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Quake-Damaged Simi High Is Reopening : Aftermath: Major repairs, including asbestos removal, are completed. Students have been going to class at rival Royal campus.

March 10, 1994|BRENDA DAY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nearly two months after Simi Valley High School was closed because of earthquake damage, the campus will reopen Wednesday, welcoming back students who have been attending cross-town rival Royal High on a split schedule.

Major repairs at Simi Valley High have been completed, including asbestos removal that forced the 2,100-student school to open shop at Royal for several weeks, officials said Wednesday. To ease the transition back to Simi High, next Wednesday and Thursday will be half days there, running from 8 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., officials said. Students across the district will have March 18 off.

"Everybody's really looking forward to it, and they're very anxious," said Simi Valley Unified School District Supt. Mary Beth Wolford. "We want to make it as smooth a transition as possible."

Major structural problems will keep the gym and multipurpose room off-limits. The district has yet to receive an estimate for repairs on those two buildings, which could run as high as $1 million. Total damage at Simi Valley High is estimated at $3 million, officials said.

Even with most repairs completed, students may notice minor cracks and refinishing work that still needs to be done, Assistant Supt. Ralph Wilson said.

"We'll probably be doing cosmetic work for the next several months, I'm sure," Wilson said.

Royal and Simi Valley high students have been sharing a campus since Jan. 27, with Royal students attending from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and Simi Valley students going from noon to about 5 p.m.

Despite their longstanding rivalry, the students pulled together to make the arrangement work, Wolford said.

"I'm very proud of the students, especially for the fine way they've shared a school under the most difficult of circumstances," she said.

Handling a double load of traffic proved to be the most difficult adjustment for school officials, with only a 30-minute buffer to move out one student body and bring in the next one.

Simi Valley High senior Melissa Beckham, 17, said she and most of her friends are looking forward to getting back to a normal schedule at their home school. But not all students agree, Melissa said.

"I've talked to a couple that are used to sleeping in now," Melissa said.

All told, the district has sustained more than $5 million in damage from the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake. Two other schools, Valley View Junior High and Township Elementary School, were closed for a week by the magnitude 6.8 quake.

Wilson said he expects the district to receive 90% or more of the cleanup and repair costs from the state and federal governments. The district has received $1 million in grant money so far, Wilson said.

"We're drowning in paperwork, but so far FEMA has been great," Wilson said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency responsible for doling out much of the relief.

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