Education

LAUSD scrambles to relocate Porter Ranch students

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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L.A. Unified officials said nearly every division in the school district has worked the last three weeks to relocate nearly 2,000 students in the north San Fernando Valley because of a nearby natural gas leak.

Everything’s supposed to be ready on Tuesday, the relocated students’ first day of school.

“The most difficult piece is that we had hundreds of individuals working day and night for the period of three weeks we had,” said L.A. Unified area superintendent Vivian Ekchian, “in order to create the most desirable environment possible for the large number of students that would be relocated in a short period of time.”

The school district has moved Porter Ranch students’ desks, textbooks, and teachers to 65 bungalows at Northridge Middle School and Sunny Brae Avenue Elementary School. The students will be grouped with others from their same classes. The schools are about seven miles away from the students’ original campuses.

Ekchian said she wants the teaching to be seamless and “for the students to find comfort in that they are in an environment where the conversation isn’t about what they’re smelling or which direction the wind is blowing or possibly how they’re suffering from a headache but don’t know if it is from the gas odor or if it’s something else.”

The relocation is happening after many parents at Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter School protested that their kids' headaches, dizziness and other health problems were caused by a nearby natural gas leak.

Before voting last month to relocate students, L.A. Unified officials said the protest and suspicion were creating an environment that was hurting student learning.

“I don’t think LAUSD is cutting any corners,” said Elery Tan, whose son attended kindergarten at the K-eighth grade Porter Ranch Community School.

Tan will not be using the school district-provided busses to get his son to the new school about seven miles away.

“My kindergartener is a special needs child and he is non-verbal and he’s moderate to severe and we’re hoping that things are going to go well,” he said.

If the gas leak is fixed in the next few months, LAUSD’s Ekchian said, the earliest the relocated students would go back to their original campuses is next fall.