By Kim Walter
The Warren County School Board has approved an auditorium design for the new middle school, moving the division one step closer to making the plans a reality.
Originally, Ballou Justice Upton, the architect firm, had designed a full auditorium with fixed seating for 500, a full stage and sloped floor. The estimated cost was $3,484,375, in addition to the $27,995,400 for the 151,000-square-foot middle school.
Previously, School Board members questioned the need for a full size auditorium at a middle school. Through interviews conducted with faculty and administrative staff at Warren County Middle School, they learned that the space was only used a little more than 10 times during the school day over the course of the school year.
Both high schools in the division also house full auditoriums, which can be used by other schools for after-school activities and functions.
The School Board was given two other options for an auditorium -- one would be a reduced auditorium with folding chairs, reduced stage area, flat floor seating and a movable rear wall opening up into the commons area to allow seating for up to 500 people. The option could cost around $2,271,800.
The other option was for a platform stage with flat floor seating and folding chairs that could seat less than 400 people, which would cost $880,000.
During its regular meeting Thursday night, the board approved the second, reduced auditorium option.
The stage size will be only slightly reduced from the original proposal, and will be higher off the ground than just a raised platform. Wings will be available to the side of the stage for students to gather prior to performances, and rooms for chair storage will be added to the sides of the seating area.
Approximately 350 chairs will fit inside the auditorium area, but a movable wall at the back will make room for an additional 150 seats, backing up into the proposed student commons area.
Auditorium-style sound and lighting will still be possible with the approved design.
The decision helps keep the board in line with its intent to maintain equity between the existing and new middle schools.
Board member Kim Athey previously stated that the only reason that Warren County Middle School has a full size auditorium was because the building was originally a high school, and the space was inherited.
"I'd hate to spend more money and take up more space if it's not going to be used much," she said during an August meeting.
The new middle school will likely have outdoor facilities -- an all-weather track surface, field concession units and bleachers, and fields - that the current school doesn't have. Athey said in the end, the facilities balance each other out.
The facility is scheduled to be ready for students in the fall of 2016.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org