When the Albany Unified School Board digs in to work in the new year, one of the first major issues it will face is the seismic safety of Marin and Ocean View elementary schools.
Both schools need major retrofitting according to a report presented to the board at the end of November by R. P. Gallagher & Associates, a structural engineering firm commissioned to by the district to conduct a seismic safety analysis.
In response, the school board, at its first meeting of 2013 on January 8 will discuss hiring a consultant to develop a facilities master plan, outlining the district's short- and long-term buildings' needs, including the cost of replacing Marin and Ocean View elementries. The board has already asked Gallagher & Associates for detailed estimates of the cost of retrofitting both schools.
The board will also consider placing a bond measure before voters in November 2013 to pay for the work, the scope of which will be decided later in the year when cost comparisons are known, according to the January 8 agenda.
“The engineering report indicated that a life-threatening collapse of buildings was unlikely, but that a major seismic event would render these schools unusable,” said school board president, adding that he’s speaking for himself and not for the board.
“We will try to go through this process as quickly and efficiently as possible, because this is a safety issue, and replacing these buildings after an earthquake would be much more costly and difficult than doing the work before any major earthquake occurs.”
Marin and Ocean View only sites with serious needs
The Marin/Ocean View study was conducted after an earlier district-wide seismic safety review identifed concerns at both schools. The district’s other buildings, including Cornell Elementary, and Albany Middle and High schools were deemed safe, Black said.
The district-wide review, compelted in February 2012, was in reponse to Assembly Bill (AB) 300, a 1999 law requiring seismic safety evaluations of all public schools in the state.
Board president Black outlined next steps:
- Engineering analysis detailing the costs of seismic retrofitting for each school
- District-wide facilities planning to determine what our facilities’ needs will be for the foreseeable future
- Fiscal analysis to determine our bonding capacity (that is, how large a bond measure we can afford and legally propose to the public)
- Board conversation to decide what we would like to build, if we could afford it
- Looking at other sources of funding in addition to bonds (government grants, donations, etc,)
- Determining how much it will cost to build whatever we decided on in step 4, and how that compares to our funding ability
- Decision about what to retrofit and what to build, based on step 6
- Putting a bond measure on the ballot and applying for other funding
- If the bond passes, design and construct what we decided on in step 7
Cost estimates of repairing and replacing expected in late spring
The agenda staff report, written by Superintendent Marla Stephenson, calls for the retrofit estimates of Marin and Ocean View to be completed by May 30, and the facilities plan by June 11.
The first phase of the plan, due in June, will cover the district's three elementry schools, as well as the Albany Children's Center (preschool), and the administrative office, next to Cornell Elementary. After this, the plan will expand to cover the rest of the district's facilities, according to the agenda staff report.
In specific, the engineers found weaknesses in Marin and Ocean View’s roof-to-wall and roof-to-slab connections, said Don Albright, facilities supervisor for the district. (For details check the reports on the school district’s website.)
The extent of need was a surprise, Albright said; “We were not expecting to have two whole school sites needing to be retrofitted.”
Brown says it's too early to speculate on the costs involved, but stresses the importance of carefully balancing expenses with needs.
“Personally, I expect the Board to find a balance between retrofitting and new construction that will be the lowest-cost alternative that will serve the needs of the district for the projected lifetime of the buildings," he said.
"That is, it won't be the cheapest thing we could possibly do to make the buildings seismically safe, because that would not address future needs, and it won't be a complete redesign and replacement of both schools, because that would cost too much."