This information is specific to Portland Public Schools. If you live in another area, we encourage you to contact your school district for information about the seismic safety of its school buildings.
Our schools are generally very old.
Many parents first become concerned about earthquake safety when they send their young children into visibly aged school buildings and imagine earthquake damage like they have seen in news reports. This concern is not misplaced. Public schools in Portland average over 70 years old, built decades before Oregon’s earliest seismic building codes.
Portland schools are typical of Portland buildings. Many were built before the region’s exposure to earthquake hazards was understood. While parents can readily gauge the age of the buildings their children attend, they cannot easily see the results of past efforts to make those buildings safer. Fortunately, a high proportion of Portland schools have received improvements like reinforcement and roof replacements that will make them safer in earthquakes than their vintage alone might suggest.
Unfortunately, most are still old buildings that are prone to damage, which can potentially endanger students and teachers. This is an unsettling reality of the built environment that we inhabit in Portland.
It's complicated and expensive.
The structural safety of buildings is complex, difficult to summarize, and difficult to communicate. Some confusion is inescapable. PPS is deeply aware of the hazards posed by its aging buildings and has been working hard to address those hazards for more than 20 years. School buildings can only be strengthened when resources become available for these investments. That depends on school bond measures (which voters consider only every few years) and on small state grants for a few individual projects.
There are other ways to focus our energy.
Schools of all ages, types, and conditions have common needs including non-structural safety, emergency supplies, and safety drills. Addressing these needs can reduce the risks to students and teachers in any school, and every parent should consider helping to do so. Parents4Preparedness aims to help parents in that journey.
How to Find Out More
PPS parents seeking information online about the structural condition of their child’s school are likely to encounter an array of data sources about school buildings, many of them presented without context and compiled at different times, and some of them conflicting. To summarize and explain the various data sources is beyond the scope of this website.