Malibu looks towards the future of their classrooms at this Thursday’s Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District board meeting. Specifically, Malibu High’s buildings; reimagining the school site as well as removing PCBs will be topics of discussion.

Reconstructing Malibu High

The district’s agenda states that “High school instruction has shifted dramatically in the past few decades,” naming inquiry-based learning and project-based learning as teaching concepts they’ll explore as the school and district “shifts into 21st century higher education learning.”

However, as modern and forward-thinking as the district wishes to be, Malibu High School itself was built in the 1960s as a junior high school.

The district has taken steps to modernize the campus, installing new flooring, upgrading classrooms, replacing windows and doors, all while removing PCBs.

In a previous SMMUSD board meeting, Carey Upton, Chief Operations Officer for the district’s maintenance and facilities, noted that while undergoing the modernization process, staff discovered more PCBs in more buildings and materials than initially discovered. The discovery led him and staff to ask the board to reimagine Malibu High with “more innovative teaching and learning space” while they address PCB abatement.

This week’s board meeting, staff will seek the board’s direction on several items in regards to Malibu High, including: replacing buildings in the school (main two-story, music, special education/shops, theater/kitchen, art, and old gym), determining the future of buildings added in the 1990s (high school building and new gym), looking at the arrangement of Malibu High and consider incorporating the Juan Cabrillo Elementary campus and sections of the Equestrian Park into new plans, and infrastructure to make the campus function more efficiently.

Staff notes that reimagining Malibu High will take both money and time, with the district currently considering placing a general obligation bond in a school facilities improvement district on the November 2018 ballot. As far as when the reimagining could be completed, staff will propose a process and timeline that will “clearly communicate the timeline to all stakeholders and measure expectations.”


While the modernization of Malibu High is discussed, PCB abatement at the campus remains.

At a previous school board meeting, staff was at a stalemate as to what to do with PCB removal while a possible replacement of buildings could happen via reconstructing the campus. Funding isn’t in place yet for a Malibu reimagining, but the district is racing against a court order’s clock to finish some form of PCB removal.

At an April 12 board meeting, staff presented the board with four options, continue modernization as planned, PCB-over-50 plan, court order-only plan, and a plan to pause and wait. Staff recommends not going with modernization as planned. This would have staff pause work until January 2019, however, leaving areas where PCBs are over 50 parts per million (ppm)unaddressed until late 2020.

Staff notes that PCBs over 50ppm “is not considered a health concern by the regulatory entities”, but could be frowned upon by staff and community members. Staff adds that all pre-1979 buildings are safe to occupy, having done extensive sampling inhalation and ingestion exposure pathways, with air and wipe samples “significantly below” health protective recognized by the EPA and the scientific community.

Other topics on the dais include a proposed Malibu Elementary school alignment (students from Juan Cabrillo Elementary School would be moved to Point Dume Marine Science School and a separate Malibu Middle School could be created), a review of polling results for a potential November general obligation bond, and revising district residency.