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Board Approves More Upgrades for Historic SPMS Auditorium

By Eric Licas
The Review

Funding for modern stage lighting and a new heater to replace the South Pasadena Middle School Auditorium’s broken cast iron furnace won approval from the school district’s Board of Education on Feb. 13.
Improvements to the 96-year-old building’s lighting will also include a new control board that will sync with a recently installed sound system, as well as the replacement of old interior and exterior fixtures with LED units. The contract for that work was awarded to Costa Mesa firm GonLED, and will cost the district about $584,000.
The second project approved by the Board last week involves the piece-by-piece removal of the auditorium’s decommissioned furnace and associated ducting, followed by the installation of a modern, more energy-efficient heater. Costa Mesa-based Southland Industries will take on that work at a cost of about $701,000.
“Beyond the aesthetic improvements and structural improvements, efficiency is also much appreciated,” Board member Zahir Robb said. “We look at these outdated pieces, I can’t imagine the amount of energy that goes into a heating system like that versus a more modern one; same thing with the lighting.”
Funding for the upgrades to the auditorium comes from a $98 million bond measure passed in 2016. At their most recent meeting, Board members also appointed four new members to the Measure SP Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. That’s the body tasked with reviewing bond-generated money spent on maintenance and campus upgrades.
Work on the new heater would start this spring, and will be scheduled so that the facility can still be used during the school year, South Pasadena Unified Superintendent Geoff Yantz said. The old unit had been “decomissioned and abandoned” for more than 20 years, according to reports from district staff. Meanwhile, the auditorium’s theater lights are not up to code, and many of the fixtures in its main house do not work, they said.
“It is so cold in there!” Board President Karissa Adams said during their meeting. “My daughter is in the musical right now and I’m like: ‘We need a winter coat just for the rehearsals … it’s freezing!’”
The projects greenlit by the board at their February meeting are the most recent in ongoing work at the middle school and other campuses throughout the district, Yantz said. Recently completed projects at the SPMS Auditorium include the replacement of the building’s leaking roof, repair of previously non-functioning sinks and toilets in its basement, cleaning and renovation of dressing rooms, a new sound system and a wide assortment of other maintenance issues.
“I remember, it was last year at the Marengo talent show, watching those doors just slam and they wouldn’t close all the way,” Yantz said. “And I just pictured some child’s fingers getting caught in it because the hinges didn’t work, and it just scared me.”
The district plans to commission more work to be done at the auditorium, in addition to the new HVAC and lighting upgrades. That will include the restoration of its theater seats and carpet, as well as the replacement of the stage and window curtains. Yantz added that the middle school’s clock tower should be ticking again by the end of the school year.
“When I started working here, the first day I drove by the middle school and it was 10:50 and 20 seconds,” the superintendent recalled. “Ten years later and it’s still 10:50 and 20 seconds.”

The Board of Education approved funding to remove and replace the South Pasadena Middle Schools old furnace above which has not been used in more than 20 years

First published in the February 23 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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