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The strong gusts blowing last Friday were apropos for where Malibu finds itself in the modernization of its middle school/high school campus.
By all accounts, the wind is in the city’s sails.
While students and staff have been using the new building housing administration, the library, classrooms and labs since April, a socially distanced gathering on May 21 was intended as the official grand opening of the state-of-the facility off Morning View Drive. The new building, replacing the old library and administration buildings, has a grand entrance to greet students and visitors, office space for the principals and support staff, three state-of-the-art science rooms, a media lab, computer lab and classrooms.
Officials say the main feature is the expansive library and media center.
“All of you from Malibu know how incredibly difficult it is to navigate all the things that it takes to make something that the community can accept as appropriate,” Craig Foster, Malibu’s lone representative on Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education told the 100 or so students, city and district officials, and contractor representatives on hand for the outdoor event.
“We’re all working together to get that done … We’re here to be a model for our kids.”
The building and the stuff inside are there, Foster said, “for the kind of education our kids need to prosper in the future.” That includes “furniture that turns into islands” and spaces “designed for the kind of work that kids need to do to prepare themselves for the workplace.”
Malibu City Council member Karen Farrer started her remarks by reminding the crowd of the recent past.
“In light of the challenges of the past 15 months, the coronavirus pandemic, the isolation, the suffering, the loss, the fear, and the uncertainty it has brought, I’m sure everyone here is very thankful for this day,” she said. “The fact that we’re all here together in person, celebrating the completion of a very major, outstanding and long awaited new school building is remarkable.”
“Please join me in welcoming the next chapter of Malibu,” Farrer said.
MHS Principal Patrick Miller also spoke, saying, “The breadth of programs that we’re able to offer in a small-school setting makes this a great place.”
‘What I have not always been able to highlight is our physical plant, our facilities,” Miller said.
That all changed, first with the opening of the new middle school building and “the boat.”
“These two buildings are a step toward a bright future in regards to a facility that better matches the high levels of learning and care that our students benefit from every day and that our staff work to ensure happens every single day.”
Staff occupied the buildings in January, he said, with students there since April.
“It is important to note that we are using these classrooms and kids are in classrooms learning in person, which is the exception in California and L.A. County.”
Activities this day included a chamber concert performed by students and a ribbon cutting with SMMUSD Superintendent Ben Drati wielding a giant pair of not-so-cooperative scissors.
But the new building was the star of the show, and Surfside News got to take a tour with someone who knows it and its predecessor well, Sarah Green, a senior at MHS who will be heading to the University of Washington in the fall.
“I've been going to Malibu High since sixth grade,” she said. “I’ve grown up alot and MHS has too. I think it will be a good thing.”
The new building features a spacious career and college counseling center, rooms where students can work on multimedia projects, a library that’s large — way better than the portable that Green said students had been using for years — and there’s even a cafe.
“Once we’re able to eat inside, people will be able to eat there,” Green said.
Parents even have their own space.
“The idea is all sorts of meetings and conferences, different outreach programs,” said Green.
As for those “island” tables that Foster mentioned, Green showed visitors how they work. Their shape and the fact they roll allow for rows of connected tables and chairs; rows of tables separated from one another; and face-to-face arrangements.
All of the tables can accommodate wheelchairs and some even rise high enough to allow students to work standing or sitting in tall chairs.
The building design affords a lot of natural light to come in.
Green said she was happy to be back in class after what students went through during the pandemic.
“I never thought I would be homeschooled or take classes online,” she said. “I’m not good with the computer, so it was challenging for me.”
The teachers handled it well, she added, and were easy to communicate with.
“But I wouldn’t do it again,” she said with a laugh.
“Once is enough.”