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Lexington Elementary School Gets Another Lease On Life

LGUSD trustees unanimously vote to suspend a previous motion to relocate school's 170 students to R. J. Fisher Middle School.

All but a few of the 200 people gathered at for the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night erupted in applause after its members ostensibly voted to keep the alive.

The 5-0 vote authorized the district to allow engineering consultants to respond to guidance and findings presented by the California Geological Survey during a meeting between the agency, consultants and LGUSD representatives on May 11.

The board also unanimously approved the suspension of to proceed with interim housing for Lexington students at pending the response from CGS regarding new model testing.

Before trustees voted, representatives from various consulting firms and architectual offices joined assistant superintendent of businesses services Leslie Paulides in recapping the May 11 CGS meeting.

According to Mike Kleames, principal geotechnical engineer for Pacific Crest Engineering, CGS continues to take issue with the site’s geological setting, shear strength and ground motion.

The primary problem CGS has with the site analysis, he explained, is that it wants three additional 8.0-magnitude earthquakes included in ground stability models for the project, even though the current site review already includes three 8.0-magnitude earthquakes as well as four 7.3-magnitude temblors.

CGS also wants the models with these quakes to be run with lower-strength building materials, he added.

Trustee Doug Halbert took issue with statements made by Kleams and Alan Kropp, a peer reviewer from Alan Kropp and Associates, that the consultants knew all along that CGS wanted modeling with 8.0-magnitude quakes yet consultants “complicated” the analysis by including ones registering magnitudes of 7.3.

“CGS said all along that they wanted simple math,” he said. “Why did you go and make it more complicated than what they originally requested? Now we have to redo the modeling, and this is already after two rounds with them. This analysis [by consultants] should be done for free.”

Paulides laid out the implications of the meeting with CGS, notably that a preliminary estimate of time and cost to put together a response to CGS’s analysis would take between two and four weeks and cost between $25,000 and $40,000.

CGS, she continued, assured that it would have a response prepared within two weeks of receiving the new models.

Paulides also said that if CGS were to approve the site now, it would cost $23.2 million to build the school as is. The campus would have a capacity of between 240 and 308 students. It currently houses 170 K-5 students.

Paulides said that if the three extra classrooms were added, it would increase the school's capacity to between 308 and 385 students and it would cost $25 million.

Project manager Rick Kramer of Kramer Project Development also presented two school site alternatives to the board. The first would be to relocate the school to the district office on Roberts Road and accompanying maintenance field. This project would repurpose four acres of land, cost an estimated $29.8 million and have a student capacity of 240-380.

The second alternative is to build the school at a completely new site, one that, Kramer said, would be difficult to build in Los Gatos. That project would cost an estimated $43.3 million, take four to five years to complete and have an enrollment of between 240 and 308 students.

Lexington project supporters overwhelming expressed desire for the board to pursue building the school on the site and repeatedly thanked trustees for asking tough questions to the engineering consultants.

"This is the first time I've felt a really comprehensive explanation of all the factors has been provided," one Lexington parent said. "It's the first time in a long time that I am optimistic."

Halbert, who presented the motion to allow consultants to address CGS's findings, also asked that the district investigate additional revenue streams for funding the project.

Larry Cargnoni May 16, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Congrats and good job to the community for getting and staying organized..and glad that the school board remained persistent with the 3rd party consultants....and for everyone staying on topic and driving to the next step..
S May 16, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Thank you and the LG Patch for keeping the community of Los Gatos up to date on what's going on. I now have chosen to rely on The Patch as my number One Los Gatos News even better than the SJ Mercury!! Keep up the good job!!
MichaelJ May 16, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Someone needs to spend more time thinking things through and reviewing these plans before presenting them to the public and stir up all sorts of feelings. Even after all this commotion and still can say that this vote renews my confidence on the LGUSD trustees... for now.
D. May 16, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Finally all the key people were in the room at the same time. The facts were presented and explained logically and thoroughly in one place for everyone to see. The conclusion became obvious. The site is safe to build on AND can solve the districts growth problems, all for a reasonable cost with enough money to complete the Fischer Gym, Dave's Covered walkways and solar panels.
Larry Arzie May 16, 2012 at 09:52 PM
The logistics of moving the students presents unnecessary hardship. Solutions can be worked out if there is a will.
Jeanne Rajabzadeh May 16, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Great news that the school will stay open-at least for awhile.
Bonnie Westman May 16, 2012 at 11:08 PM
So it will take 2 to 4 weeks to put together a response to CGS’s analysis at a cost between $25,000 and $40,000. And then CGS "assured that it would have a response prepared within two weeks of receiving the new models," according to the article. I wasn't at the meeting so my questions are: will CGS finally give a definitive answer then, a yes or a no? As a parent in the district, I am hopeful CGS will say yes but what happens if they say no? Move forward with Fisher relo? Then what?
Dyan Chan May 16, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Good questions, Bonnie. I also wasn't at the meeting--I'm assuming that since the district has decided to go down this route it means that the May 11 CGS meeting left the consultants and district staff with 1) a better sense that it is possible to get to a "yes" from CGS, and 2) guidance regarding what it will take to get that "yes?" I'm fairly surprised by this outcome--the last time it seemed the consultants were saying they were not confident they would ever get the go-ahead for the site. I'm glad something seems to have changed (or maybe they just got new information). Hopefully this will result in a good solution for the whole district.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 12:47 AM
You're welcome, S. It's comments like this that keep this editor happy and looking forward to another day! Thank you!
Peggy Dallas May 17, 2012 at 03:39 AM
California Geological Survey (CGS) determines the expected movements that the structure has to withstand. Once CGS is satisfied that the risks have been sufficiently quantified then the structural engineers and the architects have to make sure their design for the school can handle the worst case movements. The Division of State Architect (DSA) then reviews the design and they say "Yes" and issue a building permit or "No" and send it back for redesign. The school is currently designed with a mat slab foundation that has enough intrinsic strength to hold itself together as the earth moves underneath. Likely worst case is that additional support, called a geo-grid, will need to be constructed under the mat slab foundation to help mitigate the maximum expected movements.
Michelle Fitzsimmons May 17, 2012 at 03:54 PM
peggy provides many of the correct answers to your questions, bonnie and dyan. CGS, as you're probably aware, doesn't issues "yeses" and "nos." the consultants left the May 11 meeting feeling as though ground had been covered with CGS and that they were able to answer/address many of the problems that CGS had with the site. all in all, the consultants said it was a productive meeting that likely brought the Lex school site closer to being constructed, though there are no guarantees. i can't say for absolute sure because i don't think the board even really knows, but at this point if CGS says that additional work will be needed to get approval, then the board will have to cross several bridges--determining whether it is worth pursuing the project at the site, building at an alternative site, and proceeding with the relocation. either way, at this point the students will have to be relocated because the project won't be shovel ready by june 1, meaning that even if the district got a yes to build the new school, it wouldn't be ready by August 12. it's kind of a waiting game at this point...
Michelle Fitzsimmons May 17, 2012 at 03:55 PM
thank you for your clarifying comments, peggy :)
Michelle Fitzsimmons May 17, 2012 at 04:01 PM
had meant August 2012 in the last post. also wanted to add that until any decisions are made, lexington can remain open, which is another element of the issue parents, teachers and staff at the school were fighting for.
Concerned Citizen May 17, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Spending $43 Million on a new school in town with the same capacity compared to $23 Million to rebuild Lexington, is not a logical decision. It is amazing that our Board rushed to close Lexington before thinking about what to do next. Why did it take this long for the Board to ask a few intelligent questions?
ES May 17, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Glad to hear this update, and I appreciate the Patch's coverage of Lexington!
Michelle Fitzsimmons May 17, 2012 at 06:28 PM
i think many people, particularly the Lexington parents, teachers and staff, are asking the same thing, Concerned Citizen. At least the conversation that looks like it should have been happening all along is happening now. Perhaps part of it is that not all of the key consultants, particularly Alan Kropp, have been at the board meetings before, thus keeping all relevant information from being disclosed. Rick Kramer, the project manager who presented the option you mention, said that it's not likely a site of the size that is needed can even be found in Los Gatos. Something like four acres is needed to build a school and he had not luck finding such a plot of land during initial research.
Michelle Fitzsimmons May 17, 2012 at 06:30 PM
thank you, ES, for reading. We'll keep covering this issue, that I know for sure!
Bonnie Westman May 17, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Thanks Michelle and Peggy for answering my questions. I know that a lot of LG parents wanted to know the answers to these questions!

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