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Published on September 29th, 2011 | by Staff 12-13


Construction affects students and staff at Samo

NEW TURF: Samo's field has been demolished to make way for a new synthetic turf field, which, when completed, will look like this. (Courtesy of Catherine Baxter)

Amancai Biraben, Molly Chaikin and Sam Reamer
Staff Writers

The buzzing and grating of heavy construction trucks met Samo students on their first day this year. This construction project — which is converting the grass football field to a synthetic turf field — is the first of many that will transform the campus in the coming 25 years. The next project will be a new combined Science and Technology building that will begin next month on the softball field.

“Although current seniors will not be able to witness all the planned changes, the fact that they are supporting us is great,” Athletic Director Daniel Escalera said.

In 2007, SMMUSD began planning to construct a synthetic turf field at Samo that could be used by the community and multiple sports teams. With help from the Civic Center Joint-Use Project, a project proposed to use funds from the Redevelopment Agency Act (RDA) and District property, installation of the $1.5 million synthetic turf began in July. The grand opening will be held on Oct. 27, 2011.

While the renovations will affect the entire school, Samo sports teams are adjusting to changes in their practice routines. Sophomore varsity football player, Denicio Gonzales-Drake, is very enthusiastic about the new field.

“I like the way artificial grass tickles my feet. It makes me feel invincible,” Gonzales-Drake said.

According to Escalera, the new field has many different features. For example, the advanced field also provides a system to remove up to 1 million gallons of rainwater and drain it. It then goes into a system of tubes that collect into a cistern where the water is then released into the city water reclamation system.

Many teachers, such as Band Director, Terry Sakow, believe that the flatter turf field will help reduce student injuries. According to Sakow, the new field will directly effect Marching Band in a positive way.

“There won’t be any holes to accidentally step into and there will be no mud after a rainy day,” Sakow said.

Students and staff alike feel that the synthetic turf field will have many benefits, however, there may be certain aspects of the old field that will be missed.

“There’s some nostalgia [with the new field],” Escalera said. “I am a little bit sad. It’s nice to step on a field of fresh green grass on the first day of practice.”

Samo junior Jessie Espera is more concerned with the effect the construction will have on Samo athletes.

LOOKING AHEAD: This is a digital representation of what Samo's campus will look like after the construction is completed. (

“I think [the construction] is taking too long,” Espera said. “It should have started earlier in the summer so that the football team could play on the football field, and cross country could run on the track.”

New Samo Principal Laurel Fretz is also aware of the difficulties that the construction will present throughout the next few years.

“Now the athletes have to go up to JAMS or a park or some other place to practice,” Fretz said. “It’s a different kind of inconvenience.”

The construction on the field is only the beginning. Starting in November, construction will begin on a new combined Science and Technology building, which according to Fretz, will be built on what is currently the softball field. This will allow students to remain in the current Science and Technology classrooms while the new building is constructed.

According to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, (SMMUSD), the new Science and Technology building will consist of 18 classrooms, 15 science labs, one computer lab, two special education classrooms, one auto shop and I-House administrative offices. After the building is finished, the current ones will be demolished.

As part of the Science and Technology project, the northwest parking lot will be reconfigured (a portion rebuilt and a portion resurfaced).

The funding for this construction comes from Measure BB, passed on Nov. 7, 2006. The $268 million generated from measure BB is specifically designated for construction over the next 25 years.

“Santa Monica and Malibu have always been supportive of our efforts in bettering the [SMMUSD] schools,” I-House Principal Renée Semik said. “They will be supportive of renovations that bring us into the 21st and 22nd century.”

As this construction begins, staff and students alike are beginning to prepare for the changes it will bring. Latin teacher Luke Henderson is looking forward to the results. However, he is not necessarily looking forward to the process because his classroom is very close to the North Lot construction site.

“Since listening and speaking are fundamental to learning a language, construction noise will likely make it harder for students to develop those skills,” Henderson said.

Despite this negative aspect of construction, Escalera is hopeful that the renovations will be worth the trouble.

“It’s kind of like redoing the floors in your home- it’s not fun, but it’s beautiful once it’s done,” Escalera said.

According to Fretz, Samo’s campus will keep some of its more recognizable features, and blend them with the new additions.

“It’s going to be a nice balance of old and new,” Fretz said. “It will preserve those things that people hold dear as far as tradition, but also make use of things that will make it a great place to learn.”

According to Dean of Students Catherine Baxter, Barnum Hall, the History Building, the English building and the Greek Theater can only be renovated, but not moved or reconstructed because of their historical significance.

“I walked on the field the other day and I felt the crunching under my feet. All I could think was, ‘wow.’” Baxter said. “We deserve an exceptional Samohi for the next century.” 

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