Schools check out earthquake risks | August 29, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - August 29, 2008

Schools check out earthquake risks

State may help pay to replace SRVHS gym

by Harry Stoll The precipitous closing and subsequent tearing down of the big old gym at San Ramon Valley High School came about after planning for its modernizing that began in March 2007. A series of studies and reports culminated in the district declarin

This raises a question as to whether it would have been found seismically unsafe without the modernization being planned.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District's modernization program is the method the district uses to discover and correct the hazards, said Richard Lowell, district director of facilities development, explaining that if engineers discover a structural problem during the course of modernization, the necessary repairs are added to the project.

"Through this process a majority of our campuses have been reviewed and seismically upgraded as required," said Lowell.

The state of California has a file of schools with hazardous buildings, known as the AB300 List. AB300 was the 1999 legislation amending the Education Code to require the Department of General Services to issue a report of schools deemed vulnerable to earthquakes. The legislation prohibits the public listing of specific sites, but school districts can obtain information from the list for their schools.

"We have no schools on the original 276-page list," said Lowell.

On Feb. 4 of this year, Butzbach Structural Engineering concluded the old gymnasium, built in 1956-57, was not safe to occupy. The gym was closed Feb. 6 and demolished in August.

State help could be on the way to replace the gym. In an Aug. 19 resolution, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District board directed Margaret Brown, assistant superintendent for facilities development, to apply to the state for a Facilities Hardship Grant under the Education Code to replace the gym.

The resolution read in part: "... On June 25, 2008, the Division of the State Architect concurred that there is significant earthquake risk to the life safety of the gymnasium building due to construction to outdated codes ...."

While the code generally requires a 50-50 split of state and district costs for seismic mitigation work, it does allow a higher percentage to be paid by the state in hardship cases, such as circumstances beyond the control of the district.

"It just kind of happened," said Board President Greg Marvel when asked why it was a hardship case. "Usually we plan out 10 years and we would have to get in line for the money. We can't wait five or six years."

District spokesman Terry Koehne said the application may not contain a specific amount and he wasn't sure how much money the district is eligible to receive.

Applying to the state for funding won't slow the construction of the new gym.

"We are proceeding while the state considers our application," said Lowell.

He expects construction of the new gym to begin in the spring 2009 and be completed in the fall 2010. The current estimate for the gym includes some site costs and the cost of demolishing the old auxiliary gym.

"Our current construction estimate for the gym is $8.2 million," said Lowell.

Lowell said all school buildings are reviewed for seismic safety, with emphasis on older buildings. The district is looking now at Cal High, he said.

Construction standards for safety of school buildings have become more and more rigorous over the years, he added.