Langley Middle School seismic estimate $4.4 million

LANGLEY — It'll cost nearly $4.4 million to bring Langley Middle School up to current seismic standards, the South Whidbey School District board was told Wednesday.

The amount was an estimate by Seattle consulting engineers ABKJ, which completed an $11,800 preliminary survey of eight buildings in the middle school complex last month.

Fred McCarthy, school superintendent, said the estimate is "a significant factor, and we'll take it into consideration."

He said the school board decided to spend another $3,000 to gather more information about the middle school, then put together a study and survey of all the district's buildings,

"We're still at the data-gathering stage," he said. "We will want to see the overall picture before we make any decisions."

The district is considering a multimillion replacement bond issue in February 2010 to upgrade facilities.

ABKJ architect Darren Johnston assured the board that the middle school buildings are not in danger.

"I believe the buildings are safe right now for student occupancy," he said. "They have experienced earthquakes over the years, with minimal damage."

"We want to assure our citizens that the buildings aren't on the verge of falling down on the students," McCarthy said. "These are very substantial buildings. We are asking questions about their long-term use."

Of the eight structures observed, the two-story classroom building is the oldest, built in 1935. The original elementary school was built in 1940, the original gymnasium in 1949 and the remaining buildings prior to 1961.

The survey revealed a number of flaws consistent with old age, such as some masonry problems, too many single-pane windows, some deteriorated or missing fittings and some soil erosion around the foundations.

Of primary concern was a recommended upgrade in the way the buildings are attached to their foundations and to each other, and how to retrofit them with the latest systems considered necessary to ride out an earthquake.

McCarthy said John Riley, a local structural engineer, and John Carty, a former school board member who had been instrumental in previous construction and remodeling of the district's buildings, were at Wednesday's meeting to ask technical questions about the seismic report on behalf of the board.

"I believe we got a very thorough study," McCarthy said.

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