We are a parent-led initiative to promote seismic safety in Oregon schools. Our first effort involves a petition to the governor. If you have a child in an Oregon school, or your child attended/will attend an Oregon school, please sign our petition. If you are on Facebook, please Like the OPQRS Facebook page and share.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Inaugural post: please sign our petition!

Oregon parents:

Welcome to our blog. We are Portland parents Amanda Gersh and Ted Wolf, and we want you to sign our petition. Here's why.

Oregon is due for a megathrust earthquake and tsunami similar to that which devastated Japan on March 11, 2011. Great earthquakes along the Cascadia fault off the Oregon Coast have shaken the state at least forty-one times in the last 10,000 years. The most recent occurred 311 years ago. Thirty-one of thirty-nine intervals between past earthquakes are shorter than 300 years. The Cascadia fault is now “nine months pregnant" and an earthquake could happen without warning at any time.

California fears its Big One. But according to leading scientists, we have an even Bigger One to contend with and we have done far less to prepare than our neighbors to the south. World-renowned earthquake scientist Chris Goldfinger puts the probability of a great earthquake as higher than 1 in 3 within 50 years for southern to central Oregon, with significant risk radiating throughout the state. And yet many Oregon schools were built decades before the first seismic building codes, and few have been upgraded. More than 1000 Oregon school buildings, housing 300,000 children, face a high or very high risk of collapse in an earthquake.

Every single school day, we are gambling with our children's lives. That is not an overstatement. Civil engineer Yumei Wang, Geohazard team leader for Oregon's Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), reminds us "Kids are mandated to go to school, and we’re sending them to schools that are not safe." For years, scientists and representatives from DOGAMI have been trying to alert the public and the government to the dangers we face in Oregon, without much success. It is time for parents to speak up.

We must take a hard look at what has and has not been done to prepare our schools for what will certainly come to our region. We must tell our governor, elected representatives, and local school boards to address the issue, without delay.

Oregon's voters amended our Constitution to allow the state to borrow funds for investment in seismic retrofits back in 2002, based on a law pledging to bring all schools up to minimum seismic safety standards by 2032. The state's first retrofit grants for K-12 schools were funded in 2009. But the retrofit program is vastly inadequate and has faced cuts and delays. Even schools designated "retrofitted" on their survey reports may not have earned their status: lack of funds may have left planned retrofits incomplete. This is unacceptable to OPQRS, and we want to remind the State of Oregon about its obligations to protect our children in their public schools.

As Oregon parents ourselves, we know the fear and despair that can accompany the hard facts of our situation. But there is reason to hope for change. Progress can be made, even in these tough economic times. Parent groups in other states and in Canada have banded together on this issue and seen results in their communities. It is not too late. We can do it. But not without you.

We need your voice. Please sign our petition. We encourage you to share this page with fellow Oregon parents. Anyone who has a child in an Oregon school—or has a child who will attend or has attended an Oregon school—please sign!

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. Please see the links below for more info.


Amanda Gersh, co-founder and Richmond Elementary School parent (Portland)
Edward Wolf, co-founder and Grant High School parent (Portland)


New York Times: Oregon schools are in trouble
CNN: What happened to Japan will happen in Oregon
The Oregonian: An earthquake will devastate the Northwest
Education Week: Our schools have deadly defects