Corbett Community Forum
July 16, 2024, 05:30:36 AM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
   Home   Help Search Calendar Login Register  
Pages: [1]
Author Topic: County Health Department Responds to Claims by "We Vote Yes For Safe Corbett ...  (Read 21223 times)
Sr. Member
Offline Offline

Posts: 86

« on: May 06, 2014, 09:53:41 PM »


A recent posting on the "We Vote Yes For Safe Corbett Kids!" website prompted me to contact the Multnomah County Health department.  This posting was regarding their section " Corbett Kids are at Risk" and listed seismic, water and air concerns. 

The one that caused me to stop and send a note asking to have their listed concerns addressed was the statement "Kids are breathing carcinogens".  As a board member I have never heard of this being an issue, and to my knowledge the air has never been tested to determine if this is an issue.

I asked permission to share the response that the County sent to me.  Their response is listed below (copy and pasted) and you can download the letter as a PDF at the blue link below.

Health Department
Environmental Health Services
May 6,2014

Dear Ms. Purvine,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding potential environmental health hazards at Corbett Middle School. One of my
roles as a public health physician for Multnomah County Health Department is to assure that everyone, especially
children, have safe places to live, work, play and learn.

Below are the concerns you listed in your May 2nd email to David Thomson, Multnomah County Health Department Environmental Health, with our responses immediately following.

Building code
The issue: The photo essay of Corbett School District (
Essay-of-Corbett-School-District-Faciities.pdf) describes structural and design issues that do not meet current building code for earthquake and fire safety.

Public health response: The school was apparently built in 1923, and while it presumably met all code requirements at the time it was built, it likely does not meet modern seismic and fire code requirements. Except for critical fire safety requirements (see 0_Fire/1 O_PDFs/), there is no requirement for
buildings constructed according to the building codes in effect at the time of construction to be upgraded to
current codes. That said, the safest approach would be to make the necessary upgrades as soon as feasible.

The issue: You have been told that the water in school drinking fountains is "non-potable." The flyer you attached to your email states that "tap water runs brown."

Public health response: You were correct in also directing this question to the Corbett Water District, as they are primarily responsible for ensuring and monitoring the quality of the water as it enters the school's plumbing. The school may have galvanized steel pipes that are corroded inside, releasing rust and turning the water a brown color. Rusty water is generally not a health concern.

If lead is a concern, helpful guidance specific to testing water in schools for lead is available at the Environmental Protection Agency's web site at Even if elevated lead levels are found in the school's water, all that may be required to ensure safe drinking water is flushing of the system for a few seconds or minutes each morning.

Lead paint
The issue: The photo essay includes photos of peeling paint that likely contains lead given when the school was built. It is not clear if there is peeling lead paint in areas children frequent.

Public health response: Lead exposure in children is most common - and most dangerous - in children under age six because of its toxic effects on the brain and nerves. There is no formal medicai recommendation to screen older children because overall the risk of lead poisoning is very low. Public health rarely sees elevated blood levels in children older than age six. Elevated blood lead levels in school age children are usually attributed to remodeling of houses built before 1960 without adequate precautions or hobbies like casting ammunition or fishing weights that inadvertently expose kids to lead. There is no conclusive evidence to link elevated blood lead levels with cancer.

Chipped or peeling lead paint in areas children frequent should be removed using lead-safe work practices; see for more information.

The issue: The photo essay includes a statement about asbestos in pipes, insulation, floor and ceiling tiles. The flier attached to your email suggests that kids are "breathing carcinogens."

Public health response: Breathing asbestos fibers can cause cancer, but if the asbestos is safely contained in pipes, pipe insulation and tiles, very few fibers are released into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency has specific requirements for protecting school children and staff from asbestos exposure; see

Thank you again for raising these important questions. If there is other information we can provide please let us know.


Jennifer Vines, MD, MPH
Deputy Health Officer
Multnomah County Health Department

Cc: Randy Trani, Superintendent, Corbett School District

* Public_health_response_to_Corbett_Inquiry.pdf (105.66 KB - downloaded 867 times.)
Sr. Member
Offline Offline

Posts: 86

« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2014, 05:54:05 PM »

Additional information from the county.

* followupletter.jpg (302 KB, 1015x1068 - viewed 2435 times.)
Mindy Schmidt
Full Member
Offline Offline

Posts: 32

« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2014, 06:00:01 PM »

About the "follow up letter" which appears to be instigated by Mrs. Tracy Brill and Mr. Randy Trani (cc'd to them).
What did this accomplish? Did the County "take back" any of the information they shared originally above? No. They did not.
Is the information on the VOTE YES web site now TRUE? No it is not.
Did the letter from the County say anywhere that the building was safe or unsafe? No. It did not.

Is the building safe or unsafe?
If it were UNSAFE then our administration has neglected their duties and should be terminated.
If it has so many maintenance issues (peeling paint - rusty pipes - hot/cold classrooms ) then allocate funds on a regular basis to fix those areas.

If it was only about the safety - and the fear of a potential earthquake - why not put the children in Springdale when we decided to open that school in 2012 after making it a priority.

If we knew we could actually remove the building (which we do not from the State Historic Preservation Office - ) then why not replace a building with another building of the same size and with the same use?

* If you want to blame someone for the condition of this building - that goes squarely to the admin and school board at this point. See below to that point and the safety/seismic issues.

Do we NEED to replace one building with 15,000 sf of use with new 35,000 sf construction, and 2 buildings? Why change the use from a middle school to a high school?

No, these are "wants" and they are to "sell" CSD to more out of the area students. It is clearly NOT for our 220 or so high school students.

A comment on the Corbett Post below that is to the safety issues. "Corbettonian" gave permission for me to share this.

Corbettonian September 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm

After receiving the flyers from the school, I have many questions. The safety of the school should never be a concern for the people whom occupy it.


According to Corbett School Board Policy, the administrators should be routinely inspecting their buildings and documenting their findings. These findings then should be reviewed by the board. Two of the longest running board members should be well aware of the facilities needs. One is a general contractor, whom you would think would play a critical role in the routine inspections and documentation. The other is a retired fire fighter whom should know the importance of proper maintenance to avoid catastrophes. Are these two board members using their knowledge to protect the children?

Why is asbestos suddenly a concern? Asbestos should not be a concern as the school should have an asbestos management plan in place according to federal mandate;
There should be a copy of this plan on file and available for the taxpayers to view.

Why is lead paint an issue now? Lead paint should not be a concern if the building maintenance has not been neglected. There are many resources for keeping facilities safe from lead;
The school should be managing this toxic threat as there are numerous negative consequences for those whom are exposed to lead in the air. Most of which are listed on one of the mailings sent out by the school.

The seismic stability of our facilities is a concern.
Why was it not a concern back when the State first started it’s Seismic Grant Program;
There has been two waves of grants given to public schools. Several of the schools were built with the same materials as ours with more square footage and were seismically upgraded for a fraction of the cost that the school is quoting. Is the school applying for the next wave of grants in the event that the bond does not pass?

If there was such a grave concern about seismic stability, why has it been kept secret for so long and why didn’t we move our kids to Springdale to keep them safe.

In an article from 1981;,6025535
A Portland architecture firm recommended the building be replaced by 1984 due to structural deficiencies so clearly it was known by the school that this was an issue.
Their records should show what measures were taken to remedy this problem. Come to think of it there should be documentation to show all of the maintenance and repairs that have been done in order to protect the occupants of the facilities. As taxpayers of the district, we have the right to access this information to know the school has not neglected their obligation to provide a safe environment for learning.

Another question I have is why has the school not done a thorough job of engaging the community if they are truly concerned about the safety of the occupants? I have spoken to numerous community members whom were unaware of the school’s needs and will not vote to pass a bond for 15 million dollars without sufficient information. I asked if they received the mailings and most just tossed them with the rest of the junk mail. There are numerous Corbett School Board Policies which state the importance of engaging the community and it seems as though the district has disregarded these policies and forgotten the community is their greatest resource.

Has the district even considered the historical significance of this building?
Have they asked the community if they can demolish their history to pave the way for their future? I do not know that I want to give the school my hard earned money for the next 25+ years without some clear answers to these questions.


Corbettonian October 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm

My continued search for answers to make an informed decision in this election has enlightened me to the following I thought I would share.

I followed the link that the school provided to read the seismic review

On page 3 of this report the engineer states, “our site visit consisted of limited observation of readily-accessible areas of the structures. We have not performed any material testing or remote sensing.” Then on the same page they reiterate that their evaluation was based on limited observation.

I found another document for the facilities assessment written by the architects

On page 13 it says there is no way to structurally upgrade the existing structure to meet building code requirements. On pages 9 and 10 of the engineer’s report (1st link) it lists 11 required improvements for restoring the building for historic reasons. I do not believe an engineer would put their stamp on something if it was not safe for the occupants. So I am left questioning the validity of the whole assessment as the architect says one thing and the engineer says another.

Also on the most recent flyer it says the engineers “used 20 codes tests to evaluate the building. The building failed 13 tests, three did not apply, and it met the remaining tests.” I do not recall seeing any of these tests or the results. Were these not available to the public?

I then found this document related to visual screening for seismic stability distributed by FEMA

It is a long report but there is quite a bit of information that makes me wonder if our building really is Unreinforced Masonry like the school is suggesting.

On page 97 it says hollow clay tile are fragile, unreinforced, and without structural value, and usually are used for non-load bearing walls.

On page 108 it says because the steel frame in an older building is covered by unreinforced masonry for fire protection it is easy to confuse this type of building (steel frame with unreinforced masonry infill) with Unreinforced Masonry bearing wall structures.

On page 125 it says when a building has many exterior solid walls constructed from hollow clay tile, and no columns of another material can be detected, it is probably not an Unreinforced Masonry bearing wall but probably a wood or metal frame structure with Unreinforced Masonry infill.

I am left wondering if the Corbett Union High School building built in 1923 is steel frame with unreinforced masonry infill like the FEMA document suggests it could be or unreinforced masonry like the school is suggesting it is. I am also curious why we did not test further as there is a difference in the costs for seismic upgrades between the two. It is extremely hard to make an informed decision when it seems like there is information missing.

The latest flyer said the new building would be smaller at approximately 20,000 -22,000 square feet, but the assessments referenced above reports the current square footage at over 15000 sq ft. The Corbett community advocates website report is different from the school as well.

They report it as 15,000 sq ft and that the facilities committee recommended building a slightly larger replacement (approximately 20,000 sq ft). All of this leaves me confused as the school is supposed to be providing accurate information to inform the voters, but everything I am finding does not seem to add up.

In my searching I also found this statement about the need for accurate information written by Dr. Randi Trani

He says:
-If the information is inaccurate, …, then the rest of the process will be built on a faulty assumption. This type of error could destroy the communities confidence in the district for decades as well as the educational experiences of hundreds of children.

I agree with this and I feel like a visual inspection does not provide me with the most accurate information I need to make a 15 million dollar decision. In my many years of learning I have found it is always best to do my research and avoid making decisions based on assumptions.


I was searching around some more trying to answer some of my questions about the historical significance of the Corbett Union High School and I came across an Oregon Law relating to state agencies in control of property 50 years or older. It says the agency must consult with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) if proposing a demolition to a building which is eligible for the National Registry.

So I followed up with the contact listed on the link above to find out what the results of the consultation were between the SHPO and the Corbett School District and to my surprise the school has not contacted the SHPO. They asked if I would like them to send a letter and I said that I would. The letter was sent on 10/01/2013 to Dr. Trani and the board chair. I expect to see it on the agenda for the board meeting this month.

So what will it mean if we pass the bond and give the district 15 million dollars and we then can’t demolish the existing school? We have an extra school to maintain and need more money to fix it because it’s dangerous? We probably then have to fill it with more students to afford to maintain it. I really think having the answer to what we can do with the Corbett Union High School is important before voting to give the district a 15 million dollar bond. Last thing we need is a new bigger school and the old dangerous one.

* lettertortandcharlie.jpg (363.29 KB, 807x950 - viewed 1859 times.)
Pages: [1]
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.14 | SMF © 2006-2011, Simple Machines LLC Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!