Castlebay Lane, Porter Ranch Schools to Relocate Due to Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Leak

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 17, 2015) - The Board of Education took action today to expedite the temporary relocation of Castlebay Lane Charter and Porter Ranch Community School, where teaching and learning have been disrupted by a natural-gas leak in nearby Aliso Canyon.

When classes resume after the winter break, the 770 students in grades K-5 who attend Castlebay Lane will be relocated to Sunny Brae Avenue Elementary in Winnetka. Porter Ranch Community School, which has 1,100 students in grades K-8, will relocate to Northridge Middle School. Portable classrooms and available space at the host schools will be used to house the Castlebay Lane and Porter Ranch students, teachers and staff.

To minimize disruption, the relocation will be in effect for the rest of the 2015-16 school year. Details are being finalized, and parents will be notified as decisions are made.

The board’s unanimous approval will allow the District to make alterations or improvements at the Sunny Brae and Northridge campuses over the three-week winter break, without having to go through the time-consuming competitive-bidding process.

“This has been a difficult decision because it will impact the lives of so many families,” said school board member Scott Schmerelson, who represents the West San Fernando Valley. “I believe this is the right decision to protect the health of our students and employees and to stabilize the learning environment.”

The leak was discovered Oct. 23 in a natural-gas well owned by the Southern California Gas Co. Initial efforts to cap the well were unsuccessful, and the company estimates it will take up to four months to stop the leak.

Since late October, parents, employees and residents at Castlebay and Porter Ranch have been raising concerns about the effects of the odorant that allows natural gas to be detected. To ensure that schools, students and faculty remained safe, the District installed air filters in every classroom, assigned additional nurses and began independent air-quality monitoring at the two campuses.

L.A. Unified also worked with parents that relocated away from the Porter Ranch area to enroll their children in other District schools, and offered an independent study program for families that opted to keep their students at home.

Despite these efforts, absenteeism and visits to the health office increased. As a result, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued a directive on Wednesday, ordering Southern California Gas to work with the District in relocating Castlebay Lane and Porter Ranch students.

The board resolution adopted Thursday authorizes the District’s Office of General Counsel to initiate litigation, if necessary, to recover the cost of temporarily relocating the schools.