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LAUSD Reacts to Reports of Earthquake Hazards in Highland Park's Schools

According to LAUSD officials, three school projects listed by the investigative group California Watch as lacking Field Act certification are actually in compliance.

This article is part of an ongoing series of reports on seismic safety in Highland Park's and Mount Washington's schools.

A week after the non-partisan, investigative reporting initiative released a database of public schools lacking in required safety certifications, the Los Angeles Unified School District has responded by saying at least three of its schools have been erroneously listed as unsafe.

, and s were all listed on California Watch's database of schools that were home to construction projects lacking certification through the Field Act, which was established following the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933 to ensure that public school buildings are properly fortified against major seismic events. 

However, a Los Angeles Unified School District representative told Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch that two of the school buildings listed in the database no longer exist, and that one received Field Act Certification in 2009.

According to Shannon Haber, director of communications for the Los Angeles Unified School District's facilities department, the projects listed for both Yorkdale and San Pascual Avenue Elementary Schools were related to the installation and retrofitting of portable classrooms.

"The portables have since been removed and the application was closed without certification as there is no building to certify," Haber said.

As for Aragon Avenue Elementary, which was also listed by California Watch as featuring projects lacking Field Act certification, Haber said the work there was certified in November of 2009.  (Check the box on the right to see a .pdf of the certification letter.)

The seismic safety database released by California Watch represents 19 months of investigative reporting.  Despite some discrepancies between the data they've collected and the facts on the ground, the investigation has uncovered some yet to be addressed safety issues at Highland Park's schools.

For example, a former home economics building at was found by California Watch to be listed under the State of California's AB 300 Survey Report, which is a list of buildings constructed before 1978 that fail to live up to modern safety standards.

Neil Gamble, director of maintenance and operation for LAUSD, told Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch that the district's plans to retrofit the building were not immediate, as the school district places a higher priority on shoring up classroom buildings.

"It will be taken care of, retrofitted the future," he said.

Gamble said that retrofitting an administrative building at Yorkdale Elementary School, which was also listed on the AB300 list, is also not in the district's plans.

Like Luther Burbank Middle School, Yorkdale is also located in an earthquake fault zone.

Gamble said that, for now, upgrades made at the school more than two decades ago should be sufficient in the event of major seismic event.

"Yorkdale was retrofitted in 1936, which means it meets basic requirements of the Field Act. Additional work was done in 1986 to reconstruct the main building up to the seismic requirements of that date. Also, it's a concrete structure, which is actually the most stable of structures," he said. "It's located in a fault zone, which is just a trigger that means you have to look at it a little bit differently when you're doing the seismic design of it. Whenever doing major new reconstruction or major modernization and things like that. To me, it needs to be looked at again. It is currently a priority 2B for us."

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