In a Dec. 9 School Board meeting, Facilities Improvement Projects staff shared a plan for using $98 million of measure SMS funding for a first round of renovations to Santa Monica elementary and middle schools.

The team proposed three major moves to provide new buildings at Rogers, McKinley, and Roosevelt elementary schools, two medium sized moves to improve facilities at Grant and Franklin elementary schools, and smaller improvements at John Adams and Lincoln middle schools.

The presentation was prepared after extensive research, site visits, stakeholder consultation, and community meetings. An action item will be prepared for the December 17, 2020 school board meeting when board members will vote on whether to approve the projects.

The plan allows the District to remove 24 portable classrooms, nine at McKinley, six at Roosevelt, six at Will Rogers, and three at Franklin. With the exception of Lincoln Middle School, all of the proposed projects will create more outdoor learning spaces.

“We wanted to respect the language that we had in the bond suggesting that we would remove aging portables, so that was a priority. We also focused on things that would have a direct student impact and direct student benefits, so some of the administration type upgrades were pushed down a little bit for right now,” said Judith Meiser, Santa Monica Facilities District Advisory Committee member. “We did decide to focus really on the Elementary schools because the middle schools received more recent work and the elementary schools have a lot of need.”

At McKinley Elementary School $29.49 million in improvements are proposed to create a new two story building adding classrooms and school support offices. Will Rogers Elementary would receive $22.8 million in improvements to create a new building for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten students and a new play yard and field. Roosevelt Elementary School was assigned $16.22 million in improvements for new PK, TK, and K classrooms and outdoor play areas.

At Grant Elementary School $8.15 million of renovations are proposed to renovate and expand the library, renovate the courtyard, and consolidate the Pre-K and Kindergarten classroom and yard spaces. At Franklin $9.3 million in improvements are proposed for a new maker space building and maker yard to enhance project based learning. Patio and outdoor classroom improvements are also proposed.

John Adams Middle School would receive $1.62 million to renovate the library and create a new outdoor deck. Lincoln Middle School would receive $840,000 to renovate and modernize bathrooms for special education students.

School Board members in general expressed approval of the plan as it maintained the District’s commitment to replacing portable classrooms and focused on projects with the greatest direct student impact.

“I think this report was really excellent and the amount of work that is reflected and the amount of process that is reflected is amazing,” said Board Member Laurie Lieberman.

Three members of the community called in and urged the Facilities Improvement Project team to focus more on adaptive reuse of historic buildings. These community members cited the scheduled demolition of the History building at Samohi as an example of poor conservation planning.

Board member Ralph Mechur pointed out that most of the projects would eliminate portable classrooms that are not historically significant, but suggested FIP staff include information on how much existing buildings will be altered in the next meeting’s action item.

“Maybe at this point to keep the community assured that we’re not damaging any historic infrastructure, relative to future thinking and learning it might be as simple as just laying out where we might need to do extra work and most of these projects probably don’t need that,” said Mechur.