Lum Decision Announced

Lum Decision Announced


The Board of Education for the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) voted unanimously Tuesday, May 23, to move students off the Lum Elementary School campus for the 2017-18 school year. The decision came at Tuesday's school board meeting.

The decision came after consultation from several geotechnical, structural and architectural engineering firms, all of which concluded the Lum building foundations cannot withstand the significant soil liquefaction in the event of a strong earthquake. 

The district plans to move kindergarten to third grade students to neighboring elementary schools. The board will then create a separate elementary program for fourth and fifth graders on the Wood Middle School campus.

The decision ends a month-old debate about the sustainability of Lum Elementary School’s infrastructure. School officials and a group of displeased Lum parents have disagreed about whether the Lum Elementary site, 1801 Sandcreek Way, is safe for children. Board members, Superintendent Sean McPhetridge, school staff, an advisory group opposing the district’s recommendation and Lum students spoke at the meeting. The district was notified of the potential problem when they were preparing to build a new classroom building on the Lum campus.

In a March 17 report, a 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). Liquefaction refers to the sudden, temporary loss of soil shear strength during a strong earthquake.

The district ordered five more samples to be taken from around the Lum campus, according to an AUSD press release. Each sample came back with similar results, causing concern for the existing campus buildings. Engineers recommended AUSD “develop a plan to provide suitable alternate facilities for the students as soon as feasible.”

McPhetridge disclosed the findings and his recommendations to staff and Lum parents at a special Board of Education meeting on April 28. Citing an outcry from Lum parents, McPhetridge decided to postpone any decision until the May 23 meeting.

During that time opposing Lum parents formed the Lum District Advisory Committee (DAC). They decided to conduct their own study. 

“With each day, as more information is gathered, it has become clearer and clearer that the district’s recommendation was premature,” said Joe Keiser, an attorney, Lum parent and member of the Lum DAC. “We ask that the board look at the expert opinion that we’ve gathered.”

DAC sought the opinions of engineers, architects and a firefighter. They came to the conclusion that they can avoid the Lum site closing by retrofitting the campus. 

“For soft-soil locations and lightweight structures, the potential for differential settlement is often mitigated with ‘raft’ or mat type foundations,” wrote Calin Smith, president of Smith Engineering in a May 5 report. “Applying that concept to these buildings could be straightforward.”

However, the district received a second recommendation from a structural engineering company.

“The existing foundations do not appear to have the capacity or interconnected layout to mitigate the expected differential settlement,” wrote Steven Curry of Murphy Burr Curry, Inc., a structural engineering consulting firm, in a May 17 report. “This could result in life-safety concerns.”

The plan will not effect students this school year.

Lum opened in 1961. The campus consists of single-story buildings, with groups of classrooms, or pods, circling a common area. 

For more information, visit