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LA Unified schools weathering well so far in early El Niño storm

Mike Szymanski | January 6, 2016

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Earlier this week, LAUSD crews cleared debris off school roofs to prepare for the storms.

Months of preparation in anticipation of the El Niño storms have kept service calls to LA Unified’s facilities office to a “moderate” level, according to the school district’s director of Maintenance and Operations Roger Finstad.

Yesterday, he said, his department received 423 rain-related service calls from 211 schools, and by mid-afternoon today, he received 235 calls from 128 schools. It may sound like a lot, but the numbers have spiked as high as 1,000 during serious rain days in past years, Finstad said.

“I would consider this a moderate amount of rain calls,” he said. “We are not aware of any major issues so far.”

It’s a good dry-run, so to speak, this week because most students aren’t in class until Monday, but staff is available to check on potential leaks, gutter clogs and water pushing under the doors at school sites. The National Weather Service issued flash-flood warnings for Los Angeles today and estimated a potential of three inches of rain hitting the area before the storms end tomorrow.

So far, there are no reported classrooms or buildings that will be unusable for students on Monday, but Finstad said he can’t rule that out until the end of the week.

LA unified has 23 roof projects scheduled for completion this year at a cost of $15.7 million, but none of them has been delayed or started because of the rains this year. “We will continue the patching as necessary, but we will schedule the roof replacements around the raining,” Finstad said.

At schools across the district on Monday, crews were cutting back trees and wiping debris off of roofs that could fall on children. Gutters were cleaned out and sand bags were placed in known flooding areas.

“The last series of rainstorms we had 1,000 backlogged service calls, and we are well under that; I attribute that to the prevention and preparations we have made,” Finstad said.

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