Board Votes to Relocate Students Due to Porter Ranch Gas Leak

LAUSD board to hold special meeting Thursday to consider declaring an emergency.

The Los Angeles Unified School District board on Thursday voted to temporarily relocate 1,900 students at two Porter Ranch schools as result of a gas leak.

The decision came during a special meeting to consider declaring an emergency at two Porter Ranch schools affected by a natural-gas leak.

The board also considered authorizing its attorneys to pursue litigation against Southern California Gas Co. to recover any costs incurred as  a result of the leak.

According to an LAUSD staff report, Porter Ranch Community School is located about two miles from the Aliso Canyon storage facility that has been  leaking natural gas since late October. Castlebay Lane Charter school is about  one mile from the site.

"These two schools have been significantly disrupted by the gas leak," according to the report.

"Absenteeism and visits to the health offices at  each of these schools has significantly increased. Furthermore, since the leak  was first reported, families are opting out of attending school and are instead  choosing independent study for their children, while others have transferred to  a different school. Additional requests for independent study programs and  school transfers continue."

Gas Co. officials have said they are in the process of drilling a relief  well that will allow them to cap the leak, but that process is expected to  take weeks. School district officials said the process could take three to four  more months, necessitating action at the pair of schools.

Porter Ranch Community Schools has about 1,100 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, while Castlebay has 770 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Under the resolution that will be considered by the school board,  Superintendent Ramon Cortines would be authorized to ensure safety, including  making alterations or improvements to the campuses or relocating the students  and staff to other district sites when classes resume after winter break.

School board member Scott Schmerelson and Northwest Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said the district has already installed air filters in  classrooms at the schools, assigned additional nurses to the campuses and began  daily air-quality monitoring.

In a joint statement, they said the problem "has become a distraction  to the teaching and learning taking place at our schools."

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency on Tuesday in response to the gas leak, in hopes of expediting state and local  assistance to help with air monitoring and efforts to cap the leaking well.

No evacuation orders have been issued for the area, but nearly 1,700  families have been relocated out of the area, and another 1,000 have applied to  be moved, at the cost of the Gas Co.
The Gas Co. opened a Community Resource Center in the Porter Ranch Town Center today to offer a variety of assistance to residents, including  relocation help.

The gas company also has created a website,, to provide updates on the relief well progress, air quality monitoring, community  resources and other relevant information.

Annette Arreola and City News Service contributed to this report.

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