The Glendale (Ariz.) Elementary School District has abruptly closed two of its school campuses that engineers say may be structurally unsafe.
District officials say the Challenger and Landmark schools will be shut down for up to five weeks beginning Monday so that Glendale can carry out emergency structural repairs. The district announced the closings after a structural engineer who examined the school buildings said that without repairs, he could not say with certainty that the campuses were safe to occupy.
“Knowing what we now know, we could not ethically or morally allow students back on to those campuses until the repairs are made,” Glendale Superintendent Joe Quintana says in a statement on the district's web site. “Our first priority must be the safety of our students and staff, and this is why we took this step.”
Repairing the schools will cost a little more than $2.4 million, the district says. More than 1,450 students and 150 staff members will be displaced while the work is done.
Classes for students at Landmark and Challenger have been canceled through Wednesday. The district intends for students to return to school Thursday, but it has not yet determined where they will be housed. Administrators are working to determine which other district campuses could accommodate the displaced students or sites that would be able to switch to a split schedule.
"Students from Landmark and Challenger would attend classes at the host school either in the morning or afternoon, while students from the host school would attend the other half of the day," the district says.
The district found structural deficiencies at Landmark and Challenger during summer repairs and brought in architects, structural engineers and other experts to inspect the two campuses. Those assessments showed varying degrees of damage to outside walls in every building on each campus. On Thursday a structural engineer informed Glendale administrators that "he could not say with certainty that it was safe to occupy the buildings at either school."
The repair project calls for installation of three- to four-foot sister walls around the perimeters of all buildings on the Challenger and Landmark campuses. These walls will resolve the structural problems and five to 10 years of life to the buildings on each campus.