LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board members Thursday unanimously authorized the temporary relocation of nearly 1,900 students and staff from two schools near a leaking natural gas storage facility in the Porter Ranch area.
Both Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter School have reported the gas leak that began on Oct. 23 has significantly disrupted classes and absenteeism has increased.
Porter Ranch Community School, which serves about 1,100 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, is located about two miles from the storage facility. Castlebay serves 770 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and is located about one mile from the site, according to an LAUSD staff report.
Crews are working to drill a relief well in order to cap the leak, which SoCalGas said could take up to four months to complete.
Since the incident, nearly 1,700 families have been relocated and 1,000 others have applied to be moved.
Officials said the 770 students in grades K-5 who attend Castlebay Lane will be relocated to Sunny Brae Avenue Elementary in Winnetka. Porter Ranch Community School, which has 1,100 students in grades K-8, will relocate to Northridge Middle School. Portable classrooms and available space at the host schools will be used to house the Castlebay Lane and Porter Ranch students, teachers and staff.
On Wednesday, SoCalGas opened a community resource center in the Porter Ranch Town Center to provide updates and relevant information to residents.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency in response to the gas leak.
Councilmember Mitchell Englander, Chair of the Public Safety Committee, released a statement Thursday.
“For weeks now, my office has been pressing LAUSD to step in and take the burden of dealing with this crisis off of our local administrators, teachers and families,” wrote Englander. “The safety of our children is our number one priority and it is my hope that the Southern California Gas Company will also step up and assist the school district in this transition.”
SoCalGas issued the following statement on Thursday:
“We are sorry some of the children and staff are experiencing short-term symptoms from the odor and we have been working with LAUSD and the schools to alleviate concerns. LAUSD is best qualified to determine what is best for the schools, their staff and the children’s education; SoCalGas will support the efforts to relocate the schools with the aim of keeping the disruption to a minimum.
As part of our community air sampling program, SoCalGas has been sampling the air near the schools, twice-a-day, from the outset of our program. Both the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment have stated that the results of air sampling do not indicate any risk of long term health effects.”
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