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Lum Parents Stage Staunch Defense of School

Lum Elementary School parents are staging an all-out defense of their school. (Photo: Action Alameda News)

Parents and teachers at Donald Lum Elementary School have launched a full-on counter-offensive in response to the school district’s proposal to close the facility in the name of earthquake safety.

Late last month, the Alameda Unified School District announced a proposal to close Lum Elementary, and the basis of a structural engineer’s recommendation, which was the outcome of soil samples taken around the campus.

Initially, samples were taken in support of the construction of new classrooms. However when those samples suggested that the facility was highly susceptible to ground soil liquefaction in a strong earthquake, more samples were taken throughout the campus, which confirmed the likelihood of liquefaction.

Parents opposed to the closure quickly organized a district advisory committee to second-guess the structural engineer’s recommendation, and have since been steadily forthcoming with press releases announcing expert opinions that side with their own.

Most recently, this morning, the advisory committee provided a media release detailing a proposal from Smith Engineering, of Berkeley, explaining that “mat-like rafts could be installed one at a time around the perimeter of Lum School’s five steel-supported single-story pods, costing in the range of $250,000 to $300,000 each.”

A supporting letter from Calin Smith, president of Smith Engineering, suggested that the foundation retrofit could be done in a phased approach, allowing the school to stay open, taking perhaps 8 months to a year.

Naturally, the debate has raged on local social media forums, even to the point that Susan Davis, senior manager for community affairs for the school district, jumped into the fray, noting that “with all due respect, Mr. [Calvin] Wong is a civil engineer, not a structural engineer.”

Wong had written a letter to the school district advising it that it hasn’t completed full due diligence to determine the school is unsafe. He cited his over 30 years of experience as a city engineer and building official with the City of Oakland, where he was “lead staff to mitigate the 2,100 earthquake damaged buildings from the Loma Prieta quake in 1989.”

Davis’ social media dig at Wong was not lost on the advisory committee, whose press release this morning included a statement from Calin Smith endorsing Wong.

A district advisory committee spokesperson, speaking on background, told Action Alameda News that there is a sentiment among the parent community that, because Lum is a diverse school, with more than 40 languages spoken and “lots of economic diversity,” district officials assumed parents would “roll over” in response to the proposed closure.

The school may shake, or even sink a few inches, in an earthquake, but Lum parents definitely aren’t ready to roll over.

2 comments to Lum Parents Stage Staunch Defense of School

  • Deb Balot

    Thank you for this coverage, it is IMPORTANT because we as Alamedans are being ignored. I am a LUM parent, I am concerned for the welfare of the school community as well as my child. As parents we were not engaged immediately in the process and continue to NOT Be collaborated with. There is a wide demographic of citizens in this LUM school district. I truly feel as though we are being dismissed.

    IF AUSD wants to get our opinion or thoughts on this matter, then ENGAGE us, don’t send out a survey asking our opinion or thoughts on where we want our children to be displaced. AUSD needs to follow the BEST practices protocol that is in place for school closures in the State of California. You can find this here.

    Thank you and please continue to share information on this topic as it truly is an “Alameda wide issue.”

  • Adelma Bertolotti

    Save LUM SCHOOL. DONALD LUM school has excelente TEACHERS, great STUDENTS and great PARENTS . DO NOT SEPARATE STUDENTS. Fix the problem if it’s any without closing the school.

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