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Quake Damage Shuts Simi Valley High Gym : Education: Contractors are trying to determine if it would be cheaper to tear down building or fix it.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With the start of school just two weeks away, Simi Valley High School’s earthquake-damaged gymnasium and multipurpose room are still condemned and will remain closed for the school year, officials said.

The white stucco buildings were badly damaged during the Jan. 17 temblor and are expected to cost about $1.7 million to repair. Contractors are still trying to determine if it would be cheaper to tear down the structurally damaged gymnasium than try to fix the building.

“It will be a major project whether we rebuild it or restore it,” said Lowell Schultze, spokesman for the Simi Valley Unified School District.

Roger Grady, the district’s director of facilities, agreed.

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“Even if we start tomorrow, the job is nine to 12 months,” Grady said. “And we are not starting tomorrow.”

When school starts on Sept. 8, Simi Valley High will hold physical education classes outside because the district has not received federal or state funding to construct a temporary gym.

Grady said the district has submitted two proposals for a temporary facility to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but has received no response. District officials are now preparing a third proposal that they hope to have completed by Friday.

The type of structure now being considered is a canvas, tent-like dome, similar to the “bubble” dome recently erected at Alemany High School in the San Fernando Valley.

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“We are just in the process of putting the costs together to present to FEMA,” Schultze said. “If we get the OK, we will start the order process.”

But that process will take a minimum of 65 days, Grady said. That means Simi Valley High students will have to do without a gym for at least the first few months of school.

“There is going to be a detriment to education,” Grady said. “I look at it as similar to any other classroom. It isn’t practical to hold (classes) outdoors 100% (of the time).”

After the quake, the school district has received $10,000 from FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to conduct architectural and engineering studies on earthquake-damaged buildings.

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But studies on the gym and multipurpose room have not been completed, and the district will not receive further federal funding for their repair until the studies are done, FEMA officials said.

“Basically, it is all in Simi Valley’s hands,” said Ross Mayfield, a disaster field officer for the OES. “We are writing as fast as they give us the information.”

The school district has submitted 330 damage survey reports, seeking $3.9 million for earthquake-related repairs at damaged schools, federal disaster officials said.

FEMA officials expect the district to file at least another 30 reports bringing the damage total to about $4.3 million.

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So far, Simi Valley Unified has received about $3.3 million in federal emergency money for its repairs, which include wall cracks and replacement of overhead lighting fixtures in classrooms.

The neighboring Conejo Valley Unified School District, which suffered minimal damage during the quake, has submitted 148 damage survey reports and is expected to submit another 152, FEMA officials said.

Conejo Valley Unified has received $1.2 million in aid, but the district anticipates damage at its 31 campuses will cost about $8 million.

As the wait for federal funding continues, school officials are working to come up with ways to make up for the lack of a gym.

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Simi Valley High Principal Kathryn Scroggin said some sports teams will be able to use the Simi Valley Parks and Recreation Department’s new gymnasium, which opened this summer.

School officials are also negotiating with rival Royal High School to use some of its facilities for games and other events.

“Everybody’s been real cooperative,” she said. “But it will be nice when we get our own gym back.”

Students are anxious for things to get back to normal.

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“It’s a bummer,” sophomore Sean Costello said this week while waiting in line to buy his textbooks. “We don’t get to see the basketball games, we’ve got to go to other schools.”

Junior Nichole Ransom said if the school does not get a temporary gym by winter, the rainy season could be miserable for Simi Valley High students.

“On rainy days, we will be stuck,” she said. “But there’s nothing we can do about it.”


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