Confetti flies to kick off the public opening of the South Pasadena High School STEM Building on Wednesday, April 24. From left: South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian, former SPUSD School Board Member Elizabeth Eilers, Board Member Dr. Ruby Kalra, former Board Member Julie Giulioni, former Board Member Rich Sonner, Board Member Zahir Robb, SPHS Assistant Principal David Speck, SPHS Assistant Principal Janet Wichman, Board President Dr. Suzie Abajian, SPHS Principal Janet Anderson, Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz, Board Clerk Dr. Michele Kipke, former Board Member Joe Loo and Board Member Jon Primuth. Photos by Skye Hannah

A celebratory atmosphere filled the courtyard of the South Pasadena High School (SPHS) Science, Math, Engineering and Technology (STEM) building during the public open house.  With the sounds of the SPHS Jazz Band lilting into the air on April 24, the crowd gathered to see familiar faces and gain a chance to see the inside of a project that was eight years of planning and construction in the making. The $13-million building funded by Measure SP has 20,000 square feet of space and houses four science labs for the physical sciences, six classrooms for mathematics and a new locker room for the girls softball team.

South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) School Board President Dr. Suzie Abajian shared remarks of gratitude for the many people who made the project possible, including voters who passed Measure SP, the administrative team, teachers and both former and current board members.

Alex Uriarte (from right), Donella Uriarte, Alexander Uriarte and Marc Cohen tour a mathematics classroom.

“I’m glad that we’re finally able to give our students a 21st century building that they can enjoy and learn in,” said Abajian.

SPHS Principal Janet Anderson said the project was a longtime coming in the process and was a goal for the past two decades.
“It’s a dream that morphed into something that really suits our current students and our students of the future,” said Anderson. “There was always an eye in the planning for the future and how we could use space more effectively for our students.”

Anderson noted that the extra space and new facilities mean there will no longer be sharing of rooms and also supplies and materials are now streamlined.

“We appreciate this and we appreciate all who made it happen,” said Anderson.

“It far exceeded our expectations,” shared Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz. “We started out to build four science rooms and six math classrooms. We decided to go bigger and here it is.”

SPHS chemistry teacher Ben Ku helped guide families through different science displays in the physical sciences classroom during the open house tour. He noted the new fume hood, which the school didn’t previously have, which will enable the students to do new experiments.

“I think that there’s a lot of things to be really grateful for in this classroom and the kids are really excited to learn in this space,” said Ku.

George Hou and his two sons Gregory Hou (left), 7, and Brian Hou, 6, interact with a radioactive decay series display in a physical sciences classroom.

Donella Uriarte toured through a mathematics classroom with her husband Alex Uriarte (SPHS alumnus) and son Alexander Uriarte, a third-grader at Holy Family School. As longtime South Pasadena residents, Donella said she and her husband have watched the building rise from the ground up and were happy to get an opportunity to see the inside.

“His nieces have gone on to Ivy League schools from here so we just wanted to get a feel and a vibe,” said Donella. “Alexander will be here in about six years. It looks great and it’s really nice.”

Looking to the future, Yantz said that the renovation of the old gymnasium at the middle school into a black box theater, art room and lab for engineering classes will break ground in early June. The SPHS athletics project is planned to start in November.

“We’ll be busy,” said Yantz. “We’ll continue to spend your dollars wisely.”

SPUSD staff, teachers and families gather for the public opening of the SPHS STEM Building.
Skye Hannah, Senior Reporter
Author

Skye Hannah is a senior reporter for the South Pasadena Review and the San Marino Tribune, covering education, features and civic issues. Skye previously served as an award-winning senior staff photojournalist and staff writer covering education, business, crime, sports, features and civic issues for the Rome News-Tribune in Rome, Georgia. A native of Dallas, Texas, she is an avid cyclist, enthusiastic outdoorswoman, and has been known to drop “y’all” in conversation. You can reach Skye at shannah@gavilanmedia.com.

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