SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon addresses the media on Oct. 8 regarding concerns over environmental contaminants at Malibu High and Middle schools.  (Julie Ellerton/Malibu Times)

SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon addresses the media on Oct. 8 regarding concerns over environmental contaminants at Malibu High and Middle schools. (Julie Ellerton/Malibu Times)

MALIBU — Approximately 50 students at Malibu High School have enrolled in an independent study program since a health scare was reported at the school nearly two weeks ago, according to Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials.

Students were given the independent study option last week.

The students will be home-schooled and submit their work Fridays by 2:30 p.m., district officials told The Malibu Times, while the district continues to test environmental quality at the school.

Meanwhile, the Malibu Schools Environmental Task Force met for the first time Thursday to put together a game-plan as the school district evaluates health concerns. The group decided to immediately remove mold from a room at Juan Cabrillo Elementary and release the latest mold testing results from Malibu High.

A letter signed by 20 Malibu Middle and High School teachers on Oct. 11 expressed concern that the recent cancer diagnoses of three teachers and health problems experienced by other teachers — including three with thyroid problems, seven with persistent migraines, one with bladder cancer, among others — may be related to contaminants on the campus. Each of the affected teachers spent prolonged periods of time in buildings E (the main middle school building), F (Music and Drama), I (Visual Arts) and the school theater.

Classes in the possibly contaminated buildings have since been relocated to Malibu Methodist Church and Juan Cabrillo.

Superintendent Sandra Lyon called the task force meeting “productive and successful” in a statement released Friday. A group of 13 reps including teachers, students, parents, city officials and school staff convened at Malibu High with Lyon, district Chief Financial Officer Jan Maez and environmental consultant Mark Katchen, who has been retained by the school district.

Lyon outline the group’s overall goals as:

• Immediate action will be taken to:

1) Remove visible mold in Room 12 at Juan Cabrillo Elementary School;

2) Release the report of the latest mold sampling at MHS;

3) Post the asbestos management plan for MHS and Juan Cabrillo.

• The testing protocols must yield scientifically solid, reliable data that will guide proper conclusions and any necessary action.

• There is a tremendous sense of urgency to gather data, and answer questions and concerns, but the task force agreed that adequate time must be provided to ensure the process is inclusive of community input.

• Fact sheets will be developed in response to community questions, in both English and Spanish and posted to: smmusd.org/PublicNotices/Malibu.html.

Public comments and questions can be sent into mhsfaq@smmusd.org.

The task force is scheduled to meet next Thursday, Oct. 24 at 10 a.m. and “continue to meet weekly as necessary.”

Katchen also met with staff at Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo earlier this week for a walk-through.

“Additionally, he is reviewing all technical reports … to advise future testing and to address community concerns,” Lyon said.

The district plans on cooperating with a group of Malibu parents that has hired its own consultant for input on the environmental quality of the schools.

 

editor@smdp.com

 

Knowles Adkisson contributed to this report. This article was formulated based on reports from the Malibu Times.

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