Wednesday, September 29, 2010

City High principal asks for more money for performing arts


City High Principal John Bacon spoke at Tuesday's School Board meeting about City High's performing-arts expansion project, saying the current budget of $4.5 million would meet the needs of current students but not the needs in the coming years.
Bacon justified asking for additional funds by saying City High has had an outstanding performing-arts program since its beginning and the students needed to be kept "front and center."

The School Board members did not seem pleased at the request for more money.

"This is probably one of the most negative presentations I've heard on my time on the board," School Board President Patti Fields said.

City High, which is working with architects Shive-Hattery, Inc., has around 650 students in the band, orchestra, and drama departments, leading to overcrowded classes and a lack of storage for instruments, costumes, and other equipment.

Bacon said with the current allotment, the changes both the school and Shive-Hattery want for the arts section of the school are not possible.

Several problems — including external space, phone lines, fiber cables, and road access — are contributing factors in the cost and cut into how much money is available for building. As it is, the plans expand the performing-arts space for band and vocal sections, but it's only minimal expansion, Bacon said. The money does not provide for expansion of drama or orchestra.

Tuyet Dorau said for $4.5 million, the planned changes are "dismal" — she expected to see more for the money.

The reason for the expansions are lack of classroom area, rehearsal and practice spaces, along with a need for lesson and ensemble rooms. Accessibility issues and a "severe" lack of storage are additional problems, Bacon said.

With the current $4.5 million budget, there won't be any money left over for chairs, instruments, without cutting storage, architect Tandi Dausener said.

And students have noticed the crowding.

"It's not a huge problem, but it's a problem that needs to be fixed. The area we have is not going to suffice for what we need," said City High senior Aaron Ottmar, who plays percussion.

And Candice Wiebener, the district's music performance coordinator, said City High's orchestra room is so small, string players can't use full bows for their instruments when they practice.

City High choir director Greg Grove said he felt lucky more students haven't been hurt because of the lengthy process of transferring choir equipment from opposite sides of the school. He pointed out that students have smashed fingers, feet, and lockers accidentally over the years, and one girl had broken her arm. Earlier in the day, he said, risers had taken up more than half of a hallway.

"We're not trying to whine or beg," Grove said. "We're just want to present a complete picture."

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