The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education took another step toward trying to establish smaller secondary schools (high schools and/or middle schools) in the District by creating a task force to study the issue.
According to the District staff report, “The secondary schools in Santa Monica, particularly Santa Monica High School (Samohi), are larger than optimal size.” In addition, “Current research on school reform validates the success of ‘small learning communities,’ specifically, schools of approximately 500 students.” Four years ago Samohi was divided into six separate learning houses of approximately 550 students each. This action resulted in gains in student achievement, but the Board is still concerned that a smaller separate high school is needed to help address the needs of students who cannot succeed at a large comprehensive high school.
The staff report also mentions the task force will examine “the feasibility of creating a smaller high school campus on existing District property, such as Olympic High School.” Lastly, the task force will analyze whether the Edison site should go through 8th grade. Currently, the site has classes from Kindergarten through 5th grade. The work of the task force is being coordinated with the District’s 20-year Facilities Master Plan so, according to the District staff report, “project priorities can be based on educational goals.”
Task force members will be chosen who represent the District’s senior staff, teachers, secondary school administrators, the teachers’ union, parents, students, the business community and the Board of Education.
At the August 23 meeting, the Board also began reviewing the projects that have been proposed for Samohi and Malibu High School as part of Phase I of the Facilities Master Plan. Funding for these projects will come from the $268 million Measure BB that was passed by the voters in the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu last November.
The Samohi projects total $44.4 million, and include demolishing the Business Building and constructing a new 45,000-square-foot Applied Instruction Building; constructing a new University Plaza/Promenade; restoring/upgrading the Science Quad; demolishing the Art Building; and constructing a new outdoor plaza. Also proposed is adding new synthetic turf on the athletic fields for baseball and football, constructing a new subterranean parking garage with tennis courts overhead and installing air conditioning in the locker rooms.
Projects being proposed for Malibu High School are estimated at $27.5 million, and include a new library and administration offices, a new parking area with emergency access to track and field and two new tennis courts.
Proposed projects for other District sites will be reviewed at future meetings.