Porter Ranch-area students relocated as result of gas leak

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Nearly 1,900 Porter Ranch-area students started the year at different schools Tuesday in response to the foul-smelling gas leak at a nearby gas storage facility. (KABC)

Nearly 1,900 Porter Ranch-area students started the year at different schools Tuesday in response to the foul-smelling gas leak.

Tuesday's relocation was just the latest in a chain reaction of consequences stemming from the gas leak at Southern California Gas Co.'s Aliso Canyon storage facility that continues to spew enormous amounts of climate-changing methane since it was reported on Oct. 23.

On Dec. 17, the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education declared an emergency at Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter School. The board decided to temporarily move students to alternate locations.
Tuesday was the students' first day at their temporary new locations following winter break.

School officials scrambled to bring portable classrooms to Northridge Middle School, which will temporarily house about 1,100 kindergarten through 8th-grade students from Porter Ranch Community School. The 770 kindergarten through 5th-grade students at Castlebay Lane Charter School resumed school at Sunny Brae Elementary School in Winnetka.

Public health officials said most of the gas is dissipating and not causing long-term problems, but more than 4,500 families have either left Porter Ranch or are on the move because they doubt the air is safe. Foul-smelling additives that make highly flammable gas detectable have been blamed for maladies including irritated throats, coughs and respiratory problems.

Meanwhile, Porter Ranch principal Mary Melvin said staff members are ready to get back to work.

"To be able to bring 33 modular buildings for all of our teachers, our lunchrooms. The rooms are all ready to go. The teachers' work is in there. It's incredible so we're so excited to be able to start second semester in the classrooms, ready to learn and get back to a little bit of normal," Melvin said.

MORE: Gov. Brown declares state of emergency in Porter Ranch over gas leak

So far, relocation costs have already exceed $5 million, which the district is seeking reimbursement from SoCal Gas.

On Monday, California lawmakers proposed stronger regulations to prevent another natural gas leak in areas close to homes and schools.

"We needed to have more inspections, more proactive inspections. We need to have a plan as infrastructure ages out, some kind of policy and timeline for replacement," said Sen. Fran Pavley. "Always err on the side of caution, not hoping with your fingers crossed there won't be a problem."

Pavley's district includes the Porter Ranch community.

The L.A. County Unified School District is offering transportation to students from Porter Ranch Community School and Castlebay Lane Charter School to their new locations. The leak is expected to be stopped in March.
Even if the gas leak gets fixed before the end of the school year, students will finish out the year at their relocated schools because school officials say they last thing they want to do is disrupt the students' education any more.

City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Topics:
gas leakenvironmentgas fumeslausdeducationstudentsschoolPorter RanchLos AngelesWinnetkaNorthridge
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