Study sends rumblings of change among some downtown Charleston schools

CHARLESTON, SC - Keke Collins bio | email

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - An earthquake the magnitude of the one that hit Haiti could spell trouble for students at several downtown Charleston schools according to a new study.

"If there was a significant event like that we would see a lot of distress in the structures we looked at," said James O'Connor of Collins Engineers, one of the three engineering firms involved in the study.

As soon as this August students at Memminger and James Simons elementary schools, Charleston Progressive Academy, Buist Academy could be temporarily relocated while upgrades are made to the buildings.

"My recommendation to the school board is that we look at the potential of relocating these school campuses until the buildings can be brought up to today's safety standards," said Superintendent Nancy McGinley.

These schools are considered most vulnerable in Charleston County if an earthquake were to occur.

According to school officials, the buildings are older, multi-story, and built on the unstable ground of downtown.

"Student safety is our number one priority we care about more than anything else," said McGinley.

School officials say students at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science could also be moved while the school is upgraded, adding that the permanent relocation of students at all five schools is not off the table.

The board plans to hold meeting with parents to discuss the options, and may expand the study to include other schools in the coming years.

Although closed, school officials said Archer and Fraser elementary schools could be upgraded to make the buildings more capable of enduring an earthquake.

The last significant earthquake to hit Charleston occurred in 1886.

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