Civic: The Civic Auditorium with Samohi visible in the background. Credit: Grace Adams

The potential pursuit of a major educational project will be at the forefront of Thursday’s Board of Education meeting.

The meeting will continue the much-discussed proposal of converting the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium into an athletic and theater facility for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. A feasibility study will be presented to the board on the project, which runs a construction budget of up to $138,830,104. Non-construction elements bring the total project cost to $226,570,000.

Currently, the Civic Auditorium is zoned for recreational use, and is also designated as a city landmark for historical preservation. However, the building that was built in 1958 has been closed since 2013, requiring seismic and accessibility upgrades, among other improvements, to be used safely.

After Santa Monica City Council voted to terminate negotiations on the Civic Auditorium property with the Community Corporation of Santa Monica, the school district came into focus as the lone bidder under the current Surplus Land Act process. The Auditorium, the district states, can be used as a gymnasium, theater and auditorium, concert venue, exhibit facility and banquet hall, among other uses.

While the Auditorium would free up space on Santa Monica High School’s main campus, reducing the cost and timeline of currently planned upgrades, comprehensive work would be needed for the building. Work would be needed throughout the interior, exterior and landscape to make the building fully compliant with the Division of the State Architect.

If the school board decides to pursue a bid for the Auditorium, City Council would have to agree on a sale, with negotiations uncertain due to the current price estimate only covering rehabilitation costs. The cost to acquire the project would add on to current estimates. The potential negotiations between the district and Council have become controversial, with some residents demanding the city reject the board’s offer.

Along with the feasibility presentation, several other items will be open for discussion during Thursday’s meeting. A brief public hearing will take place regarding negotiation proposals between the district and the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association (SMMCTA). This hearing will allow for public comment on collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the two parties.

Specific topics currently under negotiation include salary and additional compensation for teachers’ association members, as laid out in the district’s “sunshine” proposal. A “sunshine” proposal, shown within the board meeting agenda on the district website, announces an intent to negotiate with the teachers’ association.

The district proposal states that it will “consider fair and sustainable total compensation adjustments” for teachers “to address economic challenges and future obligations faced by the district.” Other topics on the table include leaves of absences as well as health and welfare benefits.

Two administrative appointments will be made at Thursday’s meeting, with a recommended motion to approve both a Director of Curriculum and Instruction, as well as a Director of Human Resources, effective as of Thursday.

The board will also hear a report from the Santa Monica Education Foundation, recapping their 2022-23 school year efforts and laying out goals for the 2023-24 year. The foundation raised $2,149,508 in its 2022-23 campaign, receiving contributions from 2,219 separate donors. The funds raised were 16% lower than 2021-22, a trend echoed by declining charitable giving throughout the United States. The foundation has a goal to raise $2,483,610 for the 2023-24 year, hoping to receive a 28% boost in individual donations.

Thomas Leffler has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from Penn State University and has been in the industry since 2015. Prior to working at SMDP, he was a writer for AccuWeather and managed...