School officials believe the 42-year-old Provo High School is structurally sound, but it's only as safe the era's standards under which it was built, an engineering report shows.
Meanwhile, the architect responsible for the construction of the new Amelia Earhart School is confident it meets seismic standards, even though the Utah Geological Survey was brought in to review the site late in the process.The report on the high school, issued by Sandstrom Architects in May but released to the Deseret News just last week, never intended to imply that the school was completely earthquake safe, said architect Stephen Sandstrom. The report prompted the school board to go no further in its investigation on whether Provo High should be replaced. Rather, the board decided to keep and continue to improve the school.
The report said that 44.3 percent of Provo High was built after stringent earthquake codes were put in place, but 55.7 percent of the school was built under lesser standards. The school has 320,782 square feet.
The next step, Sandstrom said, is up to the board. It could choose to order a more in-depth study of those older sections for earthquake safety. But the study that was done showed no structural cracking or weakness, he said. "It needs a full-blown study from about 1978 back," he said.
But Phil Lott, building and transportation director, said that would likely not be done. The original high school was built with three wings, he said. C wing has already been brought up to code. He said any further seismic study wasn't necessary because "we pretty well know about A and B wing." Rather, sheer walls in the older sections would be brought up to code if and when they are remodeled.
The masonry in those sections is unreinforced and could collapse in an earthquake, but concrete columns that comprise the main part of the structure are of reinforced concrete and would hold up, he said.
Part of a $22.5 million bond approved in 1996 includes funds for upgrading the air conditioning. The tiled ceiling has been removed in part of the building to install ductwork, and the new, solid ceiling won't be constructed of tiles, which could fall in a temblor, he said.
The new media center at Provo High should be completed by the end of July, Lott said. The $1.4 million construction project, built between A and B wings, includes a new library, computer labs and theater seating for lectures.
While officials are confident in Provo High's structure, the ground under the new Amelia Earhart School may be subject to liquefaction in an earthquake, but the extent of that potential isn't known, a geologist indicated. Barry Solomon, a geologist with the Utah Geological Survey, said engineers found saturated sands at the bottom of 15.5-foot test holes, an indication liquefaction was possible. Solomon recommended the test holes go to 30 feet to find the total thickness of the sand, but by the time he did the report last February, school construction was well under way. It will open this fall semester. Solomon said he was unaware of that when he recommended the foundation design be reviewed by a geotechnical engineer prior to construction.
Lott said he's never gone that deep in any of the schools he's built. Schools always have a geotechnical study done before construction, he said.
The Utah Geological Survey was brought in to review the site after construction had begun when the district and state agency became aware of a little-known state education administrative code that said school sites were to be reviewed by the state prior to approval of construction.
If saturated sands go deeper than 30 feet, they will likely not affect liquefaction, Solomon said. "The (foundation) design may be adequate - that's an engineering question," he said. While 30-foot test cores were never drilled, architect Sandstrom is confident the school meets seismic standards.
Sandstrom said the site was engineered to meet the risk of liquefaction in an earthquake. The site has shallow groundwater, another factor in liquefaction, and because it's near the Provo River and Utah Lake it could flood, but the site and foundation was engineered to address those hazards, said Sandstrom. Construction should be completed by the end of July, Lott said.
The $4.5 million school was constructed under the $22.5 million bond.
Other projects scheduled for this summer include a new gymnasium at Timpanogos Elementary School, 449 N. 500 West. The $719,000 gymnasium will be completed by November, Lott said. The old gym will be converted into three classrooms to meet state class-size-reduction requirements.
A new auditorium for Dixon Junior High, 750 W. 200 North, will be bid in two weeks. It is budgeted at $850,000, which Lott described as tight. The new auditorium will be built in the present parking lot, once occupied by temporary classrooms.
Work is under way to fully air condition the school, including lowering the ceilings.
Edgemont Elementary School, 566 E. 3650 North, will get a new parking lot, bid recently at $64,000. The school will also get two more classrooms and an enlarged media center, budgeted at $250,000. The media center will be built in what is now a center courtyard.
Construction is progressing on the new $3.1 million gymnasium at Timpview High School, 3570 N. 650 East. The 26,500-square-foot building will include three team rooms and showers. Interwest Construction from Salt Lake City is the contractor.
A classroom at Provost Elementary School, 629 S. 1000 East, is also under way.