Campus building ruled unsafe at Lynwood High

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By Alfredo Santana

Contributing Writer

LYNWOOD — The Lynwood Unified School District announced Jan. 27 that Lynwood High School would be closed for the 2021-22 school year following a structural safety review of the campus that revealed unsafe buildings.

The structural safety review followed the collapse of large outdoor ceiling panels last June from the G Building on campus that damaged two parked vehicles.

The school board took action Jan. 24, voting to close the Lynwood High campus next year and have Lynwood Middle School serve as the high school campus.

Lynwood High has an enrollment of nearly 2,200 students.

The shift at Lynwood High School will affect other district campuses as well. Seventh and eighth grade students in the district will attend Hosler and Chavez middle schools next year while students in fifth grade at the district’s elementary schools will remain at their elementary schools for the sixth grade.

Teachers and staff will shift campuses with students as appropriate, the district said.

A report by engineering firm Petra Structural Engineers confirmed that big sections of outdoor panels anchored to aluminum rebar, called soffits, fell to the ground June 16 last year.

School was not in session because of the coronavirus pandemic that forced all district schools to close last March.

The collapsed ceilings triggered a campus-wide inspection of overhead settings, the lunch shelter area, the gymnasium, classrooms, the performing arts center and walls outside classroom buildings.

Following a joint review with California’s Division of the State Architect, the Lynwood school board last June approved a resolution calling for the removal of all soffits installed on campus buildings.

Architectural and building review of ceilings and other structures “was launched out of an abundance of caution after the failure of a section of the exterior panels,” the district said in a statement.

A district employee who asked to remain anonymous said the structural incident at ground level triggered a chain reaction, and that upper floors in the G Building also could be damaged.

Hiring Petra Structure Engineers to search for more unhinged and hazardous structures cost the district $30,000, plus reimbursable expenses.

A safety review will continue at the school to determine what other facilities may be too dangerous for students and staff, and to determine the extent of repairs needed.

“Our district places the highest priority on the safety of our students and staff, and we are determined to provide the top-quality facilities our community deserves,” district Superintendent Gudiel Crosthwaite said.

Gearing up for the challenge, district officials have scheduled online sessions in February for parents to inform them about the school changes. Links to these workshops will be available at the district’s portal at www.lynwood.k12.ca.us

“Our goal is to ensure our students and employees are safe and feel safe while minimizing disruption during the instructional day,” school board President Maria G. Lopez said. “Our team will have a seamless plan in place to facilitate the move.”

Lopez pledged to hold liable any party responsible for the lax safety structures, if the review concludes shoddy work and negligence caused sections of the ceiling to fall.

“What’s more, as we conduct this structural assessment, if there is any wrongdoing found, we will hold accountable those deemed responsible,” Lopez said. “Our Lynwood community has always stood behind our schools and our students. We will aggressively move forward with construction and repairs to get our students back to their home campuses as quickly as possible.”

On Nov. 12, the district hired consulting firm Jacobus & Yuang Inc. for $5,920 to help it apply for emergency funds with the Office of Public School Construction and to offset the cost of “plaster removal and replacement” from any damaged facility.

The district also hired demolition company Sandy Pringle Associates to conduct inspections to comply with Division of Architect requirements, and to remove the soffits at the school for $95 an hour, but not to exceed fees for $9,500.

Sandy Pringle Associates agreed to provide daily reports with work in progress that included photos, with a maximum work allocation of four hours a day last November.

Lynwood High School opened for classes in 1998, three years after the district started its construction. The campus reached construction completion in 2000, after an investment of $98.4 million.

Lynwood Middle School will receive an influx of resources from the district to accommodate high school students, including expanding facilities to support academic, physical and extra-curricular activities, Crosthwaite said.

All campuses in the district have been closed to learning since last March when a statewide emergency declaration was issued due to the transmission risks posed by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.