School renovation projects go ‘green’

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Construction to begin at Malibu High on parking lot during summer time.

By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials provided school board members with background and updates on the Measure BB construction processes at area schools last Wednesday, including timetables on construction and efforts by the district to use sustainable building and small, local contractors in the construction process.

The $268 million bond passed by Santa Monica-Malibu voters in 2006 is funding school renovation and expansion projects in both Santa Monica and Malibu, including those at Malibu High School that add up to more than $30 million, providing for a new library, administrative offices, parking and athletic fields.

The construction efforts at the schools have been set in phases to minimize the inconvenience to the schools, said Virginia Hyatt, director of purchasing on the project. The construction on Malibu High School’s parking lot will break ground first, in the summer of 2009, when students are not on campus, followed by a second phase in the fall of 2010, but these time estimates could vary depending on how long it takes to finish the Environmental Impact Report and obtain a Coastal Development Permit.

The library and several classrooms will relocate to temporary units after construction begins.

“I can’t make that problem go away,” Hyatt said. “But we are working with the sites and trying to educate them about the challenges so they start to get an understanding of the sacrifices we need to make.”

“We plan on having the best effective educational program during construction but not spend extra money,” said Janece Maez, assistant superintendent, in regard to the impact on classes during the construction process.

At Malibu High School, the library and classes will relocate to temporary units, when phase two begins in the fall of 2010. Construction on all BB projects is slated to conclude by 2013.

Hyatt said the district, which is the second in the state to become a sustainably progressive, specifically selected contractors who had previous experience in sustainable construction and that the furniture and building materials selected for the sites will be as green friendly as possible. The district will also try to use low VOCs [volatile organic compounds] whenever possible, Hyatt added, to improve indoor air quality for students.

Board member Ralph Mechur, a Santa Monica based architect, has been helpful in helping the district find these contractors, Hyatt said.

At Malibu High School, the renovated campus will include day lighting, natural ventilation, a green roof and a rain garden, among other green improvements.

Board members questioned the possibility of not having sufficient funds in the bond to cover all project costs and having to scale back on the project. Hyatt said the district will try to deal with concerns of running out of money by having buildability reports to check the progress and ensure that the scope and budget do not change, which is particularly pertinent in the current financial environment.

A process for evaluating changes to the project has also been set up and includes required board approval. District officials said they have also actively pursued small businesses in the area for a chance to be part of the construction process at the different schools. Board member Oscar de la Torre, who served as the board president this past year, said he hoped the district could also utilize students in some way in the construction process.

New technologies, such as document cameras and wireless air slates, have already started to be put into place at district schools with bond money. Malibu is still waiting on some other construction to start before they implement them, but Bob Perry, a science teacher at Malibu High School, will be part of the five model classrooms to try out new technologies beginning in the summer 2009.

BB site committee members, who serve for each school site, voiced concern about a lack of a regular meeting schedule and said many meetings had been cancelled, leaving various committees in the dark about what was going on at other sites. School board members agreed that the committees should meet as a whole at a minimum at least once a month, in addition to keeping the board up to date on the process.