Get Ready: Schools scrutinized for earthquake safety

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Rather than retrofit its middle school, Standard School District decided it would be better to just tear it down and build a new one.

"In conversation with the state, we thought it would be better to have a new building that was both energy efficient, adhere to current building standards and meet seismic codes," said Karen Cox, interim chief administrative officer with the school district.

New this year to school construction is a state certification process to ensure rigorous safety measures are met. Contractors are now required to use an inspection card system. During each phase of construction, there will be concurrent inspection and certification to standardize the process. But, this was not always the case.

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"Certification of projects have been the chore that occurred after the project was completed," said Chet Widom, who heads the Division of State Architect. DSA is the chief regulator of school construction.

In previous years, school districts did not have to submit all of the paper work to DSA certifying it was a safe project until after it opened its doors. As a result, the state could not sign-off on a project, leading to concerns that a building might not be structurally sound.

"The (school) districts have the authority to determine when a building is safe to occupy," said Eric Lamoureux, spokesman for DSA.