CROCKETT -- Trustees of the tiny, cash-poor John Swett school district must soon decide what to do about the district's middle school, which has been identified as seismically unsound in a district-commissioned engineering report.

The 450-student Carquinez Middle School, built in 1925 and seismically strengthened in 1936, does not come near to meeting 2012 seismic standards and is at risk of collapse during a strong earthquake, according to the report from Oakland-based KPW Structural Engineers.

Trustees are considering floating a construction bond to replace the school and may take action at their June board meeting to place a bond on the June 2014 ballot, according to Superintendent Mike McLaughlin.

At least four out of five board votes are needed to put the bond on the ballot, said trustee Norma Clerici.

At their Wednesday board meeting, trustees will hear from their bond adviser about the district's capacity to float a bond of up to $60 million, McLaughlin said.

The money could be used to replace the middle school and make additional improvements to 500-student John Swett High School, which is being rebuilt.

The school board could also choose to retrofit the middle school to meet modern earthquake standards, which would cost $20 million, according to current estimates, compared with about $30 million for a new school.

The John Swett district serves 1,600 students in Crockett and Rodeo and operates a continuation high school along with the middle school and comprehensive high school in Crockett. It has its elementary school and district headquarters in Rodeo.

McLaughlin sees big problems with the idea of rebuilding and retrofitting the old structure, where he says the classrooms are already too small for current class sizes and the demands of new classroom technology.

"You can retrofit any building, put big pipes through it and build this cage around it," said McLaughlin, who is pushing for a new school. "We've found what we'll get is a long, skinny, horizontal classroom."

If trustees choose to build new, they must also decide whether to locate it on the site of the existing school in Crockett or in Rodeo, where 85 percent of the students live.

At least two board members disagree, in part, about what to do.

Clerici says she's skeptical of KPW's findings because the contractor was chosen by an architecture firm that created a proposed design for a new school.

She said she doesn't like the design proposal and thinks the district needs to get another opinion on the old building's seismic safety before condemning it.

"We need a different report from different engineers who are not employed by an architect," Clerici said. "I think a lot more research needs to be done before anyone says the building is unsafe or structurally unsound."

Trustee Jerry Parsons says the building safety issue trumps any other concerns, and voters should have their say on whether to move ahead.

"We have reports that clearly state that if we have a six-point earthquake, the building has the potential to collapse," Parsons said. "Therefore, building a new school is a no-brainer since it's housing children."

Clerici says she's open to putting a bond on the ballot under certain conditions. She said she voted against authorizing a bond last June because the proposed ballot language wasn't specific enough.

"I want the voters to have all the information in front of them, including where the proposed school would be located and how big the school would be," she said.

IF YOU GO
What: Discussion of bonding capacity for Carquinez Middle School replacement or reconstruction
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: District headquarters, 400 Parker Ave., Rodeo