -117.75043Coordinates: 33°44′02″N 117°45′02″W / 33.73395°N 117.75043°W / 33.73395; -117.75043
School type Secondary
Motto For the Good of the Pack
Established 1999
Founded 1999
School board Irvine Unified School District
Superintendent John Tu
Principal John Tu
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 2038 (Fall 2017)
Language English
Area Northwood
Color(s)              Navy, Silver, White
Athletics conference Pacific Coast League
Mascot John Tu
Team name Timberwolves
Newspaper The Howler
Yearbook The Element

Northwood High School is a public high school located in the northernmost part of Irvine, CA, USA. It opened in 1999 but the first graduating class did not graduate until 2002. In 2016, Northwood was ranked 25 nationally in Newsweek's list of top public high schools.[1]


The school operates on an alternating block schedule, in which students attend odd-period classes (1, 3, 5, and 7) on one day and even-period classes (2, 4, 6, and 8) the following day. Classes are 90 minutes long and meet for either 18 weeks (semester) or 36 weeks (year-long). On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students attend a tutorial session, which lasts for 40 minutes between the first and second classes of the day, and can be used at the students' discretion. Most students opt to finish homework or meet with teachers for help. Every Wednesday is designated a "late-start," in which classes start an hour later than the regular schedule. All students, with the exception of seniors, are required to take a minimum of six classes per semester.[2] Seniors are required to enroll in a minimum of five classes for the fall semester and four for the spring.

Every year, dozens of Northwood students receive prestigious academic awards, such as scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Program, and the school consistently sends a large number of students to nationally acclaimed universities, including Stanford, UCLA, the Ivy League schools, as well as many other UC and CSU campuses. In 2005, 2009, and 2012, the school was recognized as a California Distinguished School[3] and in 2006 was also named a Blue Ribbon School.[4] Many students participate in highly merited academic teams such as Speech and Debate, Model United Nations (MUN), and Science Olympiad, all of which have won state-level competitions. The school also has a video production class that has won awards such as best short film at the 2007 STN convention.

Location and layout[edit]

Northwood High School sits in a narrow valley in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, and was surrounded by working avocado groves at its founding. Currently, the surrounding land is now Orchard Hills, a residential community extending north from the existing community of Northwood Pointe. Northwood High School's site had been designated for a high school from the very beginning as part of the Irvine Company's master plan, which was drafted in 1960. When the school opened in 1999, it had been destined to be in that spot for some 39 years. Due to the school's location, it was almost destroyed by the Santiago Fire in October, 2007, however, it is unlikely to be threatened by wildfires anymore because of the housing developments being built around it.

The school was one of the last major projects by architect William Blurock. Its spartan, blocky, stucco-covered buildings were most likely inspired by the work of Ricardo Legorreta, architect of the similarly-designed The Market Place shopping complex which is only four blocks from the school. The school is based heavily on 1950s architecture, incorporating such elements of that period as teal-tinted glass, steel louvers over high windows, glass-block panels, and Poul Henningsen-style lighting fixtures. The school was designed in a circular fashion around a central courtyard, in similar fashion as the University of California, Irvine, in an attempt to acclimate students to the layout of a college campus. The shapes and layout of the buildings are strictly conformed to imaginary radial lines emanating from the central court (see also Irvine High School, which has a central line of symmetry). This courtyard has at its center a very large Coast Live Oak, which was removed and transported from the nearby hills at a reputed cost of $10,000. This tree in effect became the schools "second mascot". Students simply refer to the courtyard area around this oak tree as "The Oak." It is a popular gathering place before and after school, as well as breaks and lunchtime. The school won numerous awards for its design within the first four years of its existence.

Student activities[edit]

Northwood's highly involved students are given opportunities to run and operate their own organizations. A list of these activities include: The Northwood Howler (newspaper), NHS Element (yearbook), and Northwood Television (NTV), the Academic Decathlon, Red Cross Club, Make-A-Wish Club, Junior State of America, Key Club, Otter Club, and the Associated Student Body (the NHS school government), and Comedysportz. Northwood also has very distinguished Fine Arts Program that features 8 bands, 4 orchestras, 10 chorus ensembles, several dance groups, and a theater program that presents three plays each year. The Fine Arts program comes together each year to produce the annual musical, which often is generally an impressive production. Past musicals have included: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Peter Pan, The Music Man, Beauty and the Beast, Grease, Into the Woods, Holes and in recent years, Shrek: The Musical and The Drowsy Chaperone. The music program has also received the prestigious Grammy Signature School award multiple times, the latest in 2014.

Also in 2006, Northwood Marching Band has won 1st in 5A division at The Huntington Beach High School Surf City Open with their field show called "Fantasmic". They also won the Concessional Sweepstakes, best percussion, visual and auxiliary in their 5A division. Their 2007 Field Show was called "A Night At the Movies" with selections from Tommy, Moulin Rouge, and The Chronicles Of Narnia. In 2008, The Northwood Marching Band has won 1st in 5A division at the Newport Beach Open. They also won Best Drum Major, Best Percussion, and Best General Effects. Their show was called "That 70's Field Show." Every year, the "Tireless Teacher Award" is given to the teacher who is deemed the best through a vote through the students.

Northwood's Speech and Debate team has won in speech events such as OA (Original Advocacy), OO (Original Oratory), DI (Dramatic Interpretation), and many others. The team's debate program has also been largely successful participating in PoFo (Public Forum), LD (Lincoln-Douglas), Congress, and recently Policy.

Notable alumni[edit]


External links[edit]