By Alfredo Santana
LYNWOOD — The three-story classroom building at Lynwood High School that suffered the collapse of its outdoor ceilings last summer will be torn down to make room for a new facility, it was announced at a school board meeting June 3.
The decision to demolish the G Building, which was built in 2000, was reached after Petra Structural Engineers, the engineering firm hired to inspect the safety of campus facilities deemed it “poorly built” in a report issued to the Lynwood school board in April.
Gregory Fromm, the chief business officer for the Lynwood Unified School District, briefed the school board and the public on the matter at the first open meeting to the public since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fromm said the G Building was condemned due to necessary repairs estimated at more than 50% of the cost that would take to rebuild it.
The district did not reveal how much it would cost to build a new facility, or how it concluded that repairs would surpass more than half the cost of the new one.
State laws ban retrofitting and repairs of school facilities under such conditions, and requires that buildings be replaced following current safety codes.
District Superintendent Gudiel Crosthwaite vowed to hold the G Building contractors accountable.
“The board and the district administration are aggressively pursuing legal options on behalf of the community to hold accountable those responsible for this issue,” said Crosthwaite in a statement. “And while our incredible teachers and staff continue to keep our students on track for their future success, please know that our facilities team is working daily to resolve this issue.”
On May 27, the school board hired the legal firm Burke, Williams & Sorensen to evaluate and start claims against the parties involved in the shoddy facility construction and installation of the weak outdoor ceiling panels, at a maximum rate of $350 per hour.
Petra Structural Engineers ruled the G Building and other structures unsafe to conduct classes for students and staff in January. The campus was closed at the time due to the pandemic.
In addition, the Performing Arts Center on campus will remain closed, but needed repairs do not require its demolition, said Valerie Martinez, a spokesperson for the district.
“The gym and the library will be available for use as resources for the students,” she said.
The school board has deemed the rest of campus safe.
The district conducted adult school, middle school and high school graduation ceremonies last month in the high school’s football field. Organizers set up chairs about six feet apart from each participant to follow COVID-19 health protocols.
Meanwhile, the economic toll to address trash removal at the high school and to assess the structural viability of the existing facilities has surpassed $1.5 million, with more expected to come.
The school district has already unveiled its plans to accommodate most Lynwood High School students at the former Lynwood Middle School starting in August for the 2021-22 academic year.
The relocation plan has required some tweaks as administrators studied the feasibility of implementing academic programs and accessibility at facilities as they were, in addition to more visible upgrades.
Among the jobs associated to revamp facilities are the purchase and installation of removable classrooms, leveling surfaces with asphalt for people in wheelchairs and with special needs, redesign of bathrooms and outdoor food areas.
Del Terra, a landscape and hardscape company, signed a $128,880 to provide expanding emergency work to facilities housing reshuffled students to Lynwood Middle School, Cesar Chavez Middle School and elementary schools as needed.
Geotechnical Professionals Inc. agreed to prepare a proposal to explore subsurfaces in support of the emergency works that add infrastructure for high school activities at Lynwood Middle School for $19,500.
On May 3, the company agreed to provide removal and replacement of damaged asphalt and concrete to control hazards, ensure access to students with disabilities and build a new parking area equipped with benches, light poles, shade structures and ramps.
The Architerra Design Group was hired for $32,650 to renovate two quads at Lynwood Middle School.
Those contracts will be paid for with money from Measure N, a $65 million school bond program approved by local voters in November 2016 to cover repairs, renovations and upgrades to old and damaged facilities, and to make them compliant with federal disability laws.
A contract to upgrade flooring for dance classes at Lynwood Middle School was approved with American Harlequin Corporation for $43,217, with floor vinyl and support padding as part of the classroom for those activities.
In May 13, the school board approved an additional contract to pay Petra Structural Engineers $121,500 plus reimbursable expenses in the assessment of the rest of buildings at Lynwood High. The firm already rendered its findings of the library, the gymnasium and the Performing Arts Center.
Another expense for $50,000 was extended to GDL Best Contractors on June 3 to continue services with the emergency displacement student housing project for “ongoing selective demolition and reconstruction services” on structural connections and testing labs on various areas, and to verify compliance with the original plans filed with the state’s Division of State Architect, the regulatory agency for school facilities.
GDL Best had received a $100,000 contract in February to test and expose faulty hidden materials with an extended use of rental equipment.
Crosthwaite said state grants may be available for the rebuilding project, matching local resources to be invested and reducing the fiscal impact on local taxpayers.
He added that a funding strategy would take shape over the next few months and pledged to communicate with community stakeholders on any decisions made.
“While this was not the news we were hoping for, the move to completely rebuild will be an opportunity for the district to engage the community about the vision for the building, while also ensuring the building is safe and constructed correctly,” Crosthwaite said.
The modern Lynwood High campus opened in 1998, following years of litigation for the purchase of its lot previously owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Most of its standing facilities were built between 1994 and 1998, at a cost of $98.4 million.