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Tsunami zone vote impacts Oregon school

School with a view—beautiful but dangerous? Seaside High School is the only building in Seaside School District in Oregon with ocean views, above. Broadway Middle School is in the tsunami inundation zone, but without a view.
School with a view—beautiful but dangerous? Seaside High School is the only building in Seaside School District in Oregon with ocean views, above. Broadway Middle School is in the tsunami inundation zone, but without a view.

The earthquake-susceptible Seaside School District in Oregon—which covers the communities of Gearhart, Cannon Beach and Seaside—faces an estimated $99.7 million bond referendum November 8 to move its schools out of a tsunami zone on the Pacific Ocean.

Seaside has three schools with 1,500 students in the tsunami inundation zone, says Douglas C. Dougherty, former schools superintendent.

Sheila Roley, who became new superintendent as of July, says she choses every day not to think about the risk involved, but hopes the November vote will approve moving the schools out of harm’s way.

The buildings are not retrofitted to sustain damages from a large earthquake.

In the past, a $129 million measure failed under Dougherty’s watch. But he felt so passionate about the project that he left the district so he could advocate for the latest plan to build a consolidated campus outside the zone.

The “big one” is long overdue to hit the West Coast, but it’s unknown how large it would be or when it might strike.

“The real problem for Seaside is they’re going to get hammered by this earthquake,” says Yumei Wang, geotechnical engineer for Oregon’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. “Then 50 minutes later, this big wall of water is going to wash ashore, kind of like what happened to Japan.”

The state’s seismic rehabilitation grant program, launched in 2009, awards millions of dollars to help districts with construction disaster planning, particularly to school systems that can’t afford it, Wang says.