Education

LA Unified poised to relocate 2,000 Porter Ranch students

Porter Ranch resident Michelle Theriault takes part in a press conference on a gas leak in Porter Ranch after a regular Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015.
Porter Ranch resident Michelle Theriault takes part in a press conference on a gas leak in Porter Ranch after a regular Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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As tensions have grown over a natural gas leak near L.A.’s Porter Ranch neighborhood, Los Angeles Unified’s school board is stepping into the fray.

On Thursday the board is set to debate whether the leak constitutes an emergency so serious that the school district should relocate nearly 2,000 students to other schools in order to protect the health and safety of students and staff.

“We are working with all of our departments – including Instruction, Facilities, Transportation and Food Services – to make this temporary move as seamless as possible,” the school district said in an email sent on Wednesday.

Parents are raising a lot of questions about relocation.

“Is there going to be a gifted program at the new school?” said Mike Applegate, the father of two kids at Porter Ranch Community School.

“My kids go to before school and after school program held by the YMCA, will they have that at that school? What about the air quality at the school they’re going to go to? Is it better than it is at Porter Ranch Community School? What about the teachers and the kids, are the kids going to be broken up?”

Applegate and other parents said they’ve gotten no information about whether the school district is planning to relocate students.

It could take weeks, the email said, for relocation details to be made public. The school district said students could be sent to other schools the first day back from winter break, January 11. The board will also discuss whether to authorize district lawyers to sue Southern California Gas and Sempra Energy to cover the district's costs if it relocates students. 

Parents said relocation isn’t a surprise. A group of parents started a petition, with over 700 supporters, to close Castlebay Lane Charter and Porter Ranch Community School until the gas leak is fixed.

L.A. Unified said the gas leak has become a distraction to learning. The school district asked parents to fill out a survey last week that asked if they support relocation.

“We’ve been having this gas leak for over fifty days now,” said Elery Tan, who has a son in kindergartener at Porter Ranch Community School. He wants students to be relocated to other schools.

“My son has had severe rashes and it’s been challenging because it’s hard to tell him not to scratch his rashes and make it worse,” he said.

But Tan is hedging his bets. If he doesn’t like the school district’s relocation plans, he plans to enroll his son in a Granada Hills school.