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The oldest building and last remnant of the original Fairfax High School will soon be getting some new upgrades. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) approved on Feb. 22 the allocation of $1.3 million to Fairfax High School to make much-needed improvements to the school’s 84-year-old auditorium. The funds will be provided by Measure K, the school bond measure passed in 2002 that authorized the LAUSD to issue $3.35 billion in bonds for repair and renovation of existing schools.
“This money will give us a real state-of-the art auditorium,” said Joyce Kleifield, director of development for the Greenway Friends of Fairfax High School.
The school was built in 1924 and the auditorium was finished three years later. The school closed in 1966 for renovations and many of the buildings were torn down, leaving the auditorium and the rotunda in front of it as the last original structures at the school.
“Whenever alumni return to the school, it’s the one building that has remained a constant,” Kleifield said.
Principal Ed Zubiate said the auditorium was one of the most beautiful buildings he had ever seen, but that there definitely were issues that needed to be addressed.
“The roof has some marvelous woodwork that you just don’t see anymore,” Zubiate said. “But the current sound system is horrible and it’s just so dark in there.”
This is not the first time the auditorium has undergone renovations. The school secured funds two years ago to upgrade the run-down building. They refinished the wooden seats and floors, installed new carpeting and better lighting fixtures, but a new sound system and other features were not added because the funds ran out. Jeffrey Porter, technical director for Greenway Friends of Fairfax, is in charge of running the auditorium. He said the main priority in the next round of renovations will be adding a new state-of-the-art sound system, followed by upgrading the lighting and adding a video projection system. There are also ADA upgrades scheduled to provide access to the disabled.
“I’m extremely excited,” Porter said. “Being able to have the school and community get use out of the space is great. I can’t wait.”
The sound system is currently so bad in the auditorium that students have refrained from using the space for their drama productions.
“If you’re on the balcony, you can actually hear the stuff on the stage better because of the acoustics,” Kleifield said. “But if you’re sitting directly under the overhang of the balcony you can’t hear a thing.”
Porter, who also teaches technical theater at Fairfax, said that most productions take place in the “blackbox theatre,” a space behind the stage that also houses the school’s drama classes. The space was originally designed as a setup area for the actors to prepare and has an opening onto the stage. The last time the school used the auditorium for one of their productions was in December for the winter concert.
The upgrades to the auditorium will also serve members of the community who rent the space for meetings and other functions. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) has used the space on occasion for its performances and State Assembly Member Mike Feuer will hold a town hall meeting next month. These and other events help provide another source of revenue to the high school, which charges between $1,400 and $1,500 for three to six hours of use, a fee that doubles if more than 800 people attend the event.
“It’s a source of revenue and also a service to the community,” Kleifield said.
Zubiate added that these upgrades will draw more organizations to the already popular venue.
“The auditorium is a great resource for all of our community,” Zubiate said. “With these changes we want to make it worthy of some of the events that go on here.”
There is no timetable on when the upgrades will begin. Porter said members of the school board and Fairfax High, as well as members of the community who wish to use the space, will meet in the next few weeks to determine specifically what materials and resources will be needed to get the renovations done.
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