Did a Charter School Endanger “the Health and Safety of Students, Staff and Other Individuals”?
- LAUSD Facilities Services Division
The information within the unsigned letter sent to the “Granada Hills Charter Community” seemed innocuous. Framing the situation as a tenant/landlord dispute, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) said that during a routine inspection of the campus, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Facilities Services Division had found “several violations concerning modifications to the campus” that “were not performed in compliance with [their] Sole Occupant Agreement (SOA)” with the District. The school had been given an “April 3, 2017, deadline to remedy or develop an action plan to address [these] concerns” [emphasis mine]. The only mention of the welfare of the students attending the charter was a seemingly random statement that they “always keep the health and safety of our students and staff as [their] primary focus.”
Notably missing from the letter was any indication that it was meant to fulfill a requirement that GHCHS notify parents that a formal Notice of Violation has had been issued by the LAUSD and that this could have resulted in a revocation of their charter. Nor was it mentioned that Executive Director Brian Bauer had been informed that the alterations in question “were a risk to the health and safety of your students, staff, and other individuals.” While it is true that GHCHS had been given 30 days “to deliver to District evidence of [their] compliance with the SOA or a plan to cure and timeline acceptable to District”, they had also been ordered to “immediately stop all use of the facilities identified in Exhibit A…for the health and safety of students staff and other individuals” [emphasis mine]. Finally, GHCHS neglected to inform the community that they were also accused of violating the law by “failing to obtain necessary review and approval of the plans for the identified alterations from the Division of State Architect.”
The LAUSD’s Field Investigation Report dated February 24, 2017, identified 13 projects as not meeting “District material specifications or construction guidelines.” Safety concerns noted in the report included the following:
- “The holes created to attach these rods might have caused slab reinforcement damage and could initiate progressive cracking.”
- “The openings for conduit and pipes are not properly caulked and sealed for fireproofing.”
- “Therefore, the air balance of the locker room is expected to be off, causing under-ventilation, mold, mildew, and other environmental issues.”
- “There are no fire alarm devices in these open area rooms, so notification would not be provided during a fire-related emergency.”
- “The roof structure is supposed to meet the wind uplift force requirements per the building code, yet no documents are available as of the preparation of this report.”
- “The roof of the arcade is made of corrugated sheet metal, and the edges are sharp. If the sheet metal were dislodged, it would create a hazardous condition relative to student access and safety (i.e. if the panels detach and fly off under strong wind/earthquake loading).”
- “It appears that this assembly may not meet any of the applicable code requirements and may also present a safety issue.”
- “The existing beams are sagging and deformed due to the extra load. This area should not be used by students and barricaded immediately until safety measures are completed.”
- “The columns are no longer plumb, and the whole structure appears to be shifting.
- “Under large lateral loads/displacements, this connection could sever and cause a partial/total collapse of the shade structure.”
- “The design is dangerously deficient, and the beams are severely undersized. The area should be shut down immediately until proper shoring is installed and repairs are made.”
- “When the new corridor is formed, all HVAC supply and return ductwork penetrating this corridor needs to be installed with fire dampers to maintain 1-hour fire rated separation.”
Given the allegation that GHCHS has engaged in behavior that could dissuade students with disabilities from attending this publicly funded schools, it is concerning that the report also contains instances where the Americans with Disabilities Act was violated. These include:
- “The roll-up garage doors can only be operated by staff and are not ADA compliant.”
- “There is no ADA access to the platform. For any modernization to the tower, ADA compliance is required.”
- “There is no ADA compliant signage for the existing ADA parking space. There is also no ADA directional signage or compliant path of travel.”
- “If all six rooms are open to the public, full ADA Compliance is required for all door hardware and door widths.”
It is interesting to note that Bauer’s response to the LAUSD on March 14, 2017, focused not on the safety issues but on what he considered simple violations of procedure. His main concern appears to be centered around whether the document he received was actually a Notice of Violation since it had not been “approved by the District Board before being issued.” For this reason, he was adamant that it could “not be used to commence revocation proceeding against GHCHS”. No mention is made of the immediate safety hazards facing the students under his care. These are not the actions of someone whose ”primary focus” is the “health and safety of [his] students and staff”.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com.