Washington Elementary School probably won't collapse in a major earthquake despite the fact that a fault runs underneath the school.

That is the assessment of Salt Lake School District's buildings and grounds director, Steve Harman, after the site was evaluated by geotechnical experts, including Larry Reaveley, a structural engineer whose firm compiled a detailed analysis of seismic safety of the district's schools."Larry and I felt we'd rather be in that building (during an earthquake) than in the majority of those in the district. There would be violent shaking of the building, but it wouldn't come down," Harman told the Salt Lake Board of Education Tuesday night. The board is looking at concerns by Washington parents that the fault puts their children at great risk.

Harman said the experts believe that the 14-year-old school would still be standing after a 7.4 or greater magnitude earthquake even if the quake originated in the fault system that runs under the southeastern corner of the school. A quake that originated elsewhere would cause even less damage, he said.

The fault passes underneath a corner where there are no classrooms. Above the fault are a storage area and portions of the kitchen and a multipurpose room.

The fault was discovered last month after the district's engineering consulting firm, Sergent, Hauskins & Beckwith, took soil samples and dug a trench at the school site. Originally, it was believed the fault did not run on the school property.

Harman said a 7.4-magnitude quake would cause the fault to slip 8 to 10 feet, causing a 50-foot wide strip of soil deformation. The school official said such an event would severely damage the portion above the fault, but the school's boxy, modular construction, which was built to the seismic specifications of the 1970s, would likely hold together, he said.

The school is reinforced masonry, and there are good ties between the concrete floors, walls and roof, he reported.

Because of the location of the fault, Washington's death and injury projections for a major earthquake were adjusted by the experts. But, Harman said, the downgrading still did not place Washington among the district's worst schools. It ranked as 16th worst out of 27 elementary schools.

The newest assessment seems to rule out suggestions that the district demolish the school or relocate its students. Harman said the building's seismic safety could be improved by relocating the kitchen and multipurpose room. However, he did not recommend retrofitting Washington in the earliest group of schools to be remodeled for earthquake safety.


(Additional information)

Possible deaths, injuries

Following are the rankings for possibly the most dangerous of 27 elementary schools in Salt Lake School District in case of earthquake and projected deaths and injuries in a 7.4-magnitude quake.

School Projected Projected deaths injuries

1. Uintah 161 385

2. Whittier 137 328

3. Bonneville 112 313

4. Rose Park 95 348

5. Beacon Heights 95 196

6. Highland Park 89 409

7. Dilworth 82 375

8. Parkview 81 187

9. Edison 65 244

10.Lowell 59 269

16.Washington 43 195