San Bruno parents fight to keep school open


On Sep. 9, 2010, a 32-inch PG&E natural gas pipeline in San Bruno ruptured and erupted into a giant blowtorch 200 feet high. Eight people were killed and 38 homes were destroyed.

Just up the street from the rupture site, Tiffany Guerin huddled inside the house with her three small children.

"I just remember we were all in a circle and I held my kids and I thought, I'm going to see my kids die in front of me. That's what I thought, and that fear lives with me today," said Guerin.

And it lives with her son who is a third-grader at Crestmoor Elementary. The school is a second home for him, but it could soon be closed, which Geurin, and a group of Crestmoor parents all say would be devastating to their already-traumatized kids.

Melissa McNichol moved into her San Bruno home nine days before the explosion. Two months later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her 2-year-old was with her today, but she also has a kindergartner at Crestmoor.

"She's finally started to feel safe and comfortable and that's her home, that's her home away from home," said McNichol.

District superintendent David Hutt says 10 years of declining enrollment and inadequate state funding has forced it to take a look at closure.

"One of the last tools is looking at whether or not we can support having all of our elementary schools be open," said Hutt.

Board president Skip Henderson will have one of the five votes.

"I'll just say this, I don't think school closure is a good idea," said Henderson.

Some parents have already decided to send their kids to private school, rather than live with the uncertainty.

"When the explosion happened, the city said we need to start healing. This is not healing. This is just going to reopen a wound," said Joe Lynch, a parent.

Would money help save Crestmoor? It couldn't hurt, but the city says it's not allowed to use any of the $70 million settlement from PG&E to help the district. The district did file its own claim with PG&E for $37,000 for losses related to the blast, but has never heard back. The school board votes in May.

As a result of our inquiries, PG&E told us late Tuesday it will pay the district's claim even though it has no record of it being filed.

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