I read with interest the difficult decisions that the Ocean Beach School Board and new Superintendent Amy Huntley (congratulations Amy!) are facing with regard to district enrollment configuration. These will be difficult and far reaching decisions that will impact the district for years to come.
The purpose of this letter is to bring up an issue that I hope is still a major consideration when making these facility decisions. That issue is earthquake and tsunami safety and evacuation.
Currently, the vast majority of our younger primary students attend either Long Beach or Ocean Park elementary schools. As we all know, these schools are in the tsunami inundation area and at high risk of major damage or total destruction in the event of a worst case scenario Cascadia Subduction earthquake and resulting tsunami. And while I’m sure the district has done a reasonable job in response planning, the grim reality is that if this worst-case scenario occurs during the school day, most or all of our children attending these schools will not likely survive. Assuming they survive the earthquake, it will simply be impossible to get hundreds of kids (ages 5 to 10) to high ground in time.
While it’s true that this event may not happen for 50, 100, or even 200 or more years, it will almost certainly happen. Some scientists put the current risk as high as a one in three chance over the next 50 years. Regardless of whether you believe a catastrophic event is imminent or centuries away, shouldn’t we be doing everything in our power to protect our children?
While many at the local level have worked hard to provide or construct evacuation options, in the end these projects have been undone by funding shortages or other political hurdles. In light of these failures, I urge the district to not give up on this and to continue to consider the long-term risk of placing our students in a facility where the likelihood of surviving a major Cascadia event is remote.
Of course the solution to this problem is to either construct adequate evacuation sites or facilities next to these schools, or to move the schools to higher ground. And while obtaining funding for these options has thus far not been successful, I hope you do not take no for an answer.
I see that the governor is proposing to spend $1.1 billion in the next budget in an effort to save 70 orcas in Puget Sound. Is it really unreasonable to ask that we spend a fraction of that to protect our children?