Students at Landmark and Challenger schools got a brief three-day vacation after district officials closed them amid safety concerns.
District officials said the closures are precautionary, displacing 1,450 students and 150 district employees. Both schools could be closed up to five weeks.
During weatherization projects at Landmark and Challenger, structural deficiencies in the schools’ buildings were discovered. Following that, GESD brought in architects, structural engineers and other experts in their fields to inspect the two campuses. Those assessments showed varying degrees of damage to outside walls in every building on each campus.
“These two schools were actually built around the same time - in the early 1980s - with the exception of Landmark’s library, which was built in the 1920s,” said Glendale Elementary School District Director of Communication Jim Cummings. “While doing a weatherization project last year, workers found varying degrees of structural weakness.”
The district received a letter Sept. 8 from its structural engineer, wherein, he issued the caution. District officials met with experts the following day to determine the appropriate next steps.
“There is not an immediate risk of failure, but the fear is if a major event like high wind, microburst or hurricane force winds were to come through, it could topple the walls,” Cummings said. “The real thing is there is a whole bunch of uncertainty with the structural support of the walls and the extent of damages to the buildings, which is why the schools have been shut down.”
The district released a statement addressing the issues and emphasizing the safety of students at both schools.
“Knowing what we now know, we could not ethically or morally allow students back on to those campuses until the repairs are made,” said GESD Superintendent Joe Quintana. “Our first priority must be the safety of our students and staff, and this is why we took this step.”
Officials said cost for the repairs is estimated at more than $2.4 million and the state school facilities board was scheduled to consider an item that would pay for the repairs at its Sept 12 meeting.
As a result of the closings, students from both schools were scheduled to be out of school Sept. 12 to 14 and expected to return to classes Sept. 15.
Cummings added that to resolve the structural issues, architects planned to install sister walls around the perimeters of all buildings at Challenger and Landmark campuses. The walls would resolve the structural issues that were found.
“The workers are going to put up sister walls, which are three- to four-feet walls that will be anchored to the building and will add five to 10 years to the life of the structure,” Cummings said.
He said the district was working at press time to determine where to place students from both schools, and they had two options they were researching. The first option was finding space that could accommodate both schools, and second, implementing split schedules at two of the districts’ other schools.
“We are in the process of informing staff and parents of which of the two possible choices,” Cummings said. “Once we have a decision (which would be after press time), we will post updates on a website for parents, staff and students.”