Champagne Toast for a School Building 14 Years in the Making

Malibu City Council Member and Malibu Facilities District Advisory Committee volunteer Karen Farrer “christens” the new Malibu High School administration building and library.

Fourteen years after the $268 million Measure BB bond for modernizing SMMUSD facilities passed, the main building at Malibu High School has finally been completed. The new, three-story structure, which has a grand entrance to greet students and visitors, houses an expansive library, three state-of-the-art science labs, two computer labs, four general classrooms, a media center and administration offices for the principals and support staff. In addition, it also includes a parent meeting center, health, technology and security offices, and will have special “green roofs” covered with grass and vegetation.

An impromptu “christening” and tour of the building took place last week, organized by SMMUSD Bond Manager Steve Massetti.  A group of only about 15 people attended the low-key affair, due to COVID-19 concerns.

Massetti invited Malibu City Council Member and Malibu Facilities District Advisory Committee (MFDAC) volunteer Karen Farrer to do the honors of smashing a champagne bottle across the bow of the building.

Being asked christen the building“was a complete surprise,” Farrer said in a phone interview. 

She was ecstatic about the new building and all the improvements it represents. 

“When I was in the PTA, we had to reserve the library for meetings and no students could use the library while we were there. Now, the PTA and other parent groups will have a designated parent meeting room … It’s just night and day compared to the old building,” Farrer said. “Plus, the new building will have a lot of natural light and shade.”

She acknowledged that the outside of the new building still looks as if it has a long way to go before all of the finishing touches are put in place. 

“There’s no landscaping and the yard right behind it is still dirt with porta-potties, but there is some furniture in the building already,” she said.

Like many residents, Farrer can’t believe it took 14 years for this building to be completed. 

“People forget this bond was approved in 2006,” she said. “My youngest was in first grade at the time, and I remember thinking it would be built in time for her to have classes in it. She’s now a junior in college. The thing that held it up the most was the lawsuit over the football field lighting” (which lasted from about 2012 to 2015).

There were also several other major causes for delays. In 2016, the school district was court-ordered to either remove carcinogenic PCBs from Malibu High and Juan Cabrillo Elementary by the end of 2019, or stop using the contaminated pre-1979 buildings. The Woolsey Fire of 2018 slowed things down, as did this year’s pandemic.

A half-dozen of the attendees at the christening ceremony were Malibu residents who are present or past members of MFDAC, which advises the SMMUSD Board of Education and district staff on Malibu’s perspective on using school bond funds for construction on school sites in Malibu.

Other attendees included School Board Member Craig Foster, Malibu Elementary PTA President Jen Paras-Pappas, Malibu Schools Leadership Council President Stacy Rouse, two SMMUSD construction project managers and a handful of other SMMUSD officials. SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati did not attend.

The previous high school library and administration building was demolished over the summer of 2017. The planned opening of the new building had originally been scheduled for the 2020-21 school year, but is now said to be ready for use in January 2021. 

According to SMMUSD, the library will be shared by the high school and middle school initially, but will become the middle school library in a future phase of the Malibu campus plan.