The Board of Education for the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) voted Tuesday, May 23, to shut down Lum Elementary School campus for the 2017-18 school year. The decision came at the school board meeting in the council chambers at City Hall.
The five board members voted unanimously to approve the resolution to indefinitely close Lum Elementary School, 1801 Sandcreek Way. The board maintained its stance that the Lum site is vulnerable to extensive damage in the event of a major earthquake.
The board and the district sought outside counsel from three geotechnical engineering firms, two structural engineering firms and an architectural firm for information on the viability of the school campus. All firms concluded Lum cannot withstand the significant soil liquefaction that is likely to occur in the event of a strong earthquake.
“I would not leave my own children in this school,” said AUSD board member Ardella Dailey at the meeting. “Moving children is not something I want to do, it’s something I have to do.”
Board members were met with strong opposition from a group of Lum parents called the Lum District Advisory Committee (DAC). The group was vocal in its opposition to the board in the weeks leading up to the meeting. However, the board was not deterred from their original stance.
“This has been a difficult process for all,” said Board President Gary Lym. “As board members we have listened carefully to the voices of families and teachers who don’t want to leave this campus. But as board members we also cannot ignore the scientific findings and recommendations of firms that have significant experience.”
After the vote was conducted some audience members shouted and heckled at board members. One audience member shouted, “save your money,” while another said, “pretty lame of you guys.”
Not all audience members were against the decision. One audience member shouted, “the school is not safe,” multiple times.
The closing is being regarded as indefinite and not permanent for now. The board voted to require staff to develop detailed cost and timeline estimates for possible remediation or replacement of the existing buildings at Lum. The board also voted to create an advisory committee on the district’s long-term facility needs, including the possible future use of the Lum site.
The district plans to move kindergarten to third grade students to neighboring elementary schools, according to AUSD superintendent Sean McPhetridge. The board will then create a separate elementary program for fourth and fifth graders on the Wood Middle School campus.
McPhetridge also said in a press release district staff is currently working with the district’s employee organizations to determine the best way to reassign Lum teachers and staff to new schools. He said he plans to recommend Lum Principal Jesse Woodward for the new principal of Ruby Bridges Elementary School at the next Board of Education meeting on June 13.
The district was notified of the potential liquefaction problem when they were preparing to build a new classroom building on the Lum campus.
In a March 17 report, the geotechnical engineering firm, Miller Pacific Engineering Group, declared the “potential liquefaction of sandy layers between the ground surface and a depth of 50 feet may result in ground surface settlement of between roughly five to 10 inches” at the Lum site in the event of a 100-year earthquake (6.8 on the Richter scale).