Classroom iPads Eating Quake Safety?

ipadAt this point it should be no seismic shock to hear that many of Corvallis’ schools are shaky at best when it comes to meeting the current codes for earthquake safety. The buildings are old, especially our elementary schools, and simply would not stand up to a significant quake. Upgrades and retrofits are in order, but they do not come cheap. The estimated price tag district-wide is somewhere in the ballpark of $100 million. Yes, it’s expensive, but so too is having a school building turn into a pile of rubble.

Speaking of shaking up schools, Corvallis is beginning to integrate more technology into the classroom. Trial runs have apparently gone well enough to warrant the school district earmarking a $1.2 million annual budget for a program that provides students with iPads.

Normally earthquakes and iPads are two totally separate issues, but since the cost would supposedly come out of the very same budget, this year some see them as the same problem: allocation of district funds. At a recent school board meeting, one Corvallis parent asked how the school board can justify spending over $1 million on new technology while many students are in danger simply by being inside their school. School board member Tom Sauret defended the iPad program, saying $1.2 million would not make a dent in earthquake-proofing the district.

That’s true, but the point is not to have our schools weather an earthquake without batting an eye; these buildings need to shelter students rather than pancake them. That $1.2 million could make an impact at some of our least prepared schools. Technology is important, and Corvallis’ children deserve the best education we can provide, but if the school board can find room in the budget for iPads, maybe it can also find some extra room for fixing up the schools themselves.

One Corvallis school is singularly unprepared. The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries statewide survey of schools rated collapse potential for Lincoln Elementary as very high. Given current school building cost averages, rebuilding a school the size of Lincoln would probably cost about $13.6 million dollars. Retrofitting may cost between $2.1 and $8.4 million—which in fairness to Sauret, is less than the $100 million he was considering when he answered about this.

By Kyle Bunnell