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Board majority shoots down MHS portables option

Chris Bashaw, Assistant Editor
3:10 pm PDT August 18, 2014

Member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education Oscar de la Torre pressured his colleagues at their meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 13, to look into the feasibility of placing portables on the Malibu High School campus pending PCB remediation.
“I know it’s not agendized and we can’t vote or make a decision today, but I would like to request – if the board supports – that we start looking into the feasibility of green portables,” he said.
The request seemed to fall on unwilling ears.
Board President Maria Leon-Vazquez said she was not in favor of placing portables on the campus, adding the action would be a diversion from the District’s plan with Environ to test and clean the school.
“I am not willing to divert from that plan because right now, that’s all we have,” she said. “You have to understand that we’re always going to have that struggle between various experts from each side, and at this point we only have the EPA and they’re [Malibu Unites] questioning the EPA.”
Board Vice President Ralph Mechur, however, said improvements planned for Malibu High School using Measure BB funds already mapped out the process of placing portables on the MHS campus. He also expressed hesitance, however,  to divert from the District’s established plan.
“We do need to complete the process that we’re in,” Mechur said. “All of the testing has been done and we’re waiting for the final results. We’ll have the complete package, but that needs to be sent to EPA for their comments.”
Board member Laurie Lieberman also expressed hesitance of her own, suggesting the District waits until its own test results are completed.
“Science is the key and if there’s any indication that we need to test further and look at bringing in green portables, I would absolutely support looking into that,” she said, “but until we know more, I would not support that yet . . . For now, I think we should stay the course.”
The notion to place students and faculty members in portables from rooms affected by the cancer-causing substance polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), hoever, is not de la Torre’s sole invention.
It stems from at least two letters submitted to SMMUSD in early June from Malibu Unites founder Jennifer deNicola, who writes in one, “Now is the time to order portable units for the middle school students for next school year. As we have said many times before, children should not be exposed to cancerous toxicants and classrooms that are in violation of federal law, until those rooms are remediated.”