Long Beach school repair gets voters' OK

Stucco panels, insulation and wires that fell when Stucco panels, insulation and wires that fell when a large area of drop ceiling collapsed lie in an area used for parking at Long Beach High School. (April 6, 2012) Photo Credit: Fred Kopf

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Long Beach City School District residents have voted to allow the school system to spend $5.6 million in reserves to pay for the reconstruction of a section of Long Beach High School that was damaged when a ceiling collapsed in April.

Voters approved the expenditure, 336-97, in a special referendum Thursday night.

The reconstruction work is under way, and should be finished early next year, Superintendent David Weiss said Friday. The expenditure will leave about $1.5 million in the district's capital reserve fund, he said.

"Since these funds have already been set aside for capital projects, funding the work through the capital reserve fund will not result in a tax increase," district officials said in a statement Friday.

The ceiling collapse occurred April 6 on the ground level of the three-story high school built in 1971. School was not in session at the time, and no one was hurt. The ground level is a partly open parking area beneath second-floor classrooms.

The collapse damaged the school's infrastructure systems such as water and electricity, Weiss said.

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District resident Rich Boodman said he opposed the spending, calling it unwise of the district to dig into its reserves. The district should have been able to recoup the cost through insurance, he said.

"It was not wise," Boodman said. "They are not protecting us."

The Long Beach school board issued a statement earlier in the month that said the work was "not subject to an insurance claim."

State aid will help recoup about 40 percent of the cost, Weiss said.

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