A major earthquake would likely kill students in some Salt Lake City schools because many of its school buildings could not withstand the jolt, a study indicates.
The $43,000 report concludes that most parts of the Salt Lake School District's three high schools and 10 of its elementary schools would pose a "high life hazard" in an earthquake of 6.5 on the Richter scale.Most sections of some other elementary schools and four of five intermediate schools would pose "appreciable life hazards," the report says.
Prepared by Reaveley Engineers and Associates, the study analyzed the ability of every school in the district to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 6.5 or greater.
But the cost of retrofitting Salt Lake District schools - at least $30 million - is expected to spark disagreement over how much to spend and when.
Other school districts along the seismically active Wasatch Front would likely face similar costs, since many of the state's schools were built before building codes required earthquake-proofing.
Jan Keller, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake District, said she is not aware if other districts have conducted formal studies.
Those who support school retrofitting say the state should commit to upgrading schools gradually, no matter how long it takes.
"I think if there's a long-term plan, perhaps over 10 years where during routine maintenance and routine upgrading we try to bring it closer to current code, we'll be in good shape by the time we have a big earthquake," said Jim Tingey, an earthquake preparedness planner and geologist in the state Division of Comprehensive Emergency Management.
The Reaveley report was commissioned by the Salt Lake Board of Education in April 1987.
The Reaveley team inspected all of the district's buildings and rated every square foot on a scale from good - "would not significantly jeopardize life" - to very poor. The report also estimated how much it would cost to bring the buildings up to "minimum life safety," said Ronald Reaveley, the head of the firm.
Age and style of construction make many of the buildings dangerous, although newer additions to some of schools may be relatively safe.
With 2,000 students per school, the high schools house about one-fourth of the district's enrollment. East and West, which were built early in the century, are particularly vulnerable.
Salt Lake District schools considered to have the greatest earthquake hazard potential include: