2013 Seismic Safety Information
I have been asked a number of questions about the seismic safety of our schools in Albany, especially since Marin and Ocean View Elementary Schools have been deemed to be seismically unsafe. I have also been asked why the District passed a bond in 2004 to modernize Marin and Ocean View and didn’t address the revised seismic standards into the modernization plans.
Many of you remember when those schools were built in the 1970’s and know that they met all federal and state safety standards at that time.
State Action in 1999:
In order to address these issues, we need to go back to 1999 when the State decided to look at the seismic safety of school buildings that were built before California seriously beefed up its earthquake safety standards for schools. The state flagged structures that were built with materials that had been proven to perform poorly in earthquakes. Masonry type structures were flagged because they are structures that have been proven to perform inadequately in an earthquake. In particular the State was concerned about how walls connected to foundations and roofs. They wanted to make sure that there was sufficient reinforcement to allow the material to give and sway when an earthquake's shaking occurs. The 1999 State process only involved a cursory review of the blueprints of these schools.
The State then placed the schools into two categories:
1) Those that seemed likely to perform well in an earthquake; and
2) Those that might not. Ten-thousand buildings, or 14% of school buildings across the state, were flagged as potentially unsafe.
State Action in 2003:
In January, 2003, the State sent out a check list to school districts saying, “Let us know what happened to these buildings?” The letter accompanying the checklist stated that an in-depth review would be required to confirm whether or not the buildings were hazardous. The State did not specifically say what districts should do if their buildings were on the list, and there were no stated legal requirements for school districts to address the list at that time. So, without specific direction from the State, Albany went forward with modernizing Marin, Ocean View and Cornell Elementary Schools without performing the structural reviews necessary to determine whether the buildings were seismically safe according to current standards.
AUSD Action in 2012:
Seismic safety concerns tend to ebb and flow. After the big earthquake in Japan, our attention was refocused on the safety of our buildings. Albany hired a structural engineering firm to assess the seismic safety of all of our school buildings. The reports are on our web site at www.ausdk12.org. The results of the study not only confirmed the State’s original assessment that some of the Marin School buildings were not seismically safe, but discovered that all of Marin’s buildings and all of Ocean View’s building would not perform well in a major earthquake.
AUSD’s Future Planning & Financing:
Now the question becomes how much money will it take to retrofit or replace the schools and how will we pay for it? Albany Schools will answer that question by developing an Educational Facilities Master Plan. An Educational Facility Master Plan is about planning for our students’ educational future within a well built and well maintained learning environment. We will plan futuristically and practically when determining whether to remodel or reconstruct. We will consider future trends in educational delivery; we will anticipate future enrollment to make sure that our buildings have the capacity to accommodate growth; we will look at any opportunities for partnerships with the City, civic groups and colleges and universities. We will seek out any State funding opportunities and create a bond referendum package beneficial to the entire community.
Marla Stephenson, Superintendent