School Documentary to Debut next Wednesday


Students and the teacher from the Encinal High Digital Video and Filmmaking class are premiering a documentary film they produced about the Lum Elementary School closing at Wood Middle School (WMS) Wednesday, May 9. 

The film, Once a Lum Bear, Always a Lum Bear, addresses the impact the school closing had on former students and the community, according to the Digital Video and Filmmaking class teacher Paul Igaz. The students interviewed former Lum’s students and their parents. 

“There was a mix of reactions,” said Igaz. “But there was certainly a vocal group of parents who opposed closure.”

About 35 students worked on the film including Dorothy Perillo-Dutton who edited the film. Igaz said he gave the students tons of freedom to make the film.

“I think I gave them a lot of free rein,” he said. “I told them that we had to avoid taking a stance on the issue in terms of for or against closure, and should instead focus on capturing the feel and uniqueness of the community.”

The film does not touch on the causes or the politics that led to Lum’s school closing. The Board of Education for the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) voted unanimously on May 23, 2017, to close the Lum campus indefinitely in June of last year. 

The decision came after consultation from several geotechnical, structural and architectural engineering firms all concluded Lum’s building foundations cannot withstand the significant soil liquefaction in the event of a strong earthquake. Liquefaction refers to the sudden, temporary loss of soil’s shear strength during a strong earthquake. 

In a March 2017 report, 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.” 

The district was notified of the potential problem when they were preparing to build a new classroom building on Lum’s campus. The decision ended a month-long debate about the sustainability of Lum’s infrastructure. School officials and a group of displeased Lum parents held several contentious board meetings last spring with parents demanding the school stay open. 

In January, a report revealed a seismic upgrade for Lum would cost about $34 million and a new school altogether of similar size would cost $33 million, according to Quattrocchi Kwok Architects, the Santa Rosa-based firm upgrading Alameda High School. The school board has not decided on a resolution.

The film will be shown at WMS, 420 Grand St., at 6:30 p.m.