The ceiling at Will Rogers Learning Community is in need of repair that could result in students being relocated while the work is done.

Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Chief Operations Officer Carey Upton told the Board of Education at their Feb. 16 meeting that the glue used to secure ceiling tiles at the school has begun to fail over the years, resulting in the tiles falling. 

Upton said they are difficult to reattach and added that the glue is from the 1950s and contains asbestos, a substance used in many construction projects at the time but now known to cause cancer and other health issues. While Upton said it poses no risk to students or staff at the school, it does complicate the situation.

“You cannot breathe it unless literally somebody took a hammer and smashed it and made it airborne, so it’s not dangerous or an exposure, but we have a real challenge with that,” Upton said. “At some point we’re going to need to go in and take everything off of the ceilings – fire alarms, lights, everything else – down, abate and replace those entire ceilings.” 

He said that this process will likely take longer than the ten weeks when students are out on summer break, meaning students would have to be relocated while the work is completed.

Because of this, Upton said such work will likely not occur until 2025, after the John Muir Elementary/Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH) campus is scheduled to reopen and a new building at Rogers will be completed, to provide “swing space” to temporarily relocate displaced students.

Will Rogers has an enrollment of approximately 545 students, close to 150 of which were transferred to the school last year from John Muir Elementary after extensive water intrusion issues were discovered on that campus. 

The Muir/SMASH campus was originally anticipated to reopen in August 2024, but that date has been pushed back to January 2025 at the earliest due to additional structural upgrades required by the state. 

Upton also reported multiple leaks at Rogers during recent rains and several other water-related issues at the school. 

He said that while the maintenance department is doing all it can to fix the issues, there is not currently enough money in the budget to fully address all of them.

“We will not be able to fix all of the roofs that are necessary to be fixed,” Carey said at the Feb. 16 Board meeting. 

He estimated there to be approximately $6 to $7 million dollars worth of “critical roof repair” needed throughout SMMUSD, but said the district currently only has $2 million available for such work. 

Upton said he plans to compile a list of necessary work to present to the board and that additional funding for maintenance and repairs could be included in future bond measures.

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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...