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  • Bea Nemlaha

School District's Civic Plan "Ill-Advised" and "Risky"

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

By Bea Nemlaha: 8.15.23 Santa Monica Lookout

As supporters of public schools, we believe our School District’s attempt to acquire the Santa Monica Civic for use primarily as a gym is ill-advised and could expose the District to significant financial risks; risks that would be borne by students, teachers, every other school in the District, and ultimately all Santa Monica residents.

The District’s ($330,000) feasibility study admits the cost to convert the Civic could be as high as $227 million ("School District Releases Plans for Civic Auditorium," August 11, 2023).

And we know this number will be considerably higher since it doesn’t even include the potentially tens of millions of dollars to buy the Civic from the City, or the near certain cost overruns all too familiar with School District projects.

The District will also try to morph itself into a landlord/events manager, as it hopes to rent out their new gym for concerts and other events to help defray its costs.

Inevitably, residents will be asked to pay for this adventure with a bond measure.

We believe the District has more pressing needs than building a very costly gym at its high school. And we think the District’s own website would agree with us.

From the District’s website:

“The Santa Monica/Malibu Unified District has... a significant need to repair, modernize and replace old structures, many of which are over 80 years old, to create learning environments that meet today’s educational and safety standards.

Additional funding is needed at all sites to continue our progress toward improving our schools:

  • Improve security and safety on each campus, including systems that deter active shooters.

  • Repair leaky roofs, deteriorating electrical and plumbing infrastructure and add air conditioning where still needed.

  • Repair, add and upgrade restrooms.

  • Replace old portable classrooms that have far surpassed their anticipated life with permanent classrooms that meet today’s safety and learning standards and are energy efficient.

  • Construct more science, technology, engineering, arts and math labs, and upgrade classrooms. and outdoor learning areas to support 21st-century, collaborative and project-based teaching and learning.

  • Modernize outdated classrooms to create 21st-century learning environments for all students.

  • Improve playgrounds to increase safety and access.”

You’ll note that none of these critical new projects include building one gym for one school, at a price of $200 million.

You’ll also note the District thinks additional funding is currently needed at EVERY ONE of their other schools.

The needs of our school district are breathtaking. The School District meets Thursday evening August 17 to discuss acquiring the Civic. If you agree they should not be using its scarce funds to buy and convert the Civic into a gym, please let them know.

Bea Nemlaha is a member of the Save the Civic Steering Committee and a founding member of the Santa Monica Conservancy

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