NEW DIGS: PBL Pathway and Olympic High School Students will be among those attending class at the Santa Monica College Pico Classroom Complex when school resumes this fall. Courtesy photo

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is preparing to allocate $1 million toward renting a building on the Santa Monica College (SMC) campus, the latest expense attached to the John Muir Elementary/Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH) campus water intrusion project.

At its regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 11, the SMMUSD Board of Education will be asked to approve a two-year contract (with an optional extension) that would see the District pay SMC $500,000 per year to house several secondary school programs on its campus at 1900 Pico Boulevard.

“The District will have use of the Premises, including restrooms within the Premises and on the first floor of the College’s Drescher Hall; lease payments of $500,000 a year, which will include College-provided security services, facility maintenance, and custodial services,” according to a staff report prepared for the upcoming meeting. The lease agreement also includes 40 parking spaces. 

According to District staff, the SMC campus buildings — the Pico Classroom Complex — meet all safety requirements to house high school level students.

If approved, programs currently taking place on the Olympic High School/Obama Center campus will move to SMC: the Olympic High School Continuation Program, Project Based Learning Cohort, Off Campus Learning Center and Independent Study Hub. 

This will in turn make room for SMASH, a kindergarten through eighth grade program, to move into the current Olympic campus (at 721 Ocean Park Boulevard). Students who had been attending John Muir Elementary, the neighborhood school for the Ocean Park neighborhood, have been reassigned to other elementary schools around Santa Monica, with the majority heading to Will Rogers Elementary in Sunset Park. 

The reshuffle became necessary after the SMMUSD discovered major damage on the shared John Muir/SMASH campus earlier this year. A 131-page report commissioned by the District and released this past spring blamed a combination of “poor construction practices, age and exposure, deferred maintenance, and defective or inappropriate installation of materials, including during relatively recent repair or remediation work” for extensive damage leading to the removal of all students from the campus for at least the next two school years as issues are investigated and remediated.

Funding for the lease of the SMC campus buildings come out of Measure SMS funds approved by voters in 2018. Those funds are designated toward improving Santa Monica school facilities. But the funds will not come in the form of a check; rather, the school district will credit SMC on money it is paying to lease an SMMUSD property across town.

Because SMC currently leases the Madison Campus — previously home to Madison Elementary School and still owned by SMMUSD — the rental fee will take the form of a credit on SMC’s rental fee on the Madison Campus. SMC uses the Madison Campus for its music program, the Pete & Susan Barrett Art Gallery and the Broad Stage.