Robert Frost Auditorium: The Long Road Towards Transformation

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Robert Frost Auditorium
The Robert Frost Auditorium under construction (Photo courtesy of CCUSD)

As Culver City prepares for the grand re-opening of the Robert Frost Auditorium community members reflect on its long history and the years’ long effort it took to bring the dramatic transformation of a Culver City historical landmark to life.

CCUSD parent Diana Kunce says “The Frost renovation wouldn’t have happened without a strong and determined grassroots effort by parents, faculty, and students with support from the district and the board.” Kunce adds, “We have Culver City to uphold as an example of the strength of a local community coming together to create and nurture its cultural gifts.”

A Historical Landmark in Disrepair

CCUSD School Board Member, Kathy Paspalis recalls the state of the district when she was serving as School Board President in 2012, “It was very clear that many of our facilities needed help. They were 50-60 years old, and so much was in disrepair, including the Frost Auditorium.”

Kunce, who started the CCMS Theater Arts Program with fellow parent Bonnie Wacker in 2010, reflects, “We learned very quickly…the shortcomings of the Frost, which had been in continuous use since it opened in 1964,” says Kunce. “The building was suffering from the ravages of time, notably some ineffective and outdated internal systems. It was becoming an unsafe place for our students and faculty.”

Friends of Frost

Kunce, along with other dedicated parents advocated heavily for the board to invest in fixing the auditorium, convincing then CCUSD Superintendent Patti Jaffe to support the initiative. Jaffe hired Bob Scales, a theater consultant, to provide a professional assessment of the auditorium.

As the initiative grew in support, a coalition called “Friends of Frost” was formed consisting of theater/music parents and students. Working together with Scales, they created a list of recommendations to reinvent Frost that prioritized health, safety, functionality, and education.

Friends of Frost were instrumental in keeping the project moving forward as district administrations changed. New Superintendent Dave LaRose responded to the massive community support and initiated a Frost feasibility study working with Assistant Superintendent of business services, Mike Reynolds.

How to Fund It?

Meanwhile, Paspalis researched ways to fund the project, and considered using leftover money from a 90’s construction bond, but learned those funds would be insufficient to renovate the Frost, and instead used the funds to install a new air-conditioning system and for improvements to the athletic field.

It wasn’t until 2013, when then school board members Paspalis, Laura Chardiet, Nancy Goldberg, Steve Levin, and Sue Robbins unanimously voted to put Measure CC on the June 2014 ballot–a $106 million construction bond requiring a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Measure CC Brings Sweeping District Upgrades

“Many other districts had bonds on their ballots,” recalls Paspalis. “Culver City had the second highest passage rate in the state, with 76 percent of Culver citizens who went to the polls voting for it.

“This bond was going to allow us to completely upgrade the Frost,” continues Paspalis, “while making many other facility upgrades throughout the district.”

The list of improvements have been sweeping, the improvements including new playgrounds at every elementary school, updated libraries for Culver City Middle School and Culver City High School, a new science building, air-conditioning throughout the district, an athletic training room and a state-of-the-art ceramics studio for the high school.

Robert Frost Auditorium Under Construction
The Robert Frost Auditorium under construction (Photo courtesy of CCUSD)

Additionally, Makerspace classrooms in five district elementary schools, energy-saving upgrades, and the demolition of an abandoned and hazardous building near the middle school / high school complex (which will eventually be replaced with additional classroom space) have all been completed.

“With this construction bond we made all of these upgrades, including all of the recreational facilities and the Frost,” says Paspalis. “Now we have the places for our athletes and our artists. It’s timely that the Measure K parcel tax is coming up on the November ballot, which would provide the district with funding to protect and grow the people and the programs to make the most of these places.”

“The vision of what we can now do with the Frost is almost boundless,” says Paspalis. “This grand re-opening is more than a celebration of everyone’s hard work getting us to this point. It is a launching off point to raise awareness and funds for the future programming of this performing arts facility that is also a classroom, a school auditorium, and a tremendous community asset.”

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The Culver City Education Foundation is holding a grand opening celebration and fundraiser this Saturday evening, September 29. The event includes a party catered by Akasha, a short documentary about the making of the Frost, and special performances inside the Frost. Information and tickets available at www.ccef4schools.org. Proceeds to benefit the arts for all CCCUSD students.

For more information on Measure K, visit www.protectculvercityschools.org

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