While renovations of the Frost began in earnest in 2016, the story of how the high school auditorium became the state-of-the-art performance venue that it is today goes back several years. As any undertaking of this magnitude requires, it also took much effort from multiple parties including parents, administrators, the school board and various outside experts.
After being elected to the school board in 2009, Kathy Paspalis rotated into the presidency in December of 2012. It had been a tough prior few years for the district financially during the recession, and the board and administration had just finished making cuts to the budget.
“We looked around the district, and it was very clear that many of our facilities needed help,” recalls Paspalis. “They were 50-60 years old, and so much was in disrepair, including the Frost Auditorium.”
Meanwhile, back in 2010, parents Diana Kunce and Bonnie Wacker gathered a group to start the CCMS Theatre Arts Program. Everyone involved in the program was experiencing first-hand the dilapidated state of the Frost. “We learned very quickly both the advantages and the shortcomings of the Frost, which had been in continuous use since it opened in 1964,” says Kunce. “Its historic providence and size were inspiring. Yet, the building was suffering from the ravages of time, notably some ineffective and outdated internal systems.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.”
Kunce and other committed parents began advocating to the board to fix the Frost. After much deliberation, Patti Jaffe, the superintendent at the time, decided to hire Bob Scales, an outside theatre consultant who could professionally assess the building. The Theatre and Music parents formed Friends of the Frost and brought in some students as well. Together with Scales, they created a list of recommendations for the Frost, with health/safety, functionality and education as the top priorities.
Eventually, after viewing the list and with massive community support, the district, under the new superintendent Dave LaRose and assistant superintendent of business services Mike Reynolds, agreed to do a Frost feasibility study. The Friends of the Frost worked hard to keep the project moving, coordinating research with Scales, the faculty and students, offering expert advice, and meeting and discussing goals and funding possibilities.
Simultaneously, Board President Paspalis had begun researching ways to finance improvements. She learned about construction bonds, a common approach that many districts use to upgrade facilities. In fact, CCUSD had made improvements through such a bond in the 90s. There was still some money left over from that, but not enough to do the extensive renovations necessary for the Frost. They could only do the most necessary repairs, so began with the antiquated air conditioning system. They also made improvements to the athletic field with that earlier bond money.
In 2013, with a district-wide needs assessment and master facilities plan for all of the school sites in hand, school board members Kathy Paspalis, Laura Chardiet, Nancy Goldberg, Steve Levin and Sue Robbins unanimously voted to put a $106 million construction bond on the June 2014 ballot in order to finance additional upgrades. Designated as Measure CC, Paspalis and Chardiet co-chaired the Campaign for Measure CC, which required a two-thirds vote to pass. “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.” These have included the middle and high school libraries, a new science building, air conditioning throughout the district, a new athletic training classroom and a state-of-the-art ceramics studio at the high school. In addition, Makerspace classrooms on 4 elementary school campuses (with the 5th one in the works), energy-saving upgrades throughout the district, 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. The most visible projects to be funded out of the bond have been new playgrounds at every elementary school, the athletic fields, and the Frost.
“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 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,” adds Kunce. “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.”
“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.”
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.
Photo Credit – Patrik Giardino