Performing arts center construction scheduled to begin late October

A performing arts center at TPHS is set to replace the culinary and fine arts classrooms on campus, and construction is projected to begin by the end of October as a part of the third phase of the Proposition AA projects funded by the $78 million TPHS portion of the $449 million Prop AA SDUHSD bond.

According to SDUHSD Chief Facilities Officer Mike Coy, the destruction of the arts and custodial rooms began around June 17, shortly after the 2016-17 school year ended. This part of the Prop AA project is the first in which part of TPHS’ campus is being completely destroyed and a new building is being constructed in its place from the “ground-up,” compared to previous Prop AA projects which were renovations to existing features, such as the Media Center project and the construction of the J building. This newest phase of Prop AA improvements at TPHS has an estimated cost of $24 million, making it a significantly larger project compared to the previous Prop AA projects at TPHS that have cost $21 million in total.

“This is a much bigger project than what we’ve taken on before,” Coy said. “Because of all the pieces that go into it, the price per square foot is going to be a little bit higher.”

According to Coy, the initial idea of building a performing arts center at TPHS came about four decades ago when the school opened. After deciding that a new PAC should be built next to the current performing arts buildings in 2008, the first master plans for the PAC were drawn up and then modified in 2013. However, the master plan was not approved until 2015, primarily due to a lack of funding, as well as uncertainty about where to build it and the need to relocate staff and students, according to Principal Rob Coppo. TPHS is currently the only high school in the SDUHSD without a PAC.

The district also surveyed staff members, students and community members before the Prop AA bond was passed in 2012 to see what changes and renovations they would prefer to see at TPHS, and the updated classrooms took precedence, ultimately causing the construction of the PAC to be moved further down the agenda, according to Coy. The construction of the J building and the renovations to science classrooms in the northeast corner of the B building came first. The weight room was also relocated because it  was being replaced by the current J building.

“Getting [students] in … a 21st-century classroom that has the technology, enough space for [students and staff] to operate in [and is] a good comfortable space conducive to learning is at the top of [our priorities],” Coy said. 

This phase of the project is being managed by architects Joe Mansfield and Gemma Hsiueh of Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects Inc., who have previously worked with SDUHSD on a number of construction projects, including the TPHS Prop AA projects involving the new J building, weight room, and B building renovations.  The district put the project out for a bid, and Mansfield and Hsiueh won the contract bid, according to Coppo. 

According to Hsiueh, the new performing arts center, which will consist of two separate buildings, is set to include a 350-seat proscenium theater in one building, a music room and dance room in the other building, along with a black box that will seat about 200 people. It will also include an open-air part, that will be separate from the current theater and has been dubbed the “Creative Porch” by performing arts teacher Marinee Payne, where all drama, music, dance and art students can get together and collaborate. Payne and music teacher Amy Gelb started to work closely with the architects in 2005 to ensure TPHS would eventually have a state-of-the-art high school proscenium theater and PAC, and many other community members have wanted to see a PAC for years as well. 


“Between [Payne] and the community at large, I think there is just a general consensus that [the PAC] is an important addition to Torrey Pines that was never built,” Coy said. 

Currently, the bus loop near the back of the stadium that was a drop-off area is closed due to the construction of the PAC, but it will return as a drop-off option when PAC construction is finished.  

Payne is excited for the new PAC because she believes it will bring more recognition to the music and drama departments.

“[It’s] my hope that [the new PAC] draws more interest from the community, and likewise we’ll gain a little more support for the arts,” Payne said. 

PAC construction has also displaced the fine arts classes to the portables near the stadium, inconveniencing some students like Morgan Murphy (10). However, Murphy still believes the new PAC “will have a great outcome,” and most students have responded positively to the new development.

“It’s great that students in arts will finally have more opportunities to practice and perform in a better environment,” Chloe Ko (12), who is in TPHS’ orchestra program, said. 

According to Coy, the PAC will be completed in the spring of 2019, and the next stage of Prop AA developments will relocate the fine art classes into another new building.

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