Arts programs using Salter Theater must relocate within next month

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Ava Seccuro staff writer

As the renovation of the Salter Theater begins, those who regularly use the facility, including the theater, choir, band and orchestra programs, will be relocated elsewhere in the coming month. The construction department and the bond programs are collaborating with Principal Mark Mead to find alternative homes for the programs.

The modernization of buildings B1 and B2, the buildings behind the tennis courts and field, is currently in progress, and by June of 2019, once students have vacated school grounds, modernization of B3 and B4, which includes the Salter theater, will commence.

So pretty much this whole section of the campus will be in construction when school comes back and into session next year. So, that’s always a challenge to build while there is an existing campus that’s operating at the same time,” Senior Executive Bond Program Manager Don Blake said.

As Executive Bond Program Manager, Jeff Pylman is in a position where he, Mead and Blake, must decide where they are going to relocate the programs given that the Peters Auditorium, which is a part of the B1/B2 structure, is already under construction and projected to reopen within a few years.

“You’ve got band, choir, drama and other things going on [in the Salter]. I’m working with Mark Mead and the district office on where to relocate those programs within the remainder in the existing campus. [We have the option to use] Building A, the STC and the village. Across the street we [have another three-story building]. So between all of those facilities, we have a couple of different options [of] where to relocate those programs to, and those classes to, until the modernization is complete there,” Pylman said. “They’ll still continue to use some off-site rental facilities like they have been since the Peters [Auditorium] has been closed. I have a couple options for each one.”

Program relocation is the last step toward facilitating success for construction. Blake meets with district board members on a weekly basis to discuss options, and although he is unwilling to disclose his plans at this moment, he wants to notify the public of any progress as soon as possible.

“We’re looking at a number of options. In terms of everything, band, choir and the performing arts [programs are] our last, ‘How do we make this thing work?’ Right now, those decisions and discussions are taking place at a facility subcommittee with [board members] Noah Margo and Tristan [Walker-Shuman]. We meet on a weekly basis,” Blake said. “No decisions have been made by the board. It’s kind of important. That’s kind of a big piece to get resolved, and as soon as we can get a decision on that, then we want to absolutely let the students and the staff know.”

While Pylman and Blake believe that they are still missing the last piece toward moving forward in construction, Mead is under the impression that they are possibly even ahead of schedule. He mentioned that although limited storage space is a major problem, the options that they have will suffice.

“The good news is we’re much farther along than ideas at this point. We’ve spoken to all the teachers and tech people involved. So, Ms. Chandler, Ms. Kikkawa, Mr. Bradbury. And so, we think we’ve got a plan. It’s not perfect, but it’s–from what I could tell from the teachers–it’s better than they might have hoped. We have spoken to Ms. Chandler about moving into a kind of a combo room in the STC, possibly. The band most likely in the planetarium, and the vocal music program in the existing robotics [room],” Mead said. “There’s not a lot of people who would be directly involved in [this]. We’re trying to minimize the impact, but it’s a big [responsibility]. If you go into the performing arts area, you see that there is a lot of storage needs. When you look at band, they have storage needs in addition to seating needs. There’s a lot of logistics involved, but I think we’ve covered most of them. We’re feeling pretty good about it.”  

While the construction department is moving forward, they claim the general reason for a late start was due to the delayed approval of design plans on behalf of the Division of the State Architect (DSA). Since the modernization projects have so many moving parts, design plans took “twice as long.”

“The reason why it was taking so long to get started was that the drawings were at DSA and it’s taken probably twice as long as we would normally expect a typical project to go through DSA and be approved,” Blake said. “That said, the complications of these buildings is the extent to which we’re doing a seismic retrofit structurally to the buildings. It’s very complex and it takes a lot longer for DSA to go through that process of plan, check and approval. For B1, B2, B3, B4 and El Rodeo, we feel that most of the work that we haven’t [done], we’ve been able to start it sooner because we’ve spent time at DSA with Doug Humphreys who is the director of DSA. We’re not drawing the drawings or designing them. We’re trying to get them approved and be able to get them to bid and start construction.”

Despite the delays that the unusually long project has caused in terms of approval, Mead, on behalf of the district, believes that the construction process is going smoothly.

“Basically what the Beverly Hills Unified School District has control over appears to be moving very quickly,” Mead said. “I don’t want to speak for them because they don’t know, but I think they’re at least on schedule. Obviously this is really good news. I wouldn’t even be surprised if we were on schedule or better…everybody seems to be on the same page. Whether it’s the board, or whether it’s the district cabinet, or whether it’s even the teachers, maybe the kids, everyone’s ready to get this done. I think this summer it’s gonna start fast.”

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