Cragmont Holds Reopening Ceremony

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On Oct. 17th, 1989, at 5:04 p.m., the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged Cragmont Elementary School in Berkeley so badly that school officials were forced to close it down - until yesterday.

Yesterday at 5:04 p.m., exactly 10 years after the earthquake, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the reopening of Cragmont as both an elementary school and an emergency shelter for the North Berkeley community.

Parents, students, teachers, school officials, alumni and other members of the community gathered in the newly-built multipurpose room to listen to various speakers who talked about rebuilding the school and also about its future goals.

The rebuilding cost $9.6 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency donated $4.8 million and a 1992 bond measure covered the remaining cost.

Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean said the beautiful school will provide a direly-needed resource for the community.

"This architecture is outstanding," she said. "For a long time we thought that there would be no schools in the hills. Schools in Berkeley are really coming back, and I am pleased because that means that our community is coming back."

Pamela Doolan, president of the board of the Berkeley Unified School District, welcomed attendees and spoke about the long struggle to convince the school board to support rebuilding Cragmont.

Both Doolan and Cragmont Parent Teacher Association President Mark van Kriekan thanked UC Berkeley professor Pedro Noguera for casting the deciding vote to rebuild Cragmont.

"Without flinching, without thinking of the political consequences, he came in with the essential third vote we needed on the school board to rebuild the school," van Kriekan said.

Speakers said the school will also be used as a community shelter in case of natural disasters. Vic Kley, an Emergency Resources Committee member, said he is working on the construction of a 75,000 gallon cistern for fire and potable water, a kitchen facility in the multipurpose room, an emergency generator and emergency lights that would allow a helicopter to land on the playing field in case of emergency.

Don Logan, one of the architects who designed the new school, spoke about the challenge of building a school right above the Hayward fault line.

"Building this school was a very pleasurable experience," he said. "The site is strained by both geology and topography so it was a challenge - but I won't even try to explain or describe it because architecture, if it's any good, should speak for itself."


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