Santa Monica College President & Superintendent, Kathryn Jeffery (far right), members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, and others at the groundbreaking ceremony for the John Adams Middle School Performing Arts Complex, in Santa Monica, California, on Wednesday, August 28th.

By Blake Atwell

In August of 2014, John Adams Middle School (JAMS) Principal Steve Richardson received a phone call informing him the school’s then 80-year-old auditorium experienced earthquake damage. Richardson was given an estimated restoration time of three months.

“It’s been a long three months,” said Richardson.

Five years later, Santa Monica College (SMC) and the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) officially broke ground on a brand new JAMS Performing Arts Complex (PAC).

“It’s been worth the wait, I will say that,” Richardson added.

The complex will feature a large stage, 750-seat theatre, choir room, backstage support facilities, rehearsal room and an expansive courtyard. HGA architects, located in Santa Monica, designed the PAC. Wilshire Boulevard’s Bernards Brothers Construction is currently building the complex.    

Held inside the project’s construction zone at the corner of 16th and Pearl Street, the ceremony included words from Richardson, JAMS seventh grade student Walden Sullivan, SMMUSD Schoolboard President Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, SMMUSD Superintendent of Public Schools Dr. Ben Drati and SMC President and Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Jeffery.

For a student like Sullivan, who plays the piano, dances and sings, having access to a state-of-the-art complex would drastically improve campus experience.

“Having this auditorium will allow the students at the school to play a bigger role in their creative development,” said Sullivan. He added, “The students at John Adams are very lucky that they live in Santa Monica, a city that supports the arts and a school system that encourages their students to perform them.”

Additional JAMS students, staff, teachers and parents, district officials, school board members, SMC trustees, administrators and community members were all in attendance for the groundbreaking ceremony.

“We are grateful to our community, which maintains an unwavering faith in our plans to improve the facilities and learning environment at all of our schools,” said Dr. Drati.

Funding for the project originated from voter approved measures. Measures ES (passed in 2012) and SMS (passed in 2018) paid for the project, in addition to a $20 million contribution from SMC.

“This is truly a groundbreaking day in the history of our remarkable partnership between SMMUSD and Santa Monica College,” said Dr. Jeffery. She added, “The JAMS Performing Arts Complex is a shining example of the vision of both SMMUSD, the Board of Education for the school district, Santa Monica College and our Board of Trustees, and is yet another step forward in the mutually rewarding and long-standing relationship between our institutions.”

Ribbon cutting for the PAC is scheduled for early 2021.

“Many of the students here have never been in an auditorium at JAMS, but that is going to change soon,” said Richardson. “This is where it all starts, today.”

This story was published as part of a partnership between the SMC Corsair student newspaper and the Santa Monica Daily Press.

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