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College Board Places Bond Measure on November Ballot
 

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By Jorge Casuso

June 9, 2022 -- The Santa Monica College (SMC) Board of Trustees on Tuesday placed a $375 million bond measure on the November ballot that, among other things, would finance new high-tech hybrid classrooms and help build housing for homeless and low-income students.

The measure, unanimously approved by the board, also would provide funding to update the school's out-dated career training facilities, build a new substation for its police force and upgrade the Veterans Success Center.

If approved by voters on November 8, homeowners in the district would pay an additional 2.5 cents per $100 of their property's assessed value, according to the proposed measure.

“The last few years have significantly altered the face of education at all levels,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery.

“In addition to longstanding inequities that can impede college access, an unpredictable pandemic and ongoing economic turmoil have added to the challenge of accessing affordable quality postsecondary education.

"We are committed to ensuring Santa Monica College has the capacity to meet the ever-changing educational needs of the communities we serve.”

The Career Training & Classroom Upgrade Measure addresses longstanding needs that shifted after the coronavirus shutdown radically changed the way classes are taught, SMC officials said.

"Facility inspections had previously identified a number of outdated campus buildings that needed to be replaced," school officials said in a press release issued Wednesday.

"However, after the sudden shift toward online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the college opted for a more streamlined, cost-effective plan to replace only a portion of the square footage slated for retirement."

As a result, a key element of the approved plan "focuses on building classrooms optimized for HyFlex learning," a model that combines flexible courses with hybrid learning, officials said.

The model allows students "to shift between in-person and online, with the flexibility to attend either at the scheduled class time or to participate later."

The bond would also provide funding to build housing for homeless and low-income students at the edge of SMC's Bundy campus across the LA border ("SMC Exploring Building Housing for Poor and Homeless Students," January 28, 2022).

“In the last year alone, average rent prices in the Westside area have increased 13.7 percent," said Chris Baca, chair of the Santa Monica College General Advisory Board and Executive Director of Meals on Wheels West.

"The passage of this measure would help SMC meet a crucial need within the community by providing on-campus housing specifically targeted for deserving, eligible, housing-insecure low-income students.”

College officials unveiled a proposal in January to build a 275-bed student housing facility on a surface parking lot that would "ideally (be) fully furnished with all utilities included."

The project would be bankrolled with matching funds from the $2 billion earmarked in the current State budget for housing grants for students in California's college and university systems.

SMC has identified 6,590 students who meet the qualifications for residency, officials said in January.

The bond would also raise funding to replace temporary classrooms and a half-century-old shop-lab building, house SMC's mental health and basic needs resource programs and expand the college’s overcrowded respiratory care program, officials said.

In addition, the measure would provide funding to create a centralized area for the Photography program, a centralized facility for housing and loaning equipment to students and a Fashion Design digital lab and fabrication space with industry-standard software tools.

“The most important work today -- for Santa Monica College and the community college system at large -- is to position ourselves to provide current and future students with the resources and opportunities they need to thrive,” said SMC Board Chair Dr. Louise Jaffe.

If approved, the bond measure would be the fifth SMC bond approved by Santa Monica and Malibu voters over the past two decades.

In 2002, Measure U, the $160 million bond, approved by 70 percent of Santa Monica-Malibu voters, and two years later, voters approved Measure S, a $135 million bond measure.

Measure AA, a $295 million bond measure passed in 2008, and Measure V, the $345 million bond measure passed in 2016.


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