The El Camino Fundamental High School community celebrated the opening of the school’s new Center for the Arts. Hundreds of staff, students and community members were present for the ribbon-cutting earlier this month.
The new theater, which has 500 fixed seats, a state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems and a lobby art gallery, was funded by the approval of Measure N in 2012. The measure approved $350 million in bonds for the San Juan Unified School District, which are being used to update and rebuild aging school facilities.
After the green ribbon was cut, attendees were invited to tour the Arden Arcade facility during an open house. The stage, backstage, lobby and lighting booth areas were open for the public to explore, and El Camino students in green T-shirts were on hand with fun facts about the new theater.
Staff and students alike were excited about the project finally being completed.
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“It’s almost like welcoming a new baby,” said Randy Holcomb, El Camino’s principal. “There’s just been so much love, from its inception to now ... this is what our students deserve.”
Holcomb said the school’s tradition of arts “runs deep”, exemplified by the alumni and retired teachers who flew in from other cities and states to be at the grand opening.
The school’s band director, Kevin Glaser, said they’re “jumping right in” to using the new venue; the band’s fall concert will be held there Thursday night.
“It’s been a long time, 10 years of seriously trying to make this happen,” Glaser said. “It’s awesome, we’re ready for our first concert.”
In his speech before the ribbon-cutting, Glaser said he wouldn’t change a thing about the theater, only that he would have done it “25 years ago.”
The band isn’t the only El Camino High art program benefiting from the new arts center. Student artwork will be displayed in the lobby art gallery, and the school’s theater and choir programs will finally have a stage.
Previous student performances were held in their cafeteria or gym, where students had to lug around heavy stage equipment and even a grand piano, according to El Camino High School senior Abigail Mendoza.
Mendoza, who is the lead soprano in the school choir, cheer captain, and a three-year veteran of the theater program, said she’s very excited for next semester’s spring musical.
“We’re doing ‘Wizard of Oz,’ auditions are coming up! It’s exciting,” said Mendoza, who was recently accepted to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for software engineering.
“I really love our performing arts, it’s my passion,” said Mendoza. “It’s like a community. We call it a cult, but it’s not a cult! You create a family.”
Many of the school’s political representatives sent staffers to congratulate the school and present the principal with certificates.
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove), State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), and State Assemblymen Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) all sent representatives to congratulate Holcomb.
Glaser said during his remarks before the ribbon-cutting that the school has already received inquiries about renting the space for community events, and said he hopes the center will become “not just a theater, but a community center.”