A tree grows in the drainage system at Hayward High

The tree that has been causing the drainage issues at Hayward High School

Flooding has been an issue at Hayward High School for decades and a district official says a tree is the root of the problem.

The district only recently learned the roots of a very large tree near the gym grew into the pipe over the decades, eventually creating a blockage affecting about 80% of the pipe, which has been causing flooding issues near the gym, Allan Garde, Hayward Unified School District‘s assistant superintendent of business, told the district’s Board of Education at it’s Jan. 11 meeting.

“This is a clear pattern and something that we need to plan for given the climate change crisis that is severely impacting the weather that we’re experiencing,” Garde said.

The district plans to remove the tree and others that pose problems over the summer, along with completely replacing the drainage system at the front of the gym using larger pipes and additional drain inlets. Those improvements would increase the system’s capacity by 25%, a necessity to prevent the flooding since the existing lines are also undersized.

The high school’s drainage system was built in 1962, along with the original campus. The drawing of the system couldn’t be found, creating a misunderstanding about how the water flows through the drainage system. The district’s consultants SIM Architects used a video camera to get a picture of the entire system and learned the water was flowing in the opposite direction than expected, which then led to the discovery of the obstruction caused by the roots.

Video footage from the drainage system at Hayward High School show the roots of a tree obstructing a key pipe. The obstruction has led to flooding whenever there is a major storm. (Credit: Hayward Unified School District)

The district had just spent about $600,000 to replace the floor of the gym, but it ended up getting flooded again during the recent storms, which Garde said also points to the importance of getting the flooding issue under control.

Anna Tran, Hayward High’s student trustee, shared photos showing water-damaged floors and ceilings, indicating the flooding isn’t the students and staffs’ only concern. There are also issues with the elevators in a new building dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math, as well as the heaters throughout the school, she said.

“These issues — some that have been addressed and others that have lingered — disrupt the learning environment for students,” Tran said. “For instance, on Monday, an Algebra 2 class was displaced because of leaking problems and had to be moved to another classroom.”

While the district has spent more than $600 million on facility improvements over the past six years, there are still $700 million in outstanding facility needs.

The school is considering more broad changes in terms of its facilities to address declining enrollment, budget shortfalls, aging facilities, inequity of access and limited resources, including possibly shutting down campuses and selling or leasing the school sites.

All school closures have been tabled until the district relocates Bret Harte Middle School, which is at risk because of how close it is to the Hayward Fault. The district expects to make a decision on Bret Harte in June.

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