Eleanor Bogart-Stuart, staff writer
The K.L. Peters Auditorium, as well as buildings A and B, will start construction at the end of this year due to safety reasons.
Peters Auditorium has been closed off to student use since the end of last year.
“It’s brittle. It’s not fastened as strongly as we would like it to be. If there is a really major shaking, students there could get injured or worse,” board member Lewis Hall said.
The Peters auditorium was built in the 1920s and the structure is simply not up to date.The ceramic plates that compose the ceilings and the materials that the walls are made of are too weak to withstand a severe earthquake. This classifies the building and 14 others in the BHUSD school district as something called “seismically vulnerable.”
“We submitted all this work saying we had seismic deficiencies in order to get access to these additional funds that help supplement our Measure E funds to help pay for these repairs. In order to achieve these funds, the state came in and looked at all of our plans. So for the first time in the eight years I’ve been on the board, we had the state of California saying that these auditoriums were seismically unsafe,” board member Brian Goldberg said.
When these safety issues were first discovered in February of this year, BHUSD attorney Vince Ewings sent a memo to the members of the school board. It warned them that their knowledge of these dangers made them liable for the safety of both students and staff at the high school and the four K-8s in the district. In April, the vote was passed to close the auditorium and start construction on all the seismically vulnerable buildings.
“The first and foremost item for the district and for me personally is to keep our children and staff safe, so we need to do this and be proactive,” principal David Jackson said.
Construction on the auditorium will take place over the next two years. At the end of this school year, students will be moved into these temporary “cottages” and the district will start construction.
“Our performing arts program is one of the best programs in the state and one of the highlights of our district. We want to make sure there’s no diminution in the ability for our students to shine and excel in the performing arts. But we’re also not going to put students, staff and the community at risk in buildings,” Goldberg said.
Performing arts classes affected by the construction will be able to utilize other stages and theaters in the community. As well as increased use of Beverly’s Salter Theater, the high school may collaborate with the Wallis Annenberg center or the Saban Theater. There may even be a possibility of doing outside performances at the Beverly Canon gardens.
“Although it’s not ideal, we’re doing everything we can to ensure that not only do they [the students] have a great experience, but an enhanced experience as a result of the decision to close the auditorium,” Goldberg said.