Oxford Elementary School relocating for 2020-21 academic year because of safety risks

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Oxford Elementary School will relocate to the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, West Campus facility by fall 2020 because of potential earthquake safety risks at the Oxford school site, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

In September, the school district received a geotechnical report completed by Alan Kropp & Associates of Berkeley, which confirmed and assessed that the school is built within the Keith Avenue landslide and that there is risk associated with the site in the event of a major earthquake.

“For the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, my current thinking is that the Oxford community will remain in place,” according to an update from Brent Stephens, BUSD superintendent. “The Oxford facility continues to comply with all state requirements for earthquake safety and is in this respect no different from any other BUSD facility.”

According to the report, the elementary school is located within the actively moving Keith Avenue landslide complex. The landslide mass moves at an average rate of about one inch per year and has significant variations related to annual rainfall patterns, which will cause the movement to continue.

According to the agenda from Wednesday’s BUSD meeting, the school district’s staff presented a summary of the report in four separate meetings with Oxford Elementary teachers and parents to engage with the Oxford Elementary community.

“Based on calculations of the additional magnitude of landslide movement that would occur during an earthquake, the Oxford Elementary School campus would likely have a total movement that might range from as little as 2 feet to as much as 20 feet,” according to Stephens’ presentation with John Calise, executive director of facilities for BUSD, at Wednesday’s meeting.

The staff put forward a recommendation to relocate Oxford Elementary School students and staff to the West Campus facility during summer 2020 for the start of the 2020-21 academic year. The agenda also stated that there is currently no proposed end date for this relocation.

The update added that the West Campus facility is attached to the school district office and is currently being renovated for the Oxford Elementary community relocation. Some renovations include a playground, an outdoor learning environment and a garden space. The Measure I 2010 bond will help fund this renovation.

Stephens and Calise said during their presentation that the school district will finish the modernization of the facility by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Oxford Elementary School librarian Karen Sasamoto said while the school is small, there is still a strong sense of community, and she is sad to see some families leave but understands their decisions due to safety concerns.

“As for the move, I have to say that Beth Rhine has been an excellent principal to serve under and I’m sure under her watch she and the teachers will work together to help make the adjustment as smooth as possible for the staff and families,” Sasamoto said in an email.

Thao Nguyen is a schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tnguyen_dc.