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School District Sources a Second, Concurring, Opinion on Lum School

The Alameda Unified School District has secured a concurring opinion from a San Francisco structural engineering firm regarding the proposed re-location of Lum elementary school students.

The Alameda Unified School District announced today that it has sourced an opinion from a second structural engineering firm, recommending that Lum elementary school students be re-homed for the coming school year.

Steven Curry, of San Francisco-based Murphy Burr Curry, Inc. provided a recommendation letter to the school district yesterday.

In the letter, Curry wrote that the wood and steel framed construction of the buildings that make up the Lum campus “is not well suited for differential settlements of the order of the magnitude expected. The existing foundations do not appear to have the capacity or interconnected layout to mitigate the expected differential settlement. Therefore, the wall and roof framing would be subjected to the same differential movement.

“This could result in life-safety concerns, such as partial roof collapse due to roof beams or joists becoming unseated from their connections or hangers (for examples, see the attached detail sections below from the 1959 structural set). Additionally, non-structural finishes, such as ceilings, light fixtures, doors, etc. are generally not designed for this magnitude of differential settlement and could present fall or egress concerns.”

The school’s administration building and the first two classrooms were built in 1959; a classroom building was added in 1964 and another in 1974.

Curry recommends that, even though the “California Building Code does not require that the buildings or site be vacated by the district due to this condition…given the life safety and egress concerns outlined above, we agree that the district develop a plan to provide alternate accommodations for students and faculty and/or if feasible, perform a seismic foundation retrofit as outlined.”

Curry’s letter as posted to the school district’s website is watermarked as a draft. As of press time, the district hadn’t responded to clarification request regarding the watermark.

The school district also released a new letter from Chris Warner, senior principal for ZFA Structural Engineers, the firm that provided the original evaluation.

Warner expanded on his April letter, and re-iterated his recommendation to re-locate students from the campus, explaining that it would be difficult to construct a hypothesized foundation retrofit under existing buildings.

Curry likewise outlined a hypothetical foundation fix based on soil grouting and compaction underneath the buildings.

Both letters and additional data have been posted to the school district’s web page on the issue.

“I have tremendous empathy for the parents at Lum Elementary School who are distressed by the possibility that their children may go to another school next year,” said Superintendent Sean McPhetridge. “But in light of this new information, I must continue to recommend that students be moved off the campus next year. As a district we have a legal, moral, and professional obligation to protect the lives and safety of our students and staff.”

The school district board of trustees will hear a presentation on the technical updates at its May 23rd meeting, in addition to an update from the Lum District Advisory Committee, a parent and teacher group opposed to the closure of the school.

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