Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District leaders joined local parents, staff and students for an hours-long study session Thursday that featured more than 50 public comments and detailed Santa Monica High School’s construction plans.

No vote was taken by SMMUSD’s Board of Education after Thursday night’s discussion since it was only on the agenda as a study session that sought to allow the district’s facility team an opportunity to provide an update on the Discovery Building, History Building, and Campus Plan progress as a whole. However, by the end of the meeting, SMMUSD’s board unanimously and passionately agreed that construction should continue as planned so students have all the tools they need when they return to classes in the future.

In total, 54 students, parents and SMMUSD staff members voiced their support for a need to continue forward with the campus plan that calls for the demolition of the school’s 85-year-old History Building, which community members have called on the district to save.

Councilwoman Gleam Davis, who spoke in a personal capacity Thursday, said during public comment that she was shocked to see the vicious attacks on duly elected board members.

“As a city council member, I understand that this community is passionate about preserving our built history but you were elected to preserve education for our students. I implore you not to be distracted from your mission of education,” Davis added.

Board Member Craig Foster agreed later when he said, “I am committed that this continues to evolve forward.”

Foster summarized the district’s construction efforts as an attempt to create engagement and relevance after hearing local teachers share how many of the building’s classrooms are no longer suitable for learning.

“What if we said our plan was to teach kids in an unengaging, irrelevant way?” Foster said. “Well, guess what? That’s what the public schools (and) that’s what conventional schools have been doing for 150 years in this country. And it was never designed to be relevant or engaging. It was designed to turn farmers into factory workers and soldiers… so the whole thing is bankrupt.”

Foster thanked Carey Upton, the district’s COO, and the facilities team for their efforts because he sees there is power in providing students with classrooms that are fit for the 21st century.

“I think we shouldn’t make a mistake in thinking this is optional,” Foster added, “because what schools have done for 200 years has been growing obsolete at a ferocious pace. You know, they did research in the 1990s to see how much education has changed since the 1890s… And the conclusion was shocking, not because they said it hadn’t changed much from 1890 to 1990 — the shocking conclusion was it hadn’t changed at all — even though the world has changed a hell of a lot since 1990.”

On Friday, Board President Jon Kean thanked the students, parents and educators who attended the 5-hour meeting to share their opinions.

“The residents of Santa Monica and Malibu had their voices heard loud and clear by the board at the Thursday board meeting, and over 90% of the comments supported the important work that SMMUSD is doing to upgrade campuses and curriculum with an eye toward engagement, equity, and achievement for all,” Kean said. “The board serves our community and our community made it crystal clear that they truly believe in education as the greatest path toward a better future for our world.”

brennon@smdp.com