The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District received a letter from PEER, a Washington D.C.-based environmental advocacy group, asserting that the District has threatened that teachers will be terminated if they refuse to occupy classrooms containing toxic compounds.
In response, the District maintains that this is a distortion of the truth and has addressed this misinformation.
In a letter from Superintendent Sandra Lyon to teachers, the District reiterated that no one will be allowed to go into any classrooms deemed unsafe by environmental experts — as the health and safety of students and employees remains the District’s top priority. Accordingly, the District stated that classes will only be conducted in buildings tested and scientifically cleared, based on EPA health benchmarks.
Regarding the safety of District schools, in a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer (attached), the US Environmental Protection Agency has validated the District’s environmental testing program, noting, “The District has been responsive to (EPA) protocol by taking extensive air and dust samples in classrooms at Malibu High School in preparation for classes to begin in fall, based on EPA-approved procedures.”
To date, PCB test results show that the classrooms and offices at Malibu High School (MHS) and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School (JCES) are showing non-detectible levels or levels well within EPA’s acceptable benchmarks. As such, the District has reopened those buildings that have been cleared and welcomes the safe return of teachers, staff and students to these campuses.
“I must note that the comment received most often by staff and parents is the overwhelming desire to finish the environmental testing, ensure the buildings are safe, and then get back to our important work of educating our students,” said Superintendent Lyon. “I couldn’t agree more.”
Lyon noted that the District is sensitive to that fact that there are understandably questions given that there has been an outside group circulating inflammatory and incorrect information that conflicts with the guidance the state and federal agencies have provided the District.
“For this reason, the District has been unequivocal that we will only return staff and students to buildings that meet the EPA’s health standards,” Lyon said.
As this year is critical in public education, with curriculum and teaching methods shifting to the Common Core State Standards, the District continues to ensure that a strong, safe learning environment that promotes student success and creativity remains at the core of SMMUSD.
“As we all know, the most important element for success for CCSS or any other program is the ability for students to focus,” said Superintendent Lyon. “We need to move forward, as a team. Ensuring our students are learning is at the heart of our job.”
For more information about the Malibu testing and next steps, the District has developed a Fact Sheet on the District’s website at www.smmusd.org.