Kofman Auditorium (“Kofman”), a historic 1500-seat theater in Alameda High School that has been home to the community’s performing arts groups, has been closed to the public since 2016. Its rigging, curtain, and stage lighting have been removed, and its basement dressing rooms sealed due to safety concerns.
The Alameda Board of Education is preparing to place a bond measure on the June 2022 ballot to repair and upgrade school district facilities. Kofman wasn’t included in its initial proposal. Chief Business Officer Shariq Khan has said that Kofman will reopen to the public after the pandemic is over. However, local performing groups note that the facility will not be usable as a theater unless repairs are made.
The Board’s initial proposal allocates over $130 million for sports facilities, including $63,864,800 for a joint athletic facility and $66,750,796 for new gymnasiums at Wood and Lincoln Middle Schools and at Encinal High School but little for the arts. Alameda Civic Ballet is asking for community support to encourage equity for the arts in the school bond measure.
The Board estimates that a complete renovation of Kofman Auditorium would cost $30,749,338. However, this includes refurbishing the theater, lobby, and back of the house (including dressing rooms), stage upgrades, new lighting and rigging, seating restoration, and accessibility upgrades.
Arguments for Equity
At its January 12th and 19th meetings, the Board of Education received community input on its proposed bond measure. Many speakers spoke of the need to balance sports and arts education.
Speaker Ryan Laland said, “There are students that will never set foot on a sports field. We need equity for the arts.” Scott Brady said, “Kofman Auditorium could be a shared resource for the high schools and the community. Both high schools have athletic fields; neither has a theater. Given this, prioritizing a joint athletic facility over a usable arts space is a mistake.”
Zachary Morris, Alameda High drama teacher, said that Kofman is not a safe environment; if the community wants to save it, now is the time before further deferred maintenance multiplies the cost of repair.
Ryan Justus noted that the performing arts involve students of all ages from the entire district as performers and audience members. He said that without Kofman, Alameda performing groups struggle to help students experience the wonder of theater.
Abra Rudisill, Artistic Director for Alameda Civic Ballet, says, “For performing arts students, the theater is their classroom. Without it, they can’t fully learn their craft. We ask for the community’s support in asking the Board to support Kofman Auditorium.”
How to Comment
Learn more about the proposed Phase II repairs and upgrades here. Board of Education email addresses are here. The Board reconvenes on January 25th, and Board President Jennifer Williams has asked staff to present revised budget proposals based on community input. Information on how to attend through Zoom is here.