MALIBU—On May 3, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District adopted plans for the “Malibu Pathway,” which impacts the future of schools in Malibu with the merging of Juan Cabrillo and Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School starting in the 2019-2020 school year. Dr. Pam Herkner, the current principal at Juan Cabrillo will be the supervising principal for both schools starting July 1, 2018

According to the city of Malibu website, others changes include the establishment of a Malibu Middle School campus, separate from Malibu High School; Reconstruction of Malibu High School; Formation of a Malibu School Facilities Improvement District (SFID) to be funded through a school bond that could be placed on the November 2018 ballot; Hiring of a Director of Malibu Pathway, a newly created position to oversee district functions in Malibu, effective July 1, 2018.

SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati revealed the decisions for Malibu schools in an email to the Malibu residents and the community on Saturday, June 2. In the letter Drati states, “As you know, we have been exploring ways to realign the Malibu Pathway schools. My goal is to increase the learning potential for our children and to enhance and expand positive and stimulating educational experiences, always with an eye toward preparing our students for optimal college and career readiness. With all this in mind, I believe it is time that we adapt our Malibu schools to better support expanded collaborative inquiry and project-based experiences; fully embracing 21st-century learning.”

“There is general agreement that Malibu High School is in much need of facilities improvement and replacement due to the age and inefficiency of the current facilities and because of the need for facilities that better support modern learning modalities.  On May 3rd, and including consideration of a unanimous recommendation from the Malibu Facilities Advisory Committee (M-FDAC), the school board unanimously supported the reconstruction of Malibu High School. To prevent costly remediation of buildings designated for imminent replacement, the school board has suspended the MHS “Windows, Paint, Floors, and Doors” upgrades and hazardous material abatement project. This change in plans will postpone our intended remediation schedule and thus we are in consultation with America Unites and plan to soon announce a mutually agreed expanded set of protocols and standards,” said Drati in the letter.

Drati indicates that facility changes will require funding, and the school board approved a resolution to form a Malibu School Facilities Improvement District (SFID) that is expected to be funded from a school bond that could appear on the November 2018 ballot.

“A bond issued through this SFID would be for Malibu exclusively — every single dollar raised by this SFID must be spent in Malibu. Although the SMMUSD board has yet to vote for a district wide SFID or a Santa Monica and Malibu only SFID’s, the potential for both is now available to the district,” said Drati.

In November 2017, board members of the SMMUSD rejected a proposal that would separate the Malibu and Santa Monica school districts. Malibu parents and faculty wanted to leave the unified district, arguing that their district would get a financial boost from not having to spread its wealth with Santa Monica schools and to gain local control of their own schools.

The argument for financial gain was reportedly used in defense of keeping the school district whole. An independent consultant was brought forward to compare different separation plans. Each plan elaborated upon ended in similar results; based on the data, there was no way the Santa Monica schools would benefit from the separation. While funding for Malibu schools would skyrocket, funding for Santa Monica schools would fall. As a result, school board leaders gave the Malibu separation supporters a final choice: continue giving funding to Santa Monica schools for 50 years and divide the districts, or remain part of the unified district indefinitely.

The District created a Malibu Pathway section on its “Let’s Talk” web portal where community members can offer their feedback on plans for Malibu schools. The school board unanimously agreed to hire Isaac Burgess as director of Malibu Pathway, a newly created position to supervise district functions in Malibu, support Malibu school sites, and serve as a connection to the superintendent and district departments to ensure the necessities of Malibu-area schools.  Burgess is expected to start his new position on July 1.