McClymonds High School Oakland Students, Staff Back On Campus After Toxics Scare

McClymonds High School Students and Staff
(Last Updated On: March 3, 2020)

McClymonds High School Students and Staff Reunited On One Campus; Ralph Bunche Students and Staff Make Major Change to Support McClymonds

– (From release) After nearly two weeks away from their campus and divided up on three different campuses, the students and staff of McClymonds High School are reunited on a single campus, at Ralph Bunche Academy, as of Tuesday, March 3. In order to make this transition, the students and staff of Bunche had to make extraordinary accommodations by moving their school in its entirety to the campus of West Middle School. These moves follow a week in which the McClymonds students and staff were divided up on three campuses: West Middle, Bunche Academy and the Westlake Middle/MetWest Ericka Huggins Campus.

All of this transition follows the discovery of the chemical compound, trichloroethylene (TCE), in the groundwater under the McClymonds campus, and the decision by Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell to fully test the air across the campus to ensure that it is safe. Preliminary testing the weekend of February 22 showed no TCE in the air in any location in the school where people gather. The only place where it was found was in the sump in the boiler room under the school. But even in that room, experts say, it was not present in the air at breathing levels. Currently, the District is awaiting results from final testing that was completed last week.

Because it’s still unclear when the District will receive final test results, Superintendent Johnson-Trammell decided it was time to reunite the McClymonds community on one campus. McClymonds students did not attend school on Monday, March 2, and Ralph Bunche Academy was also closed to make accommodations for the incoming larger student body from McClymonds. Today, the Ralph Bunche students and staff reported to West Middle School, which was already mostly prepared to house them because it had housed the 10th and 11th graders from McClymonds last week. The McClymonds community is now attending classes on the Bunche campus.

“With a little more time, we have been able to establish a better interim space for students,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “It was important to reunite McClymonds students so that all students–especially seniors–can access classes required for college and dual-enrollment. Additionally, the interim space allows us to continue inclusive programming for students with special needs. We also saw an opportunity to minimize the impact on other schools.”

This ordeal has been challenging for the students, staff and families at multiple schools, first and foremost, McClymonds High School. It has also been a challenge for Ralph Bunche, West Middle School and the co-located Westlake Middle School and MetWest Ericka Huggins High School. “We appreciate all the students and staff members at the school sites who have had very limited time to make significant shifts to effect these changes,” said Johnson-Trammell. “And of course, we couldn’t have made all this happen without the support of our central office staff including our Office of Equity, warehouse team, nutrition services, custodial and buildings and grounds staff and our tech services, among others.”

Once the District receives the final report on the TCE testing of the air on campus, along with additional results on groundwater and soil-vapor, provided all the results show the environment is safe, McClymonds High School will be reopened and students and staff will return. The District is working closely with the Alameda County Environmental Health Department and California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control to ensure the testing is completed accurately, fairly, and in a timely fashion. “Unfortunately, some people have walked away from this situation feeling like the District will use it to close McClymonds permanently,” said Superintendent Johnson-Trammell. “That could not be further from the truth. McClymonds is an important part of our District with deep history in its neighborhood. It is a pillar of the West community. No one in wants to, or has any plans to, close McClymonds.”

As soon as the District receives the all-clear from the county and the state, the McClymonds and Bunche communities will be the first to know, and as quickly as possible, the District will return the two schools to their own campuses. At this moment, it remains unclear when that will happen.

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By Roger Robarts

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