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District shakes off report

State spokesman says being on the list does not mean a school building is unsafe.

April 12, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@gmail.com

A database published last week by an investigative nonprofit called into question the seismic safety standards of nine structures within the Burbank Unified School District.

But district officials said the report by California Watch was not cause for alarm.

“Is it a matter of serious concern? I would have to say no,” said school board member Larry Applebaum. “Does it warrant asking a professional whether we should spend any resources having someone checking the engineering of it? I think it warrants asking the question.”

Two buildings included in the database, which are located at John Muir Middle School, have already been modernized, Applebaum noted.

The highlighted structures – which also include seven elementary school lunch shelters – were among thousands included in the California Watch report on construction standards and documentation in public school districts up and down the state.

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The database, made up in part by information compiled in 2002 by the Division of the State Architect, includes older buildings with “potentially dangerous seismic hazards that require more detailed evaluation,” as well as buildings that have not been certified by the state. It also lists structures near fault lines or landslide zones, among other potential hazards.

Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for the Division of the State Architect, said being on the list does not necessary mean a structure is unsafe.

“There were no statutory requirements in place requiring them to do anything,” Lamoureux said. “The impetus was to provide policy makers with how many buildings might need to be retrofitted.”

He acknowledged that districts often fail to file the proper paperwork after completing modernization projects. Still, careful record keeping serves a purpose, he said.

“It is important to be accurate and up to date as possible,” Lamoureux said. “It was never a requirement of the law, we just felt it made good sense.”

Burbank Unified adheres to all safety standards as outlined by state law, district officials said. A $112-million school bond passed in 1997 paid for extensive modernization projects at all of its sites.

“If you go back and look at the original bond language, one of the primary purposes of utilizing the bond funds was to provide seismic upgrades,” Applebaum said. “All the buildings that went through modernization, which was every school in the district, had engineers go through and recommend the appropriate modernization that needed to be done to bring it up to code.”

In addition, fellow school board member Debbie Kukta said the district initiated a review of all potential hazards and currently is working with a risk-assessment consultant.

“If there are problems, we are definitely looking at it,” she said.
 
 

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