Grant Elementary School completes their newly built exterior wall, which faces Pearl Avenue. The wall was built to keep the students safe without distracting from the astetetics of the front of the school. (photo by Brandon Wise)

SMMUSD HDQTRS — Nearly four years after voters overwhelmingly approved Measure BB, a $268 million bond issue to repair and renovate public school facilities, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District students saw some of the first visible evidence of their parents’ dollars at work as they returned to school on Tuesday.

Several minor projects — campus entryway renovations at Grant and Will Rogers elementary schools, for example — were completed over the summer, and bigger projects at two of the district’s middle schools with a combined budget of $30.4 million were getting underway.

“It’s a really nice way to begin the year,” said Alan Friedenberg, principal at Grant Elementary, which received a $250,000 renovation. Will Rogers’ improvements cost $180,000.

The Grant project created a courtyard that both shelters students from Pearl Street and provides a more welcoming feel to the campus, he said. “It’s like having a front yard.”

It’s been so long since voters passed Measure BB, Friedenberg said, that some parents had forgotten it ever appeared on the ballot in 2006. Still, reviews of the renovation on Tuesday were positive nonetheless, he said.

The district’s director of facilities improvement, Stuart Sam, said Measure BB construction projects are moving along at the expected rate.

“You usually have a pretty good time lag between a bond program and when everything gets approved from the state,” he said. “You’ve got to go through an assessment of what the needs are and you’ve got to come up with a [construction] strategy.”

While two of the biggest components of the district’s Measure BB spending program — new facilities at Malibu and Santa Monica high schools — are still in the planning stages, improvements at Lincoln and John Adams middle schools are set to break ground within the next year.

Lincoln is slated to get a $17.5 million new two-story building that will house a library, classrooms and science lab facilities. JAMS is getting a $12.9 million makeover, with new classrooms, a renovated common area and new administrative offices included in the plan.

As students returned to campus on Tuesday, some classrooms, offices and Lincoln’s library had been relocated to portable facilities so that demolition can begin.

Construction is expected to begin by the end of the year at JAMS, and by next spring at Lincoln. Sam said both projects are expected to be completed within two years.

Also over the summer, the district completed a landscaping project at Olympic High School, installed a new fire alarm at Webster Elementary and finished a district-wide phone system upgrade, all funded through Measure BB.

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