SMC, City of Santa Monica to Break Ground on Early Childhood Lab School

 The proposed design for the Santa Monica early childhood lab school, planned to be built upon an empty parking lot located at Civic Center Drive and 4th Street. Construction will officially begin with a formal event on Tuesday, March 13, when the city of Santa Monica and Santa Monica college will break ground. ( Image courtesy of Carde Ten Architects )

The proposed design for the Santa Monica early childhood lab school, planned to be built upon an empty parking lot located at Civic Center Drive and 4th Street. Construction will officially begin with a formal event on Tuesday, March 13, when the city of Santa Monica and Santa Monica college will break ground. (Image courtesy of Carde Ten Architects)

Santa Monica College and the city of Santa Monica will break ground on the new Santa Monica early childhood lab school this Tuesday, March 13 from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot on the corner of 4th Street and Civic Center Drive. The childhood lab school is Santa Monica College’s latest attempt at innovating their educational approach, but this project has been in the works since 1989.

This project was established through a partnership between the city of Santa Monica, the RAND Corporation and the Growing Place, a non-profit that is already involved with the Early Childhood/Education (ECE) program on campus. The department on campus works closely with its students enrolled to prepare them for the field.

Santa Monica College students will be able to use this lab school to gain hands-on experience in working with children. Students who are taking part in SMC's ECE pathway are currently required to do these activities off-campus.

The lab school will serve as a place for parents to drop off their children between the ages of 12 weeks and five years while they work. The center will be open for 110 children and is available for everyone, but 30-percent of those spots will be reserved for residents of Santa Monica, while an additional 15-percent minimum will be reserved for low-income families.

One unique facet of the lab school is that the Santa Monica local non-profit Growing Place will responsible for operating the school, whereas other schools who have had lab schools typically operate them in-house. Gary Huff, a full-time faculty member of the ECE department, says that this model will be watched closely as other lab schools in the state have been closing due to budgetary reasons.

Construction will begin in April, but the building is not planned to be completed until the fall of 2020, and will not be available to students until the spring of that year.

Laura Manson, the department chair of the ECE program, has worked alongside the rest of the department to get things prepared.

“It’s exciting that [we] are going to be able to have our students be able to have this great field experience in a school that is well-known nationwide for the quality and care that they provide for children,” Manson said. “It’s really exciting because as a community college, we’re actually working with the community.”