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LA Unified preparing for possible floods from El Niño

Mike Szymanski | October 20, 2015

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Mark Hovatter Chief Facilities Executive

Mark Hovatter, Chief Facilities Executive

LA Unified plant managers are putting together a things-to-do list for every school in the district to prepare for a possible record El Niño.

Everything from cleaning out gutters to replacing a roof could help schools weather a strong storm system that is forecast to start this winter and last through spring.

The concerns were raised by school board members at the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee meeting held today. Committee chairperson Mónica Ratliff asked that the LAUSD Chief Facilities Executive Mark Hovatter get the checklists of planned El Niño repairs for each school to the board members by November.

“I think each board member will want to know the plans for the schools in their district,” Ratliff said.

Board member Richard Vladovic added, “When it starts raining we may not be able to get there.”

Board member Scott Schmerelson noted that dead trees, particularly pine trees, are specific hazards in his district and could fall or break off during heavy rains and winds caused by the anticipated storms. The district has no full-fledged tree-trimming crew, but does have an emergency response team to cut down dangerous trees. Usually, Hovatter said, they are eucalyptus trees that provide hazards at schools, but he assured, “It is part of our El Niño prep.”

The school district facility officials met yesterday, Hovatter said. He directed plant managers to list everything they need to do for every campus. The schools are also identifying staging areas, emergency generators and sand bags if needed for emergencies. The school police is coordinating with local police, fire departments and ambulance crews.

Hovatter said the district has also identified schools on low ground that may be vulnerable to flooding. He said the district will have alternative sites for certain schools if the weather gets dangerous.

Schmerelson said there should also be training for teachers and students in situations of emergencies, such as refilling regular plastic bottles with water. He noted that refilling certain plastic bottles releases a chemical that isn’t good for children.

“And we want to make sure we are not giving another job to principals,” Vladovic added. “We don’t want to tell them they now have to watch out for students refilling water bottles.”

He added, “I’m really concerned about the safety.”

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