Piedmont Education Foundation and Piedmont Unified School District announce agreement for completion of new Performing Arts Center

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Construction continues at the Piedmont High School Performing Arts Center
Construction continues at the Piedmont High School Performing Arts Center

Piedmont Education Foundation (PEF) and the Piedmont Unified School (PUSD) district have approved an agreement that will allow PUSD to complete the construction of the new Performing Arts Center in 2021 without having to defer or cut features that would impact educational programs. PEF has agreed to provide PUSD with the temporary use of up to $1.8 million to be repaid by PUSD when they are in receipt of sufficient funds specifically allocated for capital expenditures.

As background, the community of Piedmont passed measure H1 in 2016 which authorized the sale of $66 million in bonds in order to construct exceptional teaching facilities at Piedmont High School. Working with numerous community stakeholders, the PUSD Board of Directors approved a plan to construct a new main high school “S.T.E.A.M.” building and a new performing arts center.

These funds were sufficient at the start of the bond program and had a contingency plan built in to cover unexpected costs. However, the project faced two major setbacks. First, the state imposed supplemental requirements for this project, necessitating millions in additional expenditures for structural steel, concrete, and labor.

Then, in March 2020, amidst already extraordinary market conditions, Piedmont issued a shelter-in-place order. While the construction was allowed to continue as an essential government function, there were significant disruptions in both the labor and supply chains, further increasing projected costs and delaying completion.

In order to combat rising costs, the facilities steering committee continued value engineering, which entails planning for the substitution of materials and methods with less expensive alternatives without sacrificing functionality. Despite this effort, there was a shortfall attached to the completion of the Performing Arts Center. To complete the project within the original budget, the Committee considered deferring certain theatrical fixtures — including installation of the stage floor, rigging, drapes, acoustic paneling, theatrical equipment, carpeting, and flooring — until State modernization funds are paid to the District.

To avoid deferring these important features of the arts center project, PEF stepped in with bridge financing, allowing the District to complete the project without deferrals.  The PEF Board agreed to guarantee this payment from their endowment fund. PEF Investment Committee Chair, Angel Fierro, stated, “Extraordinary challenges call for an extraordinary response. Guaranteeing these payments is in keeping with PEF’s mission.”

PEF’s Endowment Fund was established in 1989 to ensure continuous financial support for the schools. Each year, a 5% rolling average is extracted from the fund and included in PEF’s grant to PUSD.  The current value of the fund is $9.8 million, up from $7 million in April 2020. The market conditions that led to increased costs for construction were also responsible for a significant increase in PEF’s Endowment. 

The agreement between PEF and PUSD calls for the district to repay any funds for which PEF has provided temporary use. PUSD is working on several avenues to raise funds, including launching a study into the feasibility of a capital campaign and continuing their application for state modernization funds.

“We are proud to be in a position, thanks to thousands of families that have donated generously to the PEF Endowment Fund, to help bring the Performing Arts Center to completion for our community,” says Heather Frank, PEF executive director. 

Construction on the Performing Arts Center is expected to be completed in Fall 2021. Updates, including Annual Reports from the project’s Citizen Oversight Committee, can be found at https://measureh1.org/

About PEF

Piedmont Education Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide sustained financial support to the Piedmont Unified School District through fundraising and community engagement. Led by a volunteer board of directors and supported by a professional office staff, PEF oversees the Giving Campaign, Spring Fling, the Student Directory, and much more. PEF recently pledged a gift of $2,750,000 to PUSD for the 2021-2022 school year. Visit PiedmontEdFoundation.org to learn more.

About PUSD

The Piedmont Unified School District is a student-centered ecosystem that strives to provide an equitable, inclusive and stimulating educational environment for the over 2,500 students at the six school sites in the district – Beach Elementary, Havens Elementary, Wildwood Elementary, Piedmont Middle, Millennium High, and Piedmont High. PUSD is among the highest-ranking public unified school districts in the State.