OCEANSIDE — Reynolds Elementary may close due to safety concerns after soil tests revealed the presence of water in the ground underneath the school, rendering the property unsuitable for renovations.
School district administrators alerted families earlier this month of the soil test results collected as part of mandatory preparations for the campus’s modernization project. Last year, the school board approved the project to demolish and rebuild the school.
Earlier this year, a team of engineers found the soil condition on campus unsuitable for the planned reconstruction due to soil liquefaction, a loss of ground strength that temporarily causes the soil to liquefy.
If an earthquake occurs, campus buildings could sink or incur other structural damages.
During the tests, holes drilled into the campus ground found water at a depth of 10.5 feet, possibly due to the Foss Lake wetland area adjacent to the school. Water under the ground surface creates potentially liquefiable soil, which is not conducive for new construction due to potential earthquake damage and mitigation costs.
Since the school was built in 1986, the industry’s understanding of soil liquefaction and soil code requirements has changed significantly.
According to engineers, although the school buildings are structurally safe as they are, they are no longer up to code. As a result, if an earthquake were to occur, the buildings would likely remain intact but could sink.
While there are measures to help mitigate the effects of liquefaction, such as installing non-liquefiable stone columns underneath buildings, there is no guarantee these techniques will prevent damage during an earthquake.
“Staff is recommending that the board close the school,” said Donald Bendz, the school district’s communications director.
Bendz said the news is disappointing considering the district’s “wonderful plans” to rebuild the school.
Reynolds Elementary nearly closed two years ago with plans to merge the school population with either Libby or Del Dios Elementary Schools. After significant parental pushback, the board opted to rebuild the school for nearly $50 million. If the district goes forward with the reconstruction, the project could cost as much as $100 million with the additional soil liquefaction mitigation.
A special meeting is planned for the board to discuss the future of Reynolds Elementary on March 13 at 6 p.m. at Chavez Middle School. The board will make its final decision on March 14 at the regular board meeting.
If Reynolds is closed, students will be moved to other nearby school sites.
Many parents are upset about the plan to close Reynolds. A protest is planned for 11 a.m. on March 10 in front of the district office.