The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District will reenvision Malibu education for the 21st century, agreeing at a May 3 board meeting to combine Juan Cabrillo Elementary School and Point Dume Marine Science School, to consider the creation of a separate Malibu Middle School, and to reconstruct Malibu High School.

The board agreed to the alignment decision, with Carey Upton, Chief Operations Officer of SMMUSD, stating the school alignment would be beneficial to both the schools and the district. Reasons listed included opportunities for more course offerings due to increased population, greater collaboration between teachers and students (a key reason, with the advent of inquiry-based learning) due to a larger community, and decreased expenditures by eliminating one of two small schools (both schools operate with less than 200 students each).

Aligning the schools will include a process of procuring an architecture/engineering company to develop program needs, development of education specifications, and campus plans and phasing. A transportation plan will also be formed to assist with the disruption the elimination of Juan Cabrillo will create.

As far as staff realignment for Point Dume, Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said he and his staff will configure a “temporary leadership support” to make the move “amicable.” Once solidified, Drati said he will talk to staff and the community to get their feedback.

Alignment will also separate Malibu Middle School (MMS) from Malibu High School (MHS), placing the middle school on the soon to be vacant Juan Cabrillo campus. This will give MMS more operating freedom as well as free up space for the reimagined MHS.

The alignment is planned to begin in the 2019 school year.

As for MHS and it’s reimagining, the board agreed to suspend modernization and PCB abatement this summer and fall in order to set up its next steps for the MHS campus reimagining plan and funding.

The decision to suspend PCB abatement at MHS will still allow all court-ordered PCB removal to be completed by December 2019-19 and may allow for alternative options to complete the court order, such as requesting for the judge to modify the court order.

Suspending the PCB abatement may delay non-court ordered PCB removal of PCBs over 50 parts per million past January 2020. Upton said that although that delay may happen, his staff has performed extensive sampling and that all spaces are below exposure levels. “We are not placing students and staff in an unsafe situation,” Upton said.

Board member Oscar De La Torre supported the alignment, but expressed concern over PCBs. He acknowledged that while school spaces are safe, he’d like PCB data included in quarterly reports concerning the alignment and MHS modernization.

Public opinion was overwhelmingly positive for the alignment and Malibu High reimagining, with many Malibu public speakers and residents praising superintendent Dr. Drati and board member Craig Foster. One resident added, “[Malibu] haven’t felt listened to like this since Neil Schmidt.”

Foster, the lone Malibu resident on the SMMUSD board,  was effusive with his praise for all involved in reaching these decisions for Malibu.

“This is so beyond wonderful, I’m so excited about this,” Foster said. “This has been courageous in so many ways.” Foster went on to personally thank Dr.Drati for his involvement as well as staff for their  “long, long hours” and for sometimes “doing things outside of their job description” to work in getting a recommendation from the Board.