Richmond School to reopen at Vieweg

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Richmond School to reopen at ViewegRichmond Elementary School will reopen at the Vieweg Education Center in the coming school year.

While the damage from recent earthquakes was a driving influence, Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent Dr. David Ostash also laid out other factors that led to the decision in a letter posted to Richmond staff and parents on Tuesday.

Teams of inspectors, structural engineers and other experts were able to conclude their site reviews that same day, said Ostash. After a thorough review and careful analysis, leadership determined that all district operations at Richmond must be relocated to Vieweg’s 348 Rowe Street campus.

“As we hope you understand, the safety of students, staff and the community remain among our highest priorities,” Ostash wrote in his letter. “Additionally, the emotional well being and sense of confidence in our students, families and staff weigh heavily on this decision to channel our efforts on the Vieweg campus.”

Richmond has posed some unique challenges to Sierra Sands as the process of discovery and recovery has evolved. As one of the oldest schools in the district (and the closest to the epicenter), it suffered perhaps the most damage of any of the school sites.

Because of its location on a military base, there were other challenges related to limited access, said Ostash. “Our local Navy leadership have done everything they could to assist,” he said. “Even so, the security restrictions still pose some constraints in how expeditiously we can get construction crews on site.”

He pointed out that much of the damage to the school is categorized as “cosmetic,” therefore driving up costs and potentially jeopardizing eligibility for reimbursements.

“The remaining cosmetic issues would substantially affect any visitor’s sense of safety while visiting Richmond,” said Ostash.

Finally, Richmond is already in the process of being funded for relocation off base and into the community through the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment. In fact, the district just approved items at its last Board of Education meeting relating to the environmental studies necessary for potential sites.

So the move to Vieweg is, in some ways, just expediting the inevitable timeline to facilitate the move.Ostash said that because of the limited number of years left in the school, leaders believe investing significant resources in the school is not the best use of limited educational funding.

“This is the best decision for the long-term success of our district and the support of our student instructional programs,” he said. And that decision has been validated by everyone from facilities managers to contractors.

Ostash said the SSUSD administration is working with staff to move additional portable classrooms to the Vieweg campus to accommodate student programs.

“There are some disadvantages of the move — like losing the annex at Richmond — but we are doing our best to accommodate all the same student programs.”

As of right now, Ostash said, he hopes that Richmond students will be able to begin the year without disruption. “I say that knowing that there are always things that change the plan you have on paper. So it’s very possible we are going to be asking our parents and our staff to be flexible while we adjust to variables beyond our control.”

The good news, he said, is that Vieweg has already been used as swing space for Pierce and Las Flores elementary schools while the district was in the process of modernizing other campuses.

So transportation, nutrition and all of our other student-support programs are prepared to operate at the campus, he said.

“We realize that changes of this nature are disruptive to families, and throughout our recovery efforts, we have attempted to limit disruptions to the greatest extent possible,” said Ostash.

He added that district staff is sensitive to the other earthquake impacts on the school community. “We are committed to supporting the emotional needs of our students and have made arrangements to make counseling services available during the summer months, as necessary.”

For more information call 760-499-1700.

Updates and additional information on the Richmond relocation are available online at www.ssusdschools.org.

Pictured: The Vieweg campus will serve as the temporary location for the students and staff of Richmond Elementary School — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-07-26