At 9:16 a.m. on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 8 tons of concrete and metal roofing collapsed without warning onto the lobby leading to the main classroom building at Lynwood High School. But instead of early morning classes on campus for 1,900 students, the school was vacant due to pandemic-forced closures.
No one was hurt. Two district vehicles parked under the shaded lobby were destroyed.
But the major structural failure prompted safety inspections that revealed serious flaws that caused the closure of the 20-year-old campus – and led the school district to conclude that its three-story main building, with 110 classrooms , was not salvageable and must be demolished.
On Friday, officials announced that the state had agreed to pay $250 million for a new classroom building and also to make other necessary repairs.
“At a time when normally our students would be on campus seeking shade on a hot summer day, the unexpected happened: Tons of concrete crumbled,” Superintendent Lynwood said. said Gudiel Crosthwaite. “Fortunately, this happened during the pandemic and our students weren’t there. Our schools were closed… But it also forced us to relocate students and it created a domino effect in our district and community that compromised our learning environment. The failure of others’ construction has caused our students to fail.
The relatively new 43.7-acre campus, built at a cost of $101 million, had been a symbolic touchstone for the community and school system of about 13,000 students, about 94% Latino and about 5% of blacks, with approximately 94% of students from low-income families.
In the fall of 2021, when nearly all students in the state resumed in-person education, those enrolled at Lynwood High were sent to a rapidly renovated middle school. Meanwhile, elementary schools were extended to sixth grade to compensate for middle school adaptation.
College athletic facilities were inadequate for regulation high school sports, but students could still use the outdoor fields and closed campus gym.
The moves and structural investigation cost the district approximately $16.2 million.
The review showed that the shoddy workmanship that led to the collapse of the ceiling above the hall was pervasive.
All of the covered exterior corridors, which circled the perimeter of each floor of the building, had the same defects. Any section could have collapsed without warning at any time, said Manuel Jaramillo, construction manager and architect of Del Terra Group, who was among those who investigated the site and found that construction on the site did not conform to state-approved plans. .
Among the issues: The lobby roof was supposed to have firm bracing every 10 feet. Instead, there was a spacer for the entire 30 foot span. Additionally, the unsupported sections lacked a continuous beam spanning the entire span. Instead, two cantilever beams met in the middle and were tied together without bracing at the connection point, Jaramillo said.
Everywhere inspectors looked, they found more trouble, school district officials said. The building could not be saved.
“The contractor who built the school – this is the first school they built and the last they built based on the information we got,” said Gregory Fromm, assistant superintendent of child services. companies, who added that the contractor had been absent for a long time. work.
The district considered various options, including pursuing litigation and an insurance claim. But officials said they learned their insurance only covered defects for 10 years. Meanwhile, district officials said Friday they have no recourse against the contractor. In a settlement about 20 years ago of an earlier dispute, the district had agreed to accept the school as is and not pursue any future claims against the contractor, Lynwood School Board Chairman Alfonso said. Morales, who was a student in the district when the school was built.
Morales said the lack of viable options — as well as clear answers about how it happened more than 20 years ago — has been frustrating for current district leaders, who were intent on restoring school in their community.
Even state officials backing the reconstruction project were initially surprised at how much money the district was going to need, they said Friday; $250 million was a big ask, said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and State Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), who both attended Friday’s event.
But they said they became convinced the district had no viable options for obtaining the necessary resources by suing responsible parties.
“Lynwood was in dire need due to a catastrophic circumstance,” Rendon said. “I am extremely happy that we have had the opportunity to provide funds to meet this need. Either way, students in Lynwood schools would be the ones who would suffer had the state not intervened.
“My team was a little hesitant,” Gonzalez said. “They said you knew we were going to ask for a lot of money here…We just knew we wanted to get it.”
“Lynwood deserves it,” she added, “to make sure these kids actually have a space to think about the future in a different way.”
To streamline the project, the existing building will be replaced with an already approved plan for a secondary school structure that has been erected elsewhere.
At risk – and currently being assessed – is the adjacent performing arts center that is part of the campus. This structure includes dance and music studios, a set-building workshop and a 600-seat theater that had been used as a district and community performance hall in a low-income town that lacks similar facilities elsewhere. .
Denisse Ortiz, a recent Lynwood High graduate salutatorian heading to USC, said the past two years have been difficult for everyone.
“I really liked the Lynwood High campus,” she said. “There are so many facilities, so many programs that I have to attend, especially the biomedical program that we offer here. And we had our own labs. It really felt like you were fitting into what you would see in the future.
Instead, she resumed her studies in person on the now crowded old college campus she thought she had left behind.
Mia Young, a rising 11th grader, never had the opportunity to experience the high school campus, between the pandemic and the building’s condemnation. And the construction project is expected to take about four years and be completed well after graduation.
But on Friday, she was part of a team at the district’s summer school cooking class, handing out fruit parfaits, burritos and muffins for breakfast.
Tables with refreshments were steps away from architectural renderings of the new classroom building.
“I’m excited to see what it will be like even though I probably won’t be there,” Mia said.