Workers at the site of new classrooms in Oaxaca. Workers at the site of new classrooms in Oaxaca.

New classrooms are well behind schedule

Builders say they are improperly constructed: 'it's probable they will fall'

Thousands of students in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca are unlikely to go back to school before December because most of the temporary classrooms intended to replace earthquake-damaged buildings either haven’t been built yet or were built incorrectly.

The state government’s public education institute (IEEPO) had anticipated a return to classes for the 180,000 affected students in the first two weeks of November.

The September 7 quake damaged 3,089 schools, destroying 14. About two-thirds of the affected schools are located in the Isthmus region including 13 of the 14 that were rendered irreparable.

In response to the situation, the Natural Disaster Fund (Fonden) allocated just over 292 million pesos (US $15.1 million) to build 700 provisional classrooms, with a scheduled delivery date of October 20.

But the project is well behind schedule and to date only a fraction of the total number of classrooms are ready for use.

At some schools, work to demolish and clear damaged classrooms hasn’t even started while at others, construction companies charged with erecting the classrooms say they are still waiting for the materials.

The newspaper El Universal, which visited the city of Juchitán, confirmed the predicament.

It also reported that in many of the schools where construction of the temporary classrooms has started, work has been carried out incorrectly.

According to the website of Royal Building Systems — the company that is providing the PVC tubing frames for the classrooms — the structures must be mounted on cement platforms with a wire mesh foundation and supported by metal rods.

However, builders who have erected classrooms said that in some cases the PVC frames are only secured with wall plugs because the other materials were not available, making them vulnerable to collapse.

“. . . they move in the wind. They don’t have a good foundation and it’s probable they will fall. The answer [authorities] give is that they are provisional classrooms and they are going to be replaced with traditional ones,” the builders explained.

Last Wednesday, their prediction came true when four of the structures came down in strong winds in Ixtaltepec, although they were still in the process of being erected.

The region is known for strong wind gusts — and frequent seismic activity — and is already reeling from the loss of life and devastated economy in the aftermath of last month’s natural disaster.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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