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With the school district considering ways to avoid the stringent rules governing school construction for the schoobrary project, I wanted to point out the difference between the school district determining whether it falls under an exemption to the law versus seeking a waiver of the law.

A recent letter from Superintendent Terry Grier referred to seeking a waiver of the law, known as the Field Act. But based on my conversations with school district officials, it’s more accurately described as an exemption. The difference is that an exemption is built into the law, while a waiver is asking permission not to follow the law’s requirements.

School districts and charter schools regularly seek waivers from the state Board of Education to parts of the law, such as the requirement to serve meals to needy students during the summer school. The Field Act isn’t among the requirements that can be waived, said Judy Pinegar, manager of the waiver office at the California Department of Education.

There are exemptions spelled out in the law for certain buildings that do not have to follow the Field Act. The one I discussed in relation to the schoobrary is for city- or county-run buildings where education is an “incidental” use.

Other buildings that don’t have to comply with the Field Act are charter schools and truancy centers. However, districts running truancy centers must submit periodic reports asserting that they have no Field Act-compliant facilities available, said Craig Rush, regional manager of the Southern California office of the Division of the State Architect.

If the schoobrary does not fall under an exemption, the only way to get around the Field Act requirements is to have a state law passed, something school officials said they are looking into.

RANI GUPTA

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