Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Feature Improvements for New School Year|
By Niki Cervantes
August 19, 2015 -- Making significant use of voter-approved bond money, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) prepared to start the new school year Thursday with a big new $55 million science building for Santa Monica High School, as well as hi-tech touches added to buildings throughout the district.
“We have done a lot of work over the summer including some technology installations at our schools, installed new library software and conducted Best Management Practices cleaning at all our sites,” said Gail Pinsker, a district spokesperson. “We are ready for the new school year.”
Samohi’s new science and technology building features 20 new classrooms, 15 science labs and an auto shop, officials said.
The district recently announced they would begin demolishing the old Samohi science building and replacing it with a new softball field and parking lot in the fall, after materials from existing structures tested well below federal standards for toxic substances.
The tests also helped clear the way for the modernization of four buildings at Olympic High School, a $5.5 million project that will feature a new music classroom, modernized library and computer lab. (“Santa Monica High Schools Pass Toxins Test, Report Concludes,” August 3, 2015)
Although the School District includes some of the region’s wealthiest neighborhoods, district officials have long argued that many of the buildings are more than 60 years old and in need of replacement or significant renovation.
To help pay for the renovations, voters in 2006 approved Measure BB, which raised $268 million for SMMUSD improvements.
Measure BB money is earmarked for removing asbestos and mold from schools, repairing leaky roofs, installing fire safety equipment, upgrading outdated bathrooms and plumbing and making classrooms seismically safe.
It is also meant for building and equipping science labs and upgrading computer technology throughout the district, officials said.
District officials said they have used some of the bond money to upgrade technology throughout the district. The District also upgraded fire alarms and made security improvements to gates.
Also on the list are improvements to three Santa Monica elementary schools. At Franklin Elementary students will begin the year in a new two-story building; McKinley now has new classrooms, renovated administrative offices and new gates and Roosevelt has new classrooms, as well as improved administrative and athletic facilities.
The District also embarked on some old fashioned, low-tech repairs and cleaning to prepare for the new school year.
Officials had come under fire in June when its own health and safety committee presented a report replete with problems, including walls, sinks and toilets covered with stains at Santa Monica High School.
Committee members, who had toured the high school earlier in the year, also found problems with the girls’ bathroom, which lacked toilet covers, had only one working sink and stall locks that didn’t work. Problems were also found outdoors, including uneven pavement, poor lighting and water fountains that were dirty and lacked flow.
But Pinsker said the clean-up work and basic repairs already had been scheduled.
“We’re taking care of them,” she said.
Problems were also found at Malibu High School, where the recent discovery of polychlorinated biphenyls, a potentially toxic chemical once widely used in electrical equipment, set off an expensive battle between the district officials and school parents over testing and cleanup.
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