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Valley Focus | Northridge

Quake-Hit School Reopens Auditorium

January 17, 1998|DARRELL SATZMAN

Friday was a day for dreams at Northridge Middle School.

It began with the official rededication of the school's quake-battered auditorium, the culmination of a rebuilding effort that began four years ago today with the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Later, students in the school's Peace Institute led a ceremony to honor one of the nation's great dreamers, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The students, who are part of an English as a second language program studying world issues and promoting peace, read poems from King and Maya Angelou and watched a film about the slain civil rights leader, whose birthday will be celebrated nationally on Monday.

It was the first time that most of the students, including eighth-graders who are now midway through their third year at Northridge, had been in the auditorium.

"It's been a very slow, tedious process, but the kids have been outstanding in their flexibility," said Principal Robert Kinsella. "Today, we are delighted. Now we have a total school."

One of the closest schools to the epicenter, Northridge suffered extensive damage in the earthquake. The school was closed for three weeks, although during much of that time the sports field was used as a tent city for residents who had been forced from their homes.

"Picture a box that is being crushed and rotating at the same time," said Steve Becker, the school's plant manager, describing the temblor's effect on the auditorium. "Structurally, the building was sound, but all the ceiling tiles fell and the floors and walls cracked. There was a lot of cleanup."

On Friday that cleanup was finally complete, and eighth-grader Elizabeth Gutierrez said she was glad to finally have a chance to use the building before she graduates in the spring.

"It's nice because now we will have an opportunity to do more projects like drama and dance," she said. "We've been waiting a long time."

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