Overview:

While the announcement last week that the reopening of the John Muir Elementary and Santa Monica Alternative School House campus will be delayed by up to a year came as a disappointment to students an

While the announcement last week that the reopening of the John Muir Elementary and Santa Monica Alternative School House campus will be delayed by up to a year came as a disappointment to students and parents eager to return, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) officials say it is for good reason.

“We have decided to incorporate a full structural upgrade to the current code as a part of that project,” SMMUSD Deputy Bond Program Manager Kevin Klaus told the Board of Education at their Jan 19 meeting.

This means the campus’s four buildings, which were built in 1995, will all be retrofitted to be in line with current structural codes, in addition to work to address the water damage that caused the campus’s closure in May 2021.

Klaus said the decision to undergo this structural work came after meetings with the Division of the State Architect (DSA) – the body responsible for approving such projects – during which the District was informed that the work they intended to do at the site could not be considered “maintenance” but must instead be treated as a construction project. This designation has additional implications for the project, Klaus told the Board.

“One of the main implications of DSA not considering the work we are doing to be maintenance is this is going to count toward a threshold where they will impose other code implications,” he said.

He explained that once construction work done to a building reaches a cost that is above 50% of DSA’s estimated cost to replace that building, it must include additional upgrades. While the project is currently below that threshold, Klaus said District Staff believe it is best to make the upgrades now to avoid the possibility of having to go back and do it in case future work on the campus pushes costs past the 50% mark.

“The project scope already lends itself to incorporating this upgrade…” he said. “We’re already removing all of the stucco and exposing all of the shear walls and the improvements may mean replacing some of that plywood or doing a nailing pattern that’s closer together or more modern, but the work is exposed and it makes sense to do it now.”

He added that the decision is the result of careful consideration and that the upgrades will be beneficial for the campus.

“We had a lot of talks about this and we just believe this is the right thing to do,” Klaus said. “It improves the structural safety of the buildings and district staff just believe it’s the right thing to do.”

At DSA’s recommendation and to help minimize the delay, Klaus said the District plans to submit separate proposals for work at each building.

“Some of these buildings have fewer issues and the design to remediate them is more straightforward, so those submittals will go to DSA first with the expectation that they will come back first,” he said. “Then we can bid the work and we can start construction in those areas while other buildings with more complex problems and more detailed remediation requirements are still in the DSA process.”

Even with this plan, the start of construction will be delayed from April to August of 2023 at the earliest, with an earliest possible completion date of December 2024 rather than July, as previously estimated. This means the campus will not reopen for students until January 2025 at the earliest and August 2025 at the latest – a full year later than originally anticipated.

grace@smdp.com

Grace Adams

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...