Mia Lopez-Zubiri and Sam Reamer
Though Samo families were notified during winter break that the school’s main entrance, the 6th Street and Pico Boulevard gate, would be closed for the rest of the year, many still found out for the first time when school resumed on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. According to a sign posted on the gate, the gate is closed due to construction.
Because the 6th and Pico gate is closed, the school’s new main entrance is now the 7th Street and Michigan Avenue gate. Another, smaller gate has been opened at 7th Street and Pico Boulevard.
According to S-House principal Jason Kurtenbach, the 6th and Pico gate was closed in order to create a more organized and safe school during the construction.
“The original intent was to create a more secure environment, given the fact that we’re going to have so many people going in and out,” Kurtenbach said. “We wanted to limit the amount of gates we had to cover both for delivery, construction and students.”
According to Kurtenbach, another reason the 6th and Pico gate was closed is because the gate requires extra security to facilitate morning drop offs.
“Sixth and Pico has always been a really dangerous place, especially because many parents and students choose to do a drop off there, which is illegal,” Kurtenbach said. ”It is really hard to staff [6th and Pico] while keeping the area [on the North side of campus] that construction is coming in and out of both safe, open and available for students, teachers, and the construction crews.”
However, Dean of Students Catherine Baxter says that the security updates due to construction have been minor. One of the main problems the school is facing is the additional traffic at the Michigan gate, which has required more security supervision there.
According to Baxter, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) offered the school an officially trained crossing guard. Although he was originally only appointed to stay for three days, due to the additional traffic, his work period was extended until Jan. 13, 2012.
Traffic officers have also been stationed at the 7th and Michigan gate to facilitate the drop-off zone. Baxter says this is because many parents make illegal U-turns and stops when dropping off their kids. Although the traffic officers have been asked only to redirect parents following the first few weeks of the 6th and Pico gate closure, after a certain amount of time they may begin issuing tickets.
According to M-House principal Larry Boone, security officers are no longer stationed in the North Parking Lot or at the 6th and Pico Gate. This means that there is a mobile officer who is constantly patrolling and more officers are stationed at all open gates.
Many students have found the closing of the Sixth and Pico gate a burden and some have even chosen to avoid the inconvenience of going around to another gate by hopping over the gate at 6th and Pico.
“It’s really hard to park South of campus because you have to walk all the way around to the Michigan gate and the other gates aren’t open,” senior Jackie Stearns said. “I park in the Civic Center and have to waste a lot of money. It also makes it harder when it comes to getting picked up; it’s frustrating because [the construction workers] are not really even doing anything at the 6th and Pico gate. I don’t jump the 6th and Pico gate but all of my friends do.”
Sophomore Nina Gilshteyn says that the closure of the 6th and Pico gate has caused her to amend her everyday schedule.
“Me and a lot of other kids ride the bus that drops you off near the 6th and Pico gate. Now I have to wake up ten minutes earlier to catch an earlier bus to walk around to the Michigan gate,” Gilshteyn said.
According to English teacher Meredith Louria, compared to the big picture of keeping Samo a safe and secure school, these are minor inconveniences.
“All in all the gate closure is a small change that mostly affects people who take the bus to school. Bus riders have a longer walk now, up to Michigan,” Louria said.
Many students like Stearns are still confused as to how construction happening on the north side of campus is the reason a gate located on the South side of school was closed. According to Kurtenbach, the gate at 6th Street and Pico Boulevard was closed so that security officers could be localized on the North side of the campus. Now, the main gate is at 7th Street and Michigan Avenue, this is near the construction so security can police visitors and students coming in and out of campus as well as the construction.