By Alfredo Santana
LYNWOOD — U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragan visited the Lynwood High School campus Feb. 15 to witness the structural damage to the G building, and pledged to support the district on its path to raise funds to reconstruct it.
Along with the district’s board of education members, Barragan toured the campus, focusing on the three-level structure deemed unsafe for classes last year by two engineering firms hired to study its physical integrity.
The Feb. 15 visit took place amid concerns from district administrators that available state funds would not cover the estimated $100 to $120 million it would cost to rebuild the facility, plus $5 million to demolish it.
“Roof collapse at Lynwood HS in June 2020 caused the building to close and displaced hundreds of students. Got a firsthand look today at the extent of the problems,” Barragan said in a tweet.
Although Barragan did not mention a specific source of federal funds, she vowed to work with state representatives to make the high school functional again.
Barragan’s visit to the campus is the third made by high-profile elected leaders representing the region.
Last October, state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon toured the facilities, and said he wanted to see the damage firsthand to better understand why it happened and learn the financial needs of the district.
Before Rendon’s campus walk through, state Sen. Lena Gonzalez also visited the high school. Both state representatives insisted they wanted to help the struggling district, but did not pledge financial support at the time.
“Committed to assist @Rendon63rd and Lynwood schools in their efforts to get Lynwood High ready for students again,” Barragan added in her tweet.
The district has invested $14.2 million in upgrades and renovations of Lynwood Middle School to migrate the 1,900 students and staff from the Lynwood High campus, including the costs of moving furniture and creating office space for staff and faculty.
When Rendon toured the recently branded Imperial Campus, he witnessed air cleaners with shoddy ties hanging from the ceiling and missing retainers that contributed to the soffits’ collapse.
Petra Structure Engineers, the first firm the district contracted to investigate the June 2020 incident, launched a broader facilities examination and concluded that other buildings had to incur significant renovations or reconstruction.
When the first floor ceilings collapsed, Lynwood High was empty due to state-mandated closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and nobody was hurt.
But as tons of concrete and aluminum frames fell to the ground, Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel Crosthwaite and the board of education moved to close the school permanently until studies on the building’s integrity were conclusive.
The California Division of Architects said it would contribute $66 million, or about two thirds of the cost to rebuild the G building, and the district would be responsible for $33 million.
And the district does not have the resources to rebuild a similar building.
Representatives from DelTerra Group, a private firm specializing in school structures and public work projects, said the state’s estimate fails to account the costs of renovating Lynwood Middle School, plus $500,000 spent in structural studies.
DelTerra Group program manager Jaime Jaramillo previously compared the G building to the district’s “version of Belmont,” in reference to the $400 million campus in downtown Los Angeles erected in the early 2000s above a shuttered oil field ruled unsafe due to high toxic levels underground.
Now, Lynwood Unified estimates that structural repairs of the entire campus ballooned to $400 million.
Crosthwaite disagreed with the state figures, and said the district needs $120 million to rebuild a facility that includes classrooms, labs, restrooms and offices.
He said in a statement that the district is working on different fronts to raise the money.
“Our primary goal at Lynwood Unified is to ensure all of our students receive an excellent academic experience, and that included leaning in a safe environment,” Crosthwaite said. “We are working hard to secure the necessary funding to repair the Imperial campus and return teachers and students to the Lynwood High School they know and love.”
Due to state regulations, a school facility must be wrecked if repair costs surpass more than half of its total reconstruction bill. The California Division of Architects ruled that G building repairs would cost more than $50 million and a new one should be built following current safety codes.
The district has launched efforts to raise community awareness about the district’s fiscal emergency and the work ahead to restore the school’s safety for future students.
“Education is the number one door to opportunity,” said Barragan, whose 44th Congressional District includes Lynwood. “I’m a firm believer that students should come to school and be able to feel safe. It’s a serious issue, and we want to help as much as we can,”
With the exception of G building, the campus facilities were constructed from 1994 to 1998. The G building was finished in 2000.