SAMOHI — Santa Monica High School students returned from winter break Wednesday to find work begun on a $55 million science and technology building that promises to consolidate and modernize science education on campus.

The construction will force changes in how parents, students and teachers access the campus, a challenge that students active in the Bike It! Walk It! alternative transportation campaigns are helping to mitigate.

The project involves removing existing science and technology buildings and replacing them with a single, modernized facility which will house 15 science labs, eight classrooms, a computer lab, two special education classrooms, an auto shop and administrative offices.

At the same time, a Centennial Plaza will be built in honor of Samohi’s 100-year history in the community, and will create a gathering place for students.

The new building will take the place of an existing softball field. It’s expected to be finished in 2013, at which point workers will begin on a new softball field adjacent to the building.

The construction will take its toll on campus access, prohibiting loading along the Seventh Court alley and Michigan Avenue, which will become a bicycle access lane from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Parents can drop their students off on Seventh Street between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., according to a release by the school.

Students who drive to campus will find it a bit more difficult to find a parking space. According to the district, neither students nor visitors will be able to park on campus during school hours.

It’s a challenge that co-presidents Charlotte Biren and Jenna Perelman and the rest of the Santa Monica High School Solar Alliance have been working to tackle since city and school officials welcomed them into the planning several months ago.

The team plans to reach out to students through social media to let them know about the changes on campus, and encourage them to carpool, walk or bike to campus to avoid congestion and parking problems.

“We will be hitting Facebook tonight in efforts to inform students about what is happening,” Biren said in an e-mail Tuesday. “I have a feeling that some students still will not be aware that these large changes are here! They are not part of a future scheme anymore.”

Teachers will be impacted by the construction, but the district took steps to secure 100 parking spaces from City Hall in the Civic Center Parking Structure for $82.50 per month.

That’s the going rate for monthly passes, said Don Patterson, City Hall’s business and revenue operations manager.

The construction is funded with a $268 million facilities bond, Measure BB, which Santa Monica voters passed in 2006 to pay for construction and improvement projects within the district.

The science and technology building is one of a raft of changes that are anticipated for the campus between now and 2016.

The remainder is part of a joint-use project with City Hall, which will take place in three phases dependent on funding. The first includes the new football and soccer field, which was installed over the summer in time for football season in the 2011-12 school year.

ashley@smdp.com

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