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School District Delays Vote on Future of Lum Elementary

A proposal to close Lum school has caused an outcry. (Photo from Lum school petition.)

The Alameda Unified School District has delayed a vote on the future of Lum elementary school from May 9th to May 23rd.

The district shocked the community last week with a press release announcing the probable closure of the school, after the analysis of soil samples suggested the school would be unsafe in a 100-year earthquake.

Initially, soil samples were taken in preparation for building a new classroom, with Measure I funds. The analysis of those samples prompted the district to take others across the campus.

The school is built on bay fill, with a shallow “continuous spread” foundation; the fill soil is subject to turning to mixing with groundwater and turning essentially to a liquid during intense shaking, and the foundation type is less resilient to this than other foundation types.

ZFA Structural Engineers, the firm the took the samples and conducted the analysis, recommended that the district find an alternate site for the school, even though “the California Building Code would not require that the buildings or site be vacated by the district.”

The new information, however, “will limit the work that can be performed to the existing buildings to that which is non-structural in nature.”

“At the special Board of Education meeting on April 28, the board heard from district staff, consultants, and the Lum community,” said Superintendent Sean McPhetridge. “As a result of the feedback we heard from community stakeholders and board members, Board President Gary Lym and I have decided the board should postpone its decision on Lum to May 23, so that more information can be gathered.

Lum stakeholders took to local social media outlets to question the district’s proposal to close the school, and launched a petition calling for the district to slow-down the decision making process.

One petition-signer wrote, “Please read the actual reports. Lum complies with the California Building Code. The engineer does not suggest evacuation. The superintendent is basing his recommendation on an uninformed reading of the reports. Lum has weathered many seismic events in the past decades and it would be unreasonable to close the school without comprehensive remediation studies. There should be no rush to disrupt the lives of the community and abandon a valuable asset based on irrational fear.”

(The ZFA report reads, “We recommend that the district develop a plan to provide suitable alternate facilities for students and staff as soon as feasible.”)

Separately, Lum parents formed an advisory committee to look into the matter as well. District officials said they are research questions posed by teachers and parents opposed to the closure of the school.

The school district is under a time crunch, as the new school year starts August 21, and it will take time to re-home students and teachers if the board ultimately votes to close the school, even if only for the next school year.

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