Lead Story West Edition

Money for school sound-insulation programs goes unused

INGLEWOOD — The Inglewood Unified School District has received $10 million to soundproof classrooms from noise caused by planes landing and taking off at nearby Los Angeles International Airport, but the district could have had 10 times that amount.

The $10 million grant is part of a $100 million Los Angeles World Airports grant that the district could have received but failed to meet the eligibility requirements to receive the other $90 million released for construction.

The district’s failure to pass those guidelines caused the original funding amount to be slashed to just $10 million.

The airport suspended grant authorization over five years ago when the old Inglewood school board attempted to use airport grant money to balance their operating budget.

Michael Anderson, a local architect, was hired and given six binding contracts with the district to provide engineering and architectural services to implement school sound insulations.

Anderson said the district canceled the sound insulation work, but still owes him an overdue contractual payment of $485,595, plus interest.

“[State trustee] Dr. [Don] Brann asked me to submit all outstanding invoices for my work rendered to the district, but still the district has held up my payment,” Anderson said. “I’ve notified State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson many times about our lawfully binding contracts and outstanding invoices. I am still waiting to hear from him.

Anderson said he presented a proposed completion strategy for the school district’s sound mitigation program to Brann, Torlakson and other district officials in July 2013 stressing the importance of beginning and completing the program prior to meeting the Federal Aviation Administration’s deadline September 2015 for funding eligibility.

“There was no response,” Anderson added.

He said the strategy was based on the city of Inglewood’s sound insulation program, approved by the FAA and Los Angeles World Airports.

The plan was ignored by Brann and has resulted in Inglewood High School no longer being eligible for sound mitigation funding, Anderson said. Since 2005, IUSD has been eligible to receive $118 million in sound insulation funding from LAWA under the settlement agreement.

“The district has managed only to secure $44 million in FAA authorization of the $118 million settlement,” Anderson said. “No one will know the exact cost to sound insulate the schools until the district obtains bids from qualified contractors.”

“Inglewood High School is the second loudest school affected by jet noise as revealed is the sound test analysis. The original cost estimate is approximately $39 million to properly insulate the school’s various buildings,” Anderson said.

Anderson said Brann, the state trustee appointed to oversee the Inglewood Unified School District while it is in state receivership, had dropped the ball when it comes to mitigating district schools from airport noise.

He canceled two sound insulation consultation meetings with Inglewood Mayor James Butts, according to Anderson.

“The city of Inglewood has sound proofed over 3,000 homes successfully in a record-breaking timeframe,” Anderson said. “However, Dr Brann was uncooperative and not on board.”

Brann could not be reached for comment on this story.

Inglewood students are unfairly affected by constant air noise pollution.

“Every five minutes a loud airplane flies over Inglewood schools, disrupting classroom operations,” Anderson said. “Just stand in any Inglewood school courtyard, especially Inglewood High. You’ll easily see and hear for yourself. It’s a huge problem that hinders the learning environment drastically.”

This year, the Federal Aviation Administration approved a $44.4 million payment to the Inglewood Unified School District’s Classroom Noise Mitigation Program. The funds come from passenger facility charges, a $4.50 fee tacked on to plane tickets at LAX.

The new money will first be used for sound insulation at Payne and Woodworth elementary schools and the Child Development Center at Woodworth Elementary. The next funding installment will go to mitigating airport noise at Oak Elementary School, Monroe Middle School and Morningside High School. All campuses are beneath the flight path of Los Angeles International Airport.

Sound-insulation measures include thicker doors, acoustic ceiling tiles, floor framing and insulation, sound-rated windows, new heating and air-conditioning systems, and electrical upgrades. The goal is to reduce the noise level to 45 decibels or less.

The objective of the noise mitigation program is to ensure residential communities (including schools and hospitals) adversely impacted by aircraft noise are made compatible with California noise standards.