Friday, December 14, 2007

Situation on saving Schenley and getting better high school reform

From Nick Larda:
Good evening everyone. My name is Nick Lardas. I am a resident of Oakland and am here to speak again as concerned parent, taxpayer and voter.

I came to ask you to stop spending on engineers and consultants to implement the current High School reform program until it can be more thoroughly studied and to save Schenley High School at Schenley High School.

One month ago without a complete plan in place and without allowing for public input, you voted, despite the protest of taxpayers and students, to proceed with spending money to dismantle Schenley High School and Frick Middle School, two of the most successful schools in Pittsburgh and to recombine them into three experimental 6-12 high schools. The only reason given for putting 11 year olds in the same school with 18 year olds is to reduce the school to school transitions from 2 to 1. You used as a major part of your argument justifying your decision that Schenley required $65-$80 million for asbestos abatement and restoration work which the school district could not afford and instead would spend about $50 million to create your experimental schools. You bolstered your argument with the claim that the plaster at Schenley was loosing its adhesion on a large scale.

Three weeks ago you posted on one of your many web sites limited information from the architects and engineers you hired to study Schenley High School.

I’ve reviewed that information and as a civil engineer who runs a restoration contracting business have come to a different conclusion than you have.

* The plaster is not experiencing adhesion failure throughout the school. It is failing where it was damaged by water leaks.

* The partial remediation/restoration option is the best value for the school district and will cost between $37.8 & $42.4 million depending upon whether you include air-conditioning or not and will upgrade the school for the next 30 years. There is no justification for the more expensive restoration if the money is not there.

* Asbestos abatement and demolition combined constitute only between 5 and 15% of the total costs depending on which option you look at.

* The renovation work needed at Schenley comes as no surprise to the board. The ventilation system was shut over 12 years ago and has yet to be fixed.

Of the letters and reports from October 2007 only one is based on actual materials testing. Wiss, Jenney, Elstner Associates made a visual inspection of the school and tested actual plaster samples. Page 6 of their report they states “The water penetration likely resulted in damaging the interior plaster finishes, some of which may not have been identified and repaired”. On page 7 referring to the plaster repairs of this past summer they state “It is likely that the current repair program identified the majority of damaged plaster that existed for some time” In other words, when your roof leaks or a water pipe bursts it damages your plaster ceiling and wall. If you don’t fix it eventually it falls down. Once you go around the house and find all the damaged plaster and fix it, it will stop falling down. There is no emergency.

Since the new reports show no fact based information that anything about Schenley’s physical structure has changed drastically since Astorino’s 1/31/06 Schenley High School Evaluation Study, I would like to point out some of conclusions scattered throughout that report.

On page one of the Asbestos Risk Analysis section they state “The plaster, overall is in good to excellent condition”.

One page 4 of the asbestos abatement section they state “However, if the capitol budget is limited, the alternative of minimal ACM remediation/removal, enclosure and encapsulation should be pursued”.

Your own reports show there is no sudden emergency and that Schenley can be restored for costs well below your alternative schemes.

Schenley High School & Frick Middle School work. For the sake of our children you cannot afford not to fix Schenley. Fix Schenley the building. And spend the savings to improve the programs in Schenley High School & Frick Middle School.

Respectfully Submitted by: Nicholas D. Lardas

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