Glendale schools closed for repairs, lead to half-day classes

GLENDALE – Two Glendale elementary schools are shut down for weeks-long repairs, leading to a leaner academic day for students not only from the closed schools but two other schools that have to take them in.

Glendale Landmark and Challenger Middle School buildings were so structurally unsound that administrators closed the schools this week to students, teachers and staff. The state School Facilities Board will spend $2.4 million on repairs that start Sept. 19, according to Glendale Elementary School District.

Administrators estimated it would take about five weeks to repair the nearly 30-year-old buildings, so students from the schools will be bused to Bicentennial North and Desert Spirit schools. The two schools will temporarily house an additional 1,450 students and 150 faculty members, said district Superintendent Joe Quintana, who met with district parents earlier this week at Glendale Civic Center.

Some classes start before 7 a.m. and others start just before noon. Physical-education, art and music classes are cut from the general course offerings and will only be provided to students who register in an enrichment program.

Some parents aren’t happy with a half-day of school for their children.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the kids,” said Sandra Vasquez, whose son is a fifth grade student. “I don’t think it’s fair.”

“I think it’s going to be a stressful time for the kids. They’re accustomed to six, seven hours of school time and now they’re going to be cut down to four hours,” Vasquez said.

Quintana said engineers found “structural issues” during ceiling repairs being made to Challenger and Landmark months ago. He said they reported the issues to the School Facilities Board. The board analyzed the extent of the damages with architects and the potential costs.

Other engineers were sent to the schools a few weeks ago to further analyze the buildings and found the walls were unstable. Quintana said he only learned of the concerns when engineers sent a letter to district officials on Thursday.

Quintana said he met with engineers a day later, on Friday. He asked one of them
if he could guarantee the buildings, constructed in 1987, were safe.

“He told me he could not,” Quintana told parents in a meeting this week at the Glendale Civic Center. Quintana said he decided the schools should be closed the next week and notified parents over the weekend.

Some parents say they are not sure why the school didn’t begin repairs or close the schools sooner.

“Why was the school day allowed to continue or debated at that point?” one parent asked Quintana, who said school leaders acted quickly after talking to engineers.

“It made us a little angry because they should’ve found out in the summertime when the kids were on vacation,” said David Alvarez, whose son attends Landmark.

Glendale district officials said the repairs are “a temporary solution” and “will add five-to-10 years of additional life” to the deteriorating schools. Landmark and Challenger were built by the same contractor, Quintana said. State budget cuts limit the district’s ability to build new schools.

“Part of what we are looking at is a systemic problem statewide with capital funding for our schools,” said Jim Cummings, district spokesman.