The shaking lasted just 10 seconds. When it was over, Franklin Junior High School lay in a heap, its roof slumped into where its walls had once stood.
Franklin was one of 70 schools that collapsed in the magnitude 6.4 quake that killed 120 people and injured 500 -- most the victims of falling bricks, cornices and parapets that hit them as they rushed out of buildings.
That was in 1933 in Long Beach, Calif. But it could happen tomorrow at Seattle's Meany Middle School or 17 other buildings like it in the Seattle Public Schools system that have never been seismically retrofitted -- most built in the 1950s and 1960s, with Meany's original structures going back to the early '40s.
Parent and architect Dora Taylor says the problems are documented in a structural engineer's report that the district commissioned in 2006 on Meany, a Central District school caught up in the building closures and program cuts approved in January by the school board.
Taylor's daughter is a student at Nova, an alternative high school that the district is moving from the Central District's Mann Building to the Meany site, which Nova will share next fall with the students of the World School, a short-term bilingual orientation program for newly arrived immigrant students ages 11 to 21.
Taylor and her daughter both serve on a design team of parents, students and teachers who have been looking at what renovations will be needed to make Meany work for the two programs. The list for each is long: Meany lacks a science lab and other facilities to be a proper high school, Taylor says, and its backlog of repairs and maintenance totals $13.1 million, according to a 2005 summary of school conditions.
That includes things like toilets that don't work in some restrooms and urinals so corroded they cannot be cleaned, Taylor says. For that, the district has set aside $10 million to make repairs and renovations that the design team will decide on, says school district spokesperson David Tucker. But Taylor and other parents say they were shocked at the engineer's report, which calls for seismic upgrades at Meany at an additional cost of $2.4 million.
At some of the school's oldest buildings, which includes the gymnasium and rooms currently used by a preschool, the report shows that "the roof is not attached to the exterior walls, and the walls are not attached to the foundation," Taylor says on a walk of the campus. "If the earth starts shaking up and down or sideways, the roof could shift off vertically and collapse."
The report, written by Putnam Collins Scott Associates of Tacoma, also calls for shear walls