Parents and school leaders were waiting with bated breath on Thursday as the possibility of an agreement to separate Malibu from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) appeared to be close.

Negotiators from each of the two communities have been meeting to hash out the financial terms of a long anticipated school district schism on and off since 2015. It has been more than a decade since the Malibu community began rallying behind the goal of creating its own independent school district.

Malibu City Council is meeting in closed session on Friday morning to receive an update on the separation negotiations. The hearing follows a similar discussion that took place behind closed doors with the SMMUSD Board of Education last week. 

Details from closed session items are protected, but a spokesperson for the District confirmed the two sides were continuing to work toward a final agreement.

“Our [SMMUSD] Board reviewed an update regarding the status of mediation and meetings and now the City of Malibu is trying to, presumably, hear the same information, and based on that, there may be a joint press release on Friday with an update,” SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker said Wednesday.

The back-to-back closed door meetings come days ahead of the next county-level meeting where the two sides will have the opportunity to share an update on the separation negotiations, with the possibility of moving the process forward for eventual approval at the state level. For months, an item offering an update on the separation talks has appeared on each agenda of the LA County Office of Education Committee on School District Organization, but no material update has been offered since 2021.

Financial terms have proven to be the sticking point between the two sides; each side has accused the other of not acting in good faith when it came to the negotiations.

The latest developments are far from the only time the two sides seemed poised to come to an agreement; earlier in 2022, the Daily Press was able to confirm the existence of a settlement document entitled SMMUSD and Malibu Settlement Terms of April 2, 2022, but that document never saw the light of day. Back in 2017, a previous version of the negotiation team, called the MUNC (Malibu Unification Negotiations Committee) also seemed close to an agreement before that too fell through. 

Malibu City Council is set to meet in closed session at 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 28.

The LACOE Committee is scheduled to host its monthly public hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 2. The Nov. 2 agenda was not yet available, but the LACOE Committee’s hearings generally begin at 9:30 a.m.

emily@smdp.com