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New 'performing-arts center' approved for Paly

Original post made on Jan 24, 2012

Groundbreaking for a state-of-the-art "performing-arts center" at Palo Alto High School is planned for the summer of 2013. School leaders said they envision the new center serving Paly students for the next 50 to 100 years.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 23, 2012, 2:33 PM

Comments (29)

Posted by Holly W
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 24, 2012 at 10:59 am

Thank you Chris for an accurately reported, well written article. We are lucky to have you in the school beat!

Posted by Nancy C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm

How exciting that it is actually going to happen. I agree with Holly - Chris you do a great job reporting. I am thrilled to have our music and theater programs finally have a home of their own, to showcase our students.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Since the size of this project is so huge (even Michael Najar thinks it is too big), I sincerely hope that this will be available to the community for non school events. Spangenburg theatre at Gunn used to shows classic movies and that stopped for school political reasons. Since the community is paying, the community should be able to gain some benefit.

Additionally, is this theatre going to be big enough for graduation. The present system is a joke. No one sees anything going on.

Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2012 at 7:52 pm

How about a two-story parking structure also? Where is everyone going to park if the theater is sitting on top of parking lot spaces? We are already low on parking spaces. The only reason we are getting by now during school days is that the majority of students bicycle to school. On Open House nites, cars are overflowed to T & C.

Posted by Another-Waste-Of-Money
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2012 at 8:45 am

> The $24.4 million project -

With bond financing, the cost will come much closer to 50 million dollars. What a massive waste of public money!!!

This facility will sit idle more than it will be used. And what does having this extravagant edifice do to increase the API scores for Palo Alto students?

Now .. will there have to be a new theater at Gunn too? And what about the middle schools? Shouldn't they be looking to 10 million (or more) each--for equality?

This is one of the many reasons it does not pay to vote for bonds. The money is often not used responsibly.

Posted by design
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2012 at 8:51 am

How about make it a more flexible design, so that we can use that mostly idle space for everyday use,such as gathering places and eating/resting social gathering area. I have seen college in Canada, there are palace like cafeterias for students to use.

Posted by design
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2012 at 9:09 am

Especially with buildings ,if no one use it or just use it a couple of times a year,it will get deteriorated quickly. It needs people taking care of it regardless if you use it or not, if you use it often then any water/roof damage will be found before it gets to the point that it needs major repair,so need to hire someone to take care of it regardless if you use it one time or everyday.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

Wasn't there recently an article about how we are going to face budget cuts? How can we justify spending $24 on a project that benefits so few people? And were parking considerations taken into account? I realize that the ultimate goal is that every person in Palo Alto abandon their car but that is just unrealistic.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2012 at 11:18 am

Where we're all of you when the project was outlined as part of the bond process? The Paly Theater was right there on the list of projects. You can't complain about it if you didn't bother to read the bond measure!!!

The theater capacity was set so that the school can hold a full-class assembly in one room.

The facility will not be idle - it will be used daily by the performing arts classes (music, theater, etc.) at Paly.

The elementary and middle schools received a majority of the bond money from the last go around. This bond is slanted more heavily towards the high schools - although the other schools will be receiving funds for upgrades as well.

Spangenberg (Gunn) is getting a face lift as part of the bond project.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2012 at 11:21 am

re: Paly Graduation...I suspect that once the new football stadium is built this summer, they will use it for graduation. And once they build the new gym (replacing the girls/small gym), they can hold graduation in they wanted (supposedly 1900 seating capacity). I think the new Gunn gym will be similar in size as well.

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm

>”Where we're all of you when the project was outlined as part of the bond process? The Paly Theater was right there on the list of projects.”

True. But since original plans were presented, the center has almost doubled in size (from 15,000 square feet).

School committees visited several local theaters and “agreed that a fly tower and orchestra pit were needed to accommodate all the current and future program functions of the performing arts departments.”

So, the school board increased the construction budget by $4.68 million, from $17.72 million to $22.4 million.

No doubt the orchestra pit, trap room, full fly loft, green rooms with adjacent toilet and dressing rooms are essential for school assemblies.

> “This is one of the many reasons it does not pay to vote for bonds. The money is often not used responsibly.”

Absolutely right! Purely ego-driven.

Posted by Ethan Cohen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2012 at 7:40 am

First of all although the number of seats is wayy too high for a number of a reasons, not least of which is the fact that the new gym will seat about 2000 which will be completely for any assemblies the school could want to have, it is still very good that this project has finally been approved.

Secondly, as someone who spends most of his after school time working in the 96 year old Haymarket Theatre and knows the building better than his own house I am continually shocked that anyone could argue that replacing it should not be a top priority. I want to know how many of those who oppose this project have ever been backstage at the Haymarket or even to a show. I bet that after seeing the building you will all be shocked and embarrassed that children are still using it.

Finally, for a district and a city that prides itself on its high standards of excellence in academics, athletics and the arts the Haymarket simply does not meet the standards that we all hold for our city. Just because there is a building on campus that is called a "theater" does not mean that it functions as one.

Oh, and Spangenberg is getting a remodel as part of this bond but it also is not nearly as old as the Haymarket. Most of the other original buildings at Paly were replaced about 40 years ago but for some reason the Haymarket is the only primarily student used building that is still in use.

Posted by This stuff has got to STOP
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 26, 2012 at 8:39 am

Everyone is missing the point on all this spending.

We don't have the money. It's all put on the backs of our kids and grandkids.

The feds are spending and stealing from our kids.

The state is spending and stealing from our kids

The City want's to tax us more and get more in bonds for infrastructure while they subsidize the school district to the tune of 10 Million every year. Based on this waste the City should stop that immediately.

Who is going to pay for the upkeep and maintenance for the new large structure, certianly not the bond money which is stolen from our grand kids.

everyone thinks this money just appears. stop all the frivilous spending

Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 9:37 am

Message to "this stuff has got to stop"

While I agree that the is a poor use of funds, given other challenges -- before you blame "big government" review the FACTS. All you have to do is read the article you are commenting on.

This project is "part of a district-wide $378 million facilities bond program approved by voters in June 2008." A majority of voters passed the bond and majority rules in this country.

Posted by Voted No
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:32 am

I find it amazing that everybody is shocked by the money being spent while no one ever opposes the bond measures when they are presented. I voted no on this one (although I have children in the school district), but it passed and I don't complain. Did YOU vote no?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2012 at 11:32 am

Once again it is down to the fact that there were no options given on a vote.

When the bond was proposed it was necessary to improve some of our school facilities. Agreed, some of our facilities needed improvement and money needed to be raised. But it is how much money and how it is being spent that is the problem.

Just like the library bond, we wanted to improve Mitchell Park library, but we didn't get a choice of whether we only wanted to keep one library and update it. It was the case of all or nothing. The same with the schools. We had no choice. Do we say yes and give the powers that be carte blanche to spend, spend, spend, on frivolously huge projects, or do we vote no and get nothing?

Damned if we do, and damned if we don't. The choices we are given as voters are no choice at all. Where is the sense in all this?

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Ethan - thanks for your comments. Haymarket is still an attractive building from the outside (as is the tower building) and that is what most people see. The inside of both buildings are in terrible condition.

The new performing arts center will be a wonderful addition, Paly has great drama and music programs that will appreciate this wonderful space.

Posted by Another Paly Grad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Palo Alto has two perfectly serviceable auditoriums in its community center. How does one justify $24 million for a new auditorium in light of this? How many auditoriums does P.A. need?

Oh, I forgot. In Palo Alto money grows on trees.

Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Another Paly Grad - where are the 2 serviceable auditoriums? Are they accessible to the Paly students during the school day when band, orchestra, choir and drama classes are held? Can students get to them within the 5 minute passing period?

Posted by Paly2011
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Bravo! As a former member of Paly's performing arts community, I'm overjoyed to hear that this space is finally being built. Haymarket may be beautiful on the outside, but it does not serve the purposes that the theater and choral departments need it to. This space, although rather larger than we might have hoped for, is a good compromise between the needs of the administration and those of the arts communities at Paly.

Posted by Vote No
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm

@ resident

Those bond measures did include a new auditorium in the list of projects for the schools and they were for enormous amounts! Why did you vote yes??? How about voting no until they get it right?

You have only yourself to blame if you voted yes on those 2 gigantic bond measures (school and libraries). They were so outrageous, even without the final details, that I voted no on both.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm


I never said I voted yes on either of these bond measures.

The problem is that most of the proponents are so gung ho in getting everyone to vote yes that the issues are never discussed.

"Do you want to update our libraries for our children and the 21st century?" "Yes" "Then vote yes in the coming bond measure".

"Do you want our schools updated to meet 21st century needs and earthquake standards?" "Yes" "Then vote yes in the coming bond measure".

Details are never discussed and few voters take the time to read all the measures, digest all the information, and discover exactly how big the bond is in relation to what is really necessary. Of course we need a new theatre, but we don't need this new theatre.

For your information, I didn't vote yes on either.

Posted by Ethan Cohen
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm


The school board made a decision that this was the amount of money they needed to bring the district into the 21st century. What improvements exactly do you think they should have taken out of this bond?

And I'm sorry but why do we not need "this" theatre? What theatre do we need then?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm


I understand your views that we need a new theatre. The reason I ask whether we need this theatre is because Michael Najar is quoted as saying it is too big. If one of the teachers who will use this is saying that it is much bigger than what is required for the type of performances that the school uses, then I consider his comment valid.

This sounds like a wonderful theatre, but how will it be used for the community? I know it will be used all day for classes, but what about during the summer, or for groups other than school?

You have raised valid points which I am not criticising, but I am also listening to Michael Najar, a teacher for whom I have a great deal of respect (and personal experience).

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm


Sorry to answer your points backwards.

I think our questions about the size of the bond and how to spend the money is just that. The bond was really large and was never broken down to how much should be spent on what buildings and which infrastructure or how much should be spent on enlarging the schools to deal with increased enrollment.

Many of us would like to spend money on opening another couple of schools, whether they be elementary, middle or high, and how best to serve the many new students that keep moving into Palo Alto from all the new housing developments. The theatre is definitely necessary to upgrade completely, but how will it help to house a student body of 2,500 students at Paly or build a new middle school when Jordan, Terman and JLS can't move for classrooms?

Posted by Check out the plan
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

@Resident, the district had a master plan for every facility that was available and publicly reviewed at the time the bond was proposed. There is also a detailed project list of projects done, underway, and proposed that is published in monthly status reports on the district's web site. There are also significant reserve amounts for projects to be determined based on emerging needs.

The bond both addresses adding capacity (classrooms) at every level and improving other facilities (sports, arts) that were in need of significant upgrading. You may not agree with the proportions or with some specific projects - in which case you can come to site steering committee meetings, school board meetings, bond oversight committee meetings, and probably others, to make your views heard.

But since the bond projects generally reflect the published plan, as modified by the site committees, the Board probably feels it is doing what is supposed to do getting those projects done.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Funny, PAUSD spending like drunken sailors, but just tonight sent a recorded call from Skelly talking about how badly the district will be hit by cuts in education...

(Is Skelly not aware that the school district will pay back the bonds with interest? And that's an expense that cuts in to what they have to spend on other stuff?)

NEW FLASH: You asked the people of Palo Alto for a LOAN - it just like a mortgage Skelly. So when you go around crying about not being able to afford to make your monthly expenses, you don't go around touting what great ways you're dreaming up to squander the banks money. (And oh by the way, "can't you please spare a dime to donate to us? We're poor.... uh huh. right.

Well guess what - the evidence in front of our faces tells us that PAUSD has PLENTY of money to burn. They certainly don't need my donation to PIE, they're getting more than enough from me in my property tax bill.

Posted by parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm

By the way, the school district has figured out that putting bond measures on the ballot in the off-cycle voting years, minimizes turnout, and therefore minimizes the numbers required to pass tax increases. So that the only ones actually rallied to the ballot box are school district users - who get plenty of hard-sell campaigning about getting out the vote to pass the school district measures.

(when the school district knows that the voting turnout is lowest)

There OUGHT TO BE A LAW that votes to increase taxes can only be put on the ballot in major election cycles.

Posted by Kevin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 17, 2012 at 10:34 pm

WHAT! I thought we were up for cost reductions. Thats the ego of the Skelly and the Palo Principal. Monument building. Its an outrage. That and the turning of the schools into a videogame parlor - these are bad decisions. This does not make for a good school district.

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