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Education Board Tentatively Supports $180 Million for Santa Monica High Renovations

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 24, 2015--Much-needed renovations for Santa Monica High School (Samohi) could be one step closer to happening after the Board of Education tentatively supported allocating nearly half the $385 million Measure ES bond for projects at the school.

The majority of the board supported the staff recommendation of allocating $180 million toward Samohi. An official vote is expected to take place March 5. 

The determination of which specific projects at Samohi and other schools would be funded could happen later this year. One board member estimated $180 million could cover two to three major Samohi projects.

Several parents addressed the board about the Samohi campus that one person called “aging and substandard.” Another parent said the bathrooms are in such a bad state, her son will not use them despite frequently spending 12 consecutive hours on the campus.

“I don’t know how he does it,” she said. “You should see how long he stays in the bathroom when he gets home.”

Former Samohi PTA President Debbie Mulvaney said, “Samohi is often under-appreciated and under-valued because of what it looks like, because of the state of disrepair. We need to make the outward expression of Samohi match the amazing learning that goes inside.”

Long-time education activist Shari Davis added, “If we were to give every citizen of Santa Monica a detailed tour of Samohi, we’d have a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering incredulously why we haven’t done more to foster an adequate learning environment for the 80 percent of students in our district who matriculate to Samohi.”

No school board member wanted to allocate less than $180 million to Samohi, but Oscar de la Torre and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein said the amount should be $200 million. 

Others said it would be premature to raise the amount until the needs at other district schools were assessed.

“Sitting up here, it seems a little irresponsible to say we’re going to leave almost nothing to address the needs we’ve been hearing about for a long time [at other schools],” Board President Laurie Lieberman said.

The board in October dedicated $35 million of the bond money to “technology projects” throughout the district, including “infrastructure, SBAC devices, 21st century classroom components, library upgrades, expanded computer labs, and staff development,” according to a staff report.

An additional $77 million is required to cover projects in Malibu because of the language of the resolution that created the bond measure, which was approved by district voters in the November 2012 election.

Nearly $94 million of the bond money has not been allocated. Some of that money is expected to cover projects funded through the previous Measure BB bond. There is an estimated $30 million shortfall on the BB projects.

It has not been determined how the remainder of the money would be used. Since Measure ES was a facilities improvement bond proposal, none of the money could be used to cover staff salaries.

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