Portland schools could crumble in big quake

Portland schools could crumble in big quake

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by Abbey Gibb

kgw.com

Posted on March 17, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 17 at 1:16 PM

PORTLAND -- As it stands, no school in any major Oregon district would be usable again after a major earthquake, meaning every district in the state would have to rebuild from the ground up.

"It was like a giant had come to our home and picked it up and shook it around, and then slammed it down," Chris Cookie said as she remembered the 1993 Mollala quake.

The magnitude 5.3 shaker hit during spring break. It destroyed a large portion of Mollala High School, where she's worked at for more than 20 years. It's a school of unreinforced brick, built in the 1920's.

"It actually tumbled," Cookie said. "The front of it came tumbling forward." Since then the Molalla district --and all other major districts, including Portland--have retrofitted their buildings to a point.

"I don't know if I could tell you whether our buildings would be safe after an earthquake," Molalla River Superintendent Wayne Kostur said.

For Portland public schools, the answer is no. "Our idea has always been to retrofit these buildings to stand long enough to get the students out," said Matt Shelby with PPS. "That doesn't mean they're going to be usable buildings when it's all said and done."

The Beaverton School District had a similar idea, meaning if a quake even close to the size of Japan's hits, the buildings would be a total loss.

At least they wouldn't crumble, like Mollala High did. But not every school in the district is as sound.

Portland's Beverly Clearly K-8 is built in the same way as the old Mollala High School and has yet to be retrofitted.

And out of 53 buildings in the Beaverton School District, 17 have yet to be updated.

PPS is going up for a bond measure this year to fully retrofit nine of their schools to outlast a major earthquake. Meanwhile, the Beaverton School District is hoping for more state funding to finish its projects.

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