LAKE FOREST : New School Opens in Portola Hills

It was the first day of school all over again for about 350 students and teachers Monday morning as they settled into their routines at the new Portola Hills Elementary School.

In the planning stages for about nine years, the elementary school is the first in the Portola Hills subdivision of Lake Forest and the 23rd elementary school in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. As development continues in the area, the school will house up to 700 students in kindergarten to sixth grade from Portola Hills, Hidden Ridge and Santiago Canyon.

Although the school does not have a mascot yet, its new motto unveiled during a birthday ceremony Monday morning builds upon the sweeping campus views of the Saddleback Valley and Pacific Ocean: “Exploring New Horizons; Discovering Ourselves.”

“Isn’t that what education, school and lifelong education is all about?” Principal Sondra Morrow said during the birthday ceremony. “What a wonderful opportunity we have! Today is a beginning.”


Students were equally excited about their school. Band members from Trabuco Hills High School and a chorale from El Toro High School helped set the stage for the school opening.

“I think it’s really neat,” said Jessica Bechtold, a fourth-grader from Portola Hills. “It’s really different. It’s clean, it’s not so old. And we’re the first students. Everything is good.”

Students from Portola Hills had been attending Del Cerro Elementary School in Mission Viejo, a 25-minute bus ride away. All but a handful of the students can now walk or ride their bikes to school.

To help ease the mid-semester transition, most students started the school year in September at Del Cerro with the same teachers, classmates and even books that they now have at the new school.