Numerous buildings at three Monrovia schools have remained classified by the state as potentially unfit to withstand an earthquake and in need of a structural evaluation for nearly a decade, state records show.
The California Division of the State Architect (DSA) completed a review of schools across the state in 2002 that showed thousands of California school buildings were unlikely to perform well in earthquakes and needed to be evaluated by structural engineers.
But state records indicate that thousands of those projects across the state could still potentially collapse in an earthquake, including many buildings located in at least three Monrovia schools: , , and .
Because of incomplete record-keeping by the state and local school districts, confusion persists about whether some of the issues at buildings identified in 2002 have since been resolved even though they remain listed as potentially problematic.
Monrovia Unified School District Deputy Superintendent Debby Collins said she was "flabbergasted" when told by Patch that the state includes several Monrovia school buildings on its list of potentially dangerous buildings.
"We have not been informed of any of this information," Collins said.
Provided with a list of potentially dangerous buildings, district officials brought in their DSA inspector Thursday morning to inspect the buildings in question. The inspector determined that most of the projects were categorized incorrectly by the state and are not in fact dangerous, according to Linda Dempsey, who served as the district's chief business officer throughout the 2000s and retired last year.
But the inspector also determined that several projects remain potentially unsafe in an earthquake, and the district now plans to bring in a structural engineer to evaluate them.
State architecture records showing the possible problems were obtained by California Watch, a nonprofit journalism enterprise that is partnering with Patch in a larger probe of the state's seismic safety problems in schools.
According to those records, the B, D and F classrooms at Mayflower were all classified as unlikely to perform well in an earthquake and in need of a structural evaluation. The restrooms in the C and E buildings and the office of the A building received the same classification. The J classroom was deemed likely to perform well in an earthquake but still in need of structural evaluation.
At Santa Fe, the B anc C classrooms were classified as unlikely to perform well in a quake. The A, L1 and L2 classrooms and restrooms were also identified as needing a structural evaluation though they would generally be expected to perform well in an earthquake.
And at Monrovia High School, the band choir room remains listed as unlikely to perform well in a seismic event and in need of a structural evaluation, state records show.
But following the district's own inspection this week, just three of those projects remain potentially unsafe in an earthquake, Dempsey said. The band room at the high school, the B building at Santa Fe and the C building at Santa Fe all will require an inspection by a structural engineer, Dempsey said.
"Those three buildings are going to require a seismic review," Dempsey said. "We’re going to have to send out an [request for proposal] to get quotes for a structural engineer to look at these buildings."
The district will likely solicit a bid for the seismic review next month, Dempsey said.
Potentially unsafe buildings were not isolated in Monrovia, as a 19-month California Watch investigation, which was released Thursday, uncovered holes in the state's enforcement of seismic safety regulations for thousands of public schools.
California began regulating school architecture for seismic safety in 1933 with the Field Act, but data taken from the Division of the State Architect’s Office shows 20,000 school projects statewide never got final safety certifications. In the crunch to get schools built within the last few decades, state architects have been lax on enforcement, California Watch reported.
A separate inventory completed nine years ago found 7,500 seismically risky school buildings in the state. Yet, California Watch reports that only two schools have been able to access a $200 million fund for upgrades.
Monrovia's potentially unsafe buildings were all flagged for follow-up by the state during a 2002 audit of public school building plans in California performed by the DSA in accordance with a law requiring an inventory of all school projects that were built before new building code regulations took effect in 1976, according to DSA spokesman Eric Lamoureux.
The DSA conducted the inventory by reviewing records that it already had on file and did not conduct site visits, so the data it relied on in its report is by no means definitive, Lamoureux said.
"There was the potential for error in the data that was put together because there was not a requirement that we go out and look at each and every building," Lamoureux said.
And though the DSA identifed thousands of potentially dangerous projects, school districts were not required to address the problems.
"There was no requirement that districts act on information that we used to generate the report," Lamoureux said. "There was no statutory requirement that districts respond to our letter."
School districts were made of aware of the report in 2002, but copies of the reports had to be requested by districts.
The state reviewed the data again in 2008, when it notified districts of the issues in 2008.
"We asked districts to update for us the status of those buildings," he said. "Many districts came back to us with information, many districts did not."
Dempsey could not say why the buildings in Monrovia were not reviewed until this week, but she said that the district had undertaken significant renovations at nearly all schools in the early 2000s and noted that the DSA signed off on all of those plans.
"What is very confusing for me is that we did modernization on all of these school sites in the early 2000s and the plans that were submitted for DSA approval had to be drawn and stamped by a structural engineer," she said. "Those plans were all approved by DSA."
Dempsey said it was possible that those plans were reviewed before DSA completed its 2002 audit.
Dempsey said getting clearance from DSA on projects, such as recent renovations to MHS, is an exceedingly difficult process.
"Dealing with DSA is like dealing with no other agency in the world," she said.
None of the current School Board members were on the board in 2002 when the DSA's review took place. Bryan Wong, the longest tenured board member who took office in 2003, said he did not recall hearing about any seismic issues at the schools listed by the state.
"I cannot remember any of those issues being brought up or addressed or re-addressed, which makes me think that they were resolved probably a long time ago," Wong said. "None of the things ... are ringing any kind of bell so either they were done lickety split or I’m guessing for some reason they were put off."
To access an interactive map showing school seismic safety issues in Monrovia, click here. For maps showing individual schools, go to Mayflower Elementary, Santa Fe Middle School, or Monrovia High School.
This story was produced using data provided to Patch by California Watch, the state's largest investigative reporting team and part of the Center for Investigative Reporting. Read more about with California Watch.
For an interactive timeline, click here and here for a historical map of California quakes. Read more about Patch's partnership with California Watch. To get involved with the project, click here. Patch will continue to look into the unresolved seismic safety issues and will report back when we have more information.