Malibu High School community comes together for topping-out ceremony

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On Thursday, March 21, Malibu High School staff, students and members of the Malibu community attended the last steel topping-out ceremony for the new Malibu High School. Photos by Samantha Bravo/TMT

The highest beam on the new facility is put in place before an appreciative crowd 

A significant milestone was celebrated at the construction site of the new Malibu High School. A topping-out ceremony was held as part of a construction tradition that dates back to ancient Scandinavian times. The topping-out ceremony celebrates the uppermost steel beam being placed at its highest point in a structure. 

Just five months after initial groundbreaking the topping-out ceremony was held last Thursday before the Malibu High School community and supporters who signed the steel beam before it was hoisted by crane to its loftiest spot at the new Malibu High School.

As is tradition, an evergreen tree, once used to appease spirits and to signal to builders when the wood frame was dried and cured, as well as an American flag, were attached to the beam on its ascent.

Students, teachers, parents, Malibu officials, and school district representatives came to the ceremony to witness the progress at the building site of the new campus. It will include 70,000 square feet of general, art, and special education classrooms; science, technology, engineering, and math classrooms; campus food services, including the kitchen and high school eating area; and a library and space for high school administrators. The campus plan envisions a student eating area that will take advantage of Pacific Ocean views under double-height commons and a flexible and inclusive space that flows to the outside.

Malibu Middle School will be a completely separate campus next door upon completion which officials hope will be for the 2025-26 school year if all goes smoothly.

Carey Upton, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Chief Operations Officer oversees buildings.

“This is such a great milestone. We’ve been waiting so long for this building and what we can do with the Malibu campus,” Upton said. “Building a new space that’s uniquely for this population of students will provide them with a great, comprehensive high school. 

“Many may remember originally the campus was a middle school and we added the high school students. They used to go to Santa Monica High. This is the first building being built specifically to teach high school. This is a state-of-the-art building for educational purposes. Not only in its structure and in its look, but in the educational program it delivers. We wanted to make sure it fits in its environment.”  

Upton touted the building’s use of solar panels and a special water system. 

“It’s a really special day to get the beam on and have the community together again,” SMMUSD School Board member Stacy Rouse commented. “We haven’t been together like this since the dedication a few months ago.”

One special attendee was Dr. Mike Matthews, MHS’s first and longest-tenured principal, who served from 1993 to 2004. 

“We built a lot of new buildings when I was here, the pool and the gym, but we always knew newer facilities were needed,” he said. “To watch this new high school building going up is a fantastic feeling.” Matthews described his time leading MHS as “magical.” 

Matthews is now retired after serving as superintendent of schools in Manhattan Beach and then in Orange County, but called MHS “my home forever. I love this place.”

Malibu parent and former school board member Craig Foster said, “It’s amazing to see all this hard work and so many people coming together. I can’t wait to see the kids in the actual space. That’s really going to be wonderful.”

SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Antonio Shelton commented, “This is an historic moment for the Malibu community because we are doing probably what should have been done a long time ago, prioritizing our community here in Malibu. I think the voters said what they wanted and we are producing that, a high school that’s state-of-the-art that will allow our students and teachers to have the instructional space that’s necessary for them to be productive. The building just facilitates that.” 

Seventeen-year-old MHS senior and ASB President Felix de Raspide Ross was enthusiastic about the new campus even though he said, “I won’t be able to enjoy it, but it’s worth celebrating. A building is just a building. More concrete, more classrooms will not bring to that building more value. It may bring more monetary value, but it will not bring it more value because a place is only a place until people step foot on it. It’s the people, the culture, the energy, the laughter, that will bring this building value. It’s by loving our school today that students will love it tomorrow.”