MHS Campus Plan Depends on Community Input

Community members gather at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School to learn about plans to improve the current Malibu High School campus.

Project designers stressed the importance of community input on the new Malibu High School (MHS) campus plan, which is looking at ways to spend the $195 million allocated to revamping the school’s campus.

In efforts to give MHS students a campus to call their own (separate from Malibu Middle School), parking, pedestrian access, drop off zones and security are a top priority for the campus planning process. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District held a series of meetings throughout the year to discuss the future of its campuses, including a town hall on Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.

Questions and concerns regarding the parking and how to improve traffic circulation along Morning View Drive were in the master plan. Faculty, parents and students were able to give their feedback and the designers and architects took their opinions into consideration.

The current plan separates middle and high schools on the campus, with joint use of the performing arts center, fields, courts and the pool. The campus plan will guide the removal of old buildings and the construction of the new buildings that will accommodate student needs such as elevators.

Malibu Pathway Director Dr. Isaac Burgess introduced the guest speakers and said the finished design will integrate learning spaces for teachers and students.

“We are looking forward to building future learning spaces for our students and making sure the spaces support 21st century skills and project space learning activity,” Burgess said.

Architect Rick Musto and project designer Ozzie Tapia led the town hall meeting and discussed the way they are shaping the design process. 

“If we design this in a vacuum with only our perspective, it’s never really going to get to the heart of what the students and community here not only wants but needs and wishes; that’s the purpose of the master plan,” Tapia said.

To improve traffic circulation along Morning View Drive, the plan featured a large U-shaped drop-off quad, as well as an additional parking structure near the fields for event parking.  “From this point forward we’re looking at the financial side and the cost of everything that could be implemented over time,” Musto said.

The $195 million bond was passed last November and, Burgess said, 77 percent of the votes said it was for ‘our community to support our schools.’

The presentation was followed by audience questions and feedback. Community members were asked what should be prioritized and those results went into the development plan.

Parent and board member of Malibu LEAD (the new fundraising arm of the Malibu Pathway, replacing the Shark Fund) Teresa Earle attended the previous meetings and complimented the design and the consideration of everyone’s opinions and feedback of the campus plan.

“I just want to say thank you, because it’s truly impressive,” Earle said. “I looked very closely at all the details of what people were saying and it’s clear that you pulled all of that in and a lot of different considerations into account.”

Earle attended the last three meetings and said she found it impressive seeing everything that was taken into consideration.

“They took everyone’s concerns and desires and tried to find a solution and encompassed all of what they received,” Earle said. “I am very excited for the students and the future and building truly a center of excellence for education in our community here that is well thought out, [based on] what the community wants and what the students need.”

After the campus plan gets approved, the district will hire a project architect to begin designing the first phase. 

“It continues to demonstrate our community support for our schools in the efforts that were made to ensure our students have a quality education,” Burgess said. “They will have a wonderful learning experience.

An attendee asked if there will be an art gallery designed into the campus plan.

“A concept like an art gallery can be incorporated in common areas and making sure our spaces are adaptable flexible, and serve more than one purpose,” Tapia said. “While there isn’t a specific art gallery, those opportunities are obtained in a lot of these projects.”

Parents and students also expressed concern over the current parking spots available. A faculty member said there will be 62 more parking spaces available with the new plan.

Faculty members brought to attention the process of updating buildings but also having buildings for students to use in the meantime.

“What we found [is] that this community really cares and are really engaged, so seeing this room of people that have actual feedback is really important,” Tapia said. “We are pushing and pulling and leading the process but the ideas come from the stakeholders, hearing all these comments [has] made the solution better.”

Tapia brought up photos of the last meeting where students and parents were able to decide which plan they liked better and what can be improved. Notes were left, such as taking advantage of the view of the ocean and respecting natural areas. 

“The goal is to really create a solution that is offered by the Malibu community,” Tapia said. “We, as the planners and architects, are here merely to guide that process but the solution really comes from this group and everyone has been a part of this.”