Skip to main content


Second Structural Engineering Firm Recommends Moving Lum Students (05/18/2017)
Posted 5/18/17




Issued By: 

Superintendent Sean McPhetridge (510) 337-7060 and

Board President Gary Lym (510) 337-7187          

Alameda, Calif. — May 18, 2017 — In a letter to the Board of Education of the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD), a second structural engineering firm recommended yesterday that the district develop a plan for moving Lum Elementary School students off their campus.


The firm, Murphy Burr Curry, Inc., has extensive experience analyzing and retrofitting educational facilities.  Steven Curry, who authored the letter, is vice president of the firm.


In his letter, which is posted on the AUSD website, Mr. Curry noted that the “type of construction [of Lum buildings] is not well suited for differential settlements of the order of the magnitude expected. The existing foundations do not appear to have the capacity or interconnected layout to mitigate the expected differential settlement.” As a result, he explained in the letter, “The wall and roof framing would be subjected to the same differential movement. This could result in life-safety concerns, such as partial roof collapse due to roof beams or joists becoming unseated from their connections or hangers.


“Given the life safety and egress concerns outlined above,” Mr. Curry continued, “we agree that the district develop a plan to provide alternate accommodations for students and faculty and/or if feasible, perform a seismic foundation retrofit.” Both the district’s architect (Quattrocchi Kwok Architects) and the structural engineers who originally recommended moving Lum students off campus ( ZFA Structural Engineers ) have suggested that the extensive improvements to either the soil or the building foundations at Lum could require additional building upgrades and could not be completed during the 2017-18 school year.


Board members also received an expanded version of the recommendation to move students from Chris Warner, senior principal with ZFA Structural Engineers. The firm, which also has extensive experience working with California schools, provided the expanded analysis “to clarify our conclusion that the existing classroom, multi-use, and administration buildings at Donald Lum Elementary School have a high potential for partial or global collapse during a design-level seismic event due to foundation failures as a result of expected large differential settlements.”


In addition, Mr. Warner provided a copy of the calculations he used to come to this conclusion. Both of those documents are also on the AUSD website.


“I have tremendous empathy for the parents at Lum Elementary School who are distressed by the possibility that their children may go to another school next year,” said Superintendent Sean McPhetridge. “But in light of this new information, I must continue to recommend that students be moved off the campus next year. As a district we have a legal, moral, and professional obligation to protect the lives and safety of our students and staff.”


The Board of Education will hear a presentation on the technical updates at its May 23 meeting, in addition to an update from a committee of parents opposed to removing the students. The Board is scheduled to vote on whether or not to remove students from the campus for the 2017-18 school year at the same meeting. At its May 22 public meeting, the Board will hear presentations on innovative plans being proposed for Paden Elementary School and Ruby Bridges Elementary School, as well as an update on AUSD’s 2017-18 budget.




Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) serves more than 9400 students in Alameda, California, an island community in the San Francisco Bay Area.  For more information, please visit the AUSD website, follow @AUSDNews on Twitter, or subscribe to our email communications. Questions? Contact Susan Davis, Senior Manager, Community Affairs, at