District Releases Plans for New MMS Building

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GrowthPoint Building

Response is positive so far to plans for a new Malibu Middle School building to be constructed at the Malibu High School campus.  The design of the new building was unveiled Thursday night at a meeting of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education meeting held at Malibu City Hall.

The embattled middle school “Building E,” as it is often referred, was cleared for renovation in 2006 with the passage of Measure BB, the $268 million bond measure, and more improvements with Measure ES ($385 million) in 2012, but those plans were stalled first with neighborhood disagreements and then the discovery in 2013 of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), building materials that are linked to cancer.

The proposed new building will completely replace the 51-year-old structure that was cleared by the district and the Environmental Protection Agency of PCBs, but not enough to satisfy the requirements of some parents who pulled their children from the school.

The plan calls for a modern looking two-story structure built from shipping containers by a company called GrowthPoint. It will consist of 12, rather than the 10 previous classrooms, with bathrooms on both floors and an elevator.  All the classrooms will face the quad.

SMMUSD Chief Operations Officer Carey Upton calls the new building “clean, efficient and an improvement to the learning environment. 

“It’s well-designed, sustainable and affordable,” he said, adding, “It adds 21st century classroom technology.  We are remaking it for generations of Malibu students.”

School board member Craig Foster said he was pleased with the plan.

“It’s really exciting to get this new construction, finally,” Foster said. “The new library and administrative building is going to be great, too. This gives us a brand new building across the quad, which is going to revitalize that whole section of the campus. That’s so much better than doing a major facelift on that old Building E, which none of us would ever forget what it symbolized.”

Foster also praised the school district for its work bringing the idea to life.

“The school district did a great job of reaching out to the community above and beyond what it was required to do to get feedback from anybody who had any concerns or who felt like the building intruded on them,” he said. “No one came forward.  There were story poles up, cards mailed out… Hopefully anyone who might have been intruded on had the opportunity to see the plan and everybody who came Thursday thought it was a great idea. I think it’s super positive. I’m happy.”

Foster added that he thinks the final approvals will allow for demolition of the building to be done over the summer,WW saying, “It’s better if kids are not around.” 

Upton also described why the district chose the modern structure.

“The benefit of a GrowthPoint structure is that the building is pre-designed and pre-approved by the Division of State Architects,” Upton said. “The other benefit is that, because it is modular and pre-constructed, the construction time on campus is reduced.” He also added the price was right. “The cost of the GrowthPoint structure was only a bit more than the planned modernization with new doors and windows.  The timing was as fast as our modernization.  It was important based on our agreed-upon timeline with the court that we move quickly.  Compared with other modular and standard design build construction, the GrowthPoint structure was the right choice.”

Even with these benefits, school construction takes time, and even more so for a two-story building.  Once all the approvals, including the Coastal Commission’s (scheduled for April), come through, demolition could happen this summer and take roughly four months. Then once construction begins the building could be ready for the 2018-19 school year.

Currently, the middle school building is unoccupied, along with the library and administration building that is also scheduled for demolition.  The middle school classrooms are now in portable units on the campus blacktop and at neighboring Juan Cabrillo Elementary School.

“We did that in anticipation of the project starting over the summer and to eliminate concerns by parents and staff regarding the condition of the building and the potential of having PCBs in that building,” SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker explained. Pinsker summed it up telling The Malibu Times, “This is the preferred option by parents and teachers who don’t want to occupy that building.”