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SBUSD School Board Approves Earthquake Evaluation to Assess Many Potentially Unsafe Buildings

The South Bay Union School District has nearly 100 structures whose performance in earthquakes may be considered questionable.

The board of trustees voted to approve a request for proposals to carry out seismic safety studies on district buildings.

Assistant Superintendent Abby Saadat told the board the tests are a state mandate.

“In 1999 the State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 300 which requires the Department of General Services to conduct a survey of all K-12 buildings constructed before 1976 and report back on conditions of buildings and their seismic safety,” he said.

The DGS put nearly 10,000 buildings that fit this criteria into two categories: Category 1 for buildings expected to perform well and Category 2 for buildings not expected to perform well. 

The district said it currently has 98 possible Category 2 structures. A 2002 DGS report found that 14 percent of the total square footage of California public schools could be considered in Category 2.

Analysis by voiceofsandiego.org and KPBS found that SBUSD buildings make up roughly half of all questionable buildings countywide.

Board President Chris Brown and trustee Nick Inzunza expressed concerns about how the assessment will be funded. Inzunza pointed out that the district was already aware that many of the district's buildings would not pass inspection.

“The state isn’t giving us any money to fund this, and you’re saying that this is going to cost us between $80,000 and $400,000 depending on how long the evaluations take,” Brown said, who asked if grant funding might be available.

“We already know that most of the buildings aren’t going to pass,” Inzunza said. “We've been told. Why do we need to have an inspector to come out and pay them a half million dollars to have a guy tell us something we already know?”

Saadat agreed that while spending the money would be difficult, it is a state mandate. If funding to help offset the cost of the study was available, he said, the district would apply for it.

District Superintendent Carol Parish asked what would happen if the inspections did not take place.

“I don’t know what the consequences would be for not complying, but I’m pretty sure there would be consequences regarding future projects,” Saadat said. “Would they shut down buildings if we don’t? I don’t think so. But there would likely be future problems when it comes to building improvements or modernizations.”

The measure to initiate a request for proposals process was passed.

To read more about earthquakes and public schools visit California Watch.

Among other matters discussed at the meeting, principal Patricia Valdivia talked about gains in the improvement of student academic achievement.

“In the 2009-2010 school year we had a nice 15-point gain in academic performance index scoring,” Valdivia said. “We’re very proud of the work we’ve done and it’s showing in our results. We have had gains every year for the past five years and we will continue to collaborate and to implement additional instructional practices to help get our students ready for college.”

Students from also took to the podium to thank board members for providing microscopes and laptop computers to students.

“Shortly after the last meeting when we talked about the need for microscopes we received them and are now using them to study cells,” said student Julia Speer. “And we wanted to thank you for making the laptops happen. We have been told we will be getting them soon.”

The next scheduled school board meeting will take place on Dec. 8 at 6 p.m.

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