Sage Canyon classrooms displaced by moisture issue in campus building

Del Mar Union School District administration building.
(Staff photo)

The Del Mar Union School District is dealing with some maintenance issues due to moisture in the two-story building on the Sage Canyon Elementary School campus, resulting in 12 classrooms being moved out of the building since Sept. 15. The moves have impacted other classes and programs with some being taught in the school’s multi-use room.

At the Oct. 26 meeting, the board received an update on the situation from Assistant Superintendent Chris Delehanty. The district will continue investigating the building in the coming weeks with a report at the Nov. 16 meeting about the scope of work needed and the potential next steps.

Called the 400 building, the two-story, 15-classroom building was built in 2000. Reports of “musty smells” in the classrooms and issues with high moisture levels began in 2016. Since that time, the district has been conducting air quality testing, using dehumidifiers and making HVAC unit and duct improvements to ensure that the building is a safe place for students and staff.

Delehanty said that in 2019 they investigated and performed abatement work on all 15 rooms in the building— it was always safe but the musty smell remained. Work over the last three years has included regular air quality testing, duct cleaning, duct removal and carpet replacement in some rooms.

Then over this past summer, the HVAC controller went down. Delehanty said the air quality was fine but the heat and humidity stayed really high to the point where they needed to move the classrooms.

“All of this is done on a campus where we’re fairly full and it led to us having to impact and move other classes and programs,” Delehanty said.

Displaced programs include all three after-school classrooms, PE, the psychologist, counselor, the speech program and Spanish, music and library classes. When the MUR is in use as temporary space, there is no place for rainy day PE (it had to be done in a hallway during the last rain) and no way to do school activities or indoor assemblies.

“We truly almost don’t have room,” Delehanty said.

The culprit appears to be that the stucco is absorbing water more than it should and moisture is getting in the walls and isn’t able to release. The district will do some further investigation into the cause and possible remediation and come back to the board with a scope of work for improvements to go out for bid.

As there is not enough room for all school programs, the board will likely need to approve two to three temporary potables on campus through the end of the year, a cost of $60,000 to $65,000 per portable.