Oakland ponders fate of seismically unsafe school
(originally published by the Oakland Tribune)
By Doug Oakley – Oakland Tribune
POSTED: 02/23/2014 12:00:00 AM PST0 COMMENTS| UPDATED: ABOUT A YEAR AGO
OAKLAND — The school district has postponed to June 2016 a start date to either tear down and rebuild or renovate the seismically unsafe Glenview Elementary School, and officials acknowledge they could do a better job of communicating their plans to area neighbors.
“We do want to have a standard of communication that is broader than that first circle of parents and teachers and students,” said Tim White, assistant superintendent of facilities for Oakland Unified School District, during a meeting Wednesday night at the school that drew over 100 parents, neighbors and others. “We were negligent in terms of not reaching out further on the scope of the project and the new building on this campus.”
If the district goes ahead with tearing down the school, they are considering teaching Glenview students at Santa Fe Elementary, on 54th Street in West Oakland, 5 miles away. Santa Fe is currently not being used by the district.
While officials say they are considering both options — demolition and rebuilding or renovation — they are recommending demolition and rebuilding because they say it will cost almost the same amount or more to renovate, and it will take the same amount of time.
If they renovate, other problems will persist at the school, such as heating, disability access, classroom space, after-school care, lunchtime logistics and the lack of bathrooms in kindergarten rooms.
“Renovating the school would cost 80 percent as much as rebuilding, and everyone knows that when you get past 50 percent it’s a silly investment,” said Mark Moore, a structural engineer hired by the school district to analyze the costs involved. “We can put a lot of money to fix the structural issues but the question is: Do you want to put more money into a bad investment?”
The school is high on the list of district buildings that will get upgrades courtesy of a $475 million bond measure passed by voters in November 2012.
The Oakland Heritage Alliance has sent a letter to the district saying it is “dismayed at the decision to demolish one of Oakland’s few remaining period school buildings. We urge you to discuss options for rehabilitation and reuse.”
The group wants the school district to release its studies on the building so it can determine if the plan “meets the needs of the community, and so that we can secure the architectural history this building represents,” said member Tom Haw, who attended Wednesday night’s meeting.
Eric Matsuno, who lives next to the school and has two children who went through the school, is in favor of demolition and rebuilding.
“We’ve experienced the sweaty rooms,” Matsuno said. “We’ve been here, we’ve done this and we’re excited that the whole neighborhood will have access to a good state-of-the art school and most people when asked say they are excited, too.”
Oakland school board member Rosie Torres, whose district includes Glenview, also wants to see a new school built at the site.
“The students deserve not to be freezing in the summer and burning up in the winter in the classes, they deserve plenty of technology a new school will bring, and they need space to eat their lunch in a reasonable amount of time,” Torres said. “I understand it will be no fun to change your routine and go to a different school, but it will all be better in the end.”