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LA schools staying dry thanks to past El Niño preparations

Mike Szymanski | January 23, 2017

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Rains from a previous storm at an LAUSD school. (Courtesy: LAUSD)

Despite record-breaking rainfall over the past week in Los Angeles, the number of leaks and flooding issues at LA Unified schools is minimal and administrators credit the preparations they did for last year’s rather wimpy El Niño.

 As of Monday morning, there were 2,000 open service calls for issues throughout the district, but only 20 of the district’s 30,000 classrooms had to be relocated because of leaks, said Roger Finstad, director of maintenance and operations. He said that the schools are well prepared for the rains.

 “We can credit our success in handling these issues to the strong prep work we did last year, the roof replacements we were working on last year and awareness to the schools and the site plant managers across the district,” Finstad said Monday.

 So far, the biggest issue occurred Sunday afternoon after a downpour flooded the administration building at Nobel Charter Middle School in Northridge, Finstad said. The quarter-inch of water that flooded the building was being cleaned up Monday.

 A tree branch fell and blocked the school parking lot over the weekend at Widney High School, but the school crews cleared debris by Monday morning, Finstad said.

 “The hard work of the maintenance team and all the preparation is why things are running smoothly through this storm,” said facilities communications spokesperson Elvia Perez Cano.

 The schools also have received emergency supplies including extra flashlights, sandbags and first-aid kits that were distributed last year from the district supply warehouse. The district also last year purchased National Weather Service alert radios for every school, at a cost of $56,000. “I have one sitting right here on my desk,” Finstad said. The district also has roofing projects that were repairing outdated roofs on schools at 23 of their 13,500 structures.

On Monday, the number of service calls hit 160, which was rather light compared to nearly 1,000 that serious storms usually generate, Finstad said.

 “This has been a great drill for us, and with a district this big we always say you can never be too prepared,” Finstad said. “This is a real situation where it shows that the preparation has paid off well for us.”

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