Preliminary plans for a new performing arts center in the storm shelter at Monett High School have been unveiled. A committee of educators and community members heard a presentation about the proposal last week.
Superintendent Brad Hanson unveiled a rough preliminary drawing provided by Sapp Design Associates for the facility. Plans call for building a safe room, funded largely by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on the east end of the high school.
FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cost for the box building structure meeting its standards. The building is expected to provide shelter for all of the students and faculty at Monett High School and the Scott Regional Technology Center, enough to hold 1,536 people in an emergency.
The building would be open for public use as a shelter after school hours.
The Monett R-1 Board of Education members agreed to modify the building so that it can also serve as a performing arts center. The plan will provide a full auditorium, something the high school has not had since Monett's second high school was demolished in 1972.
Hanson said the overall cost of the building will run up to $5 million. He expected the district would pay 55 to 60 percent of the final cost, or between $2 million and $2.5 million.
The proposal placed 700 to 750 seats in the auditorium. The Hall would be sloped and seats spaced to allow viewing around the person in front of each chair. Seating would be arranged in thirds, with two aisles extending from the rear to the stage.
A delegation from the school visited other school districts to look at their auditoriums. Hanson said it was generally felt that a sunken orchestra pit in front of the stage for musicians generally represented space that could not be used most of the time.
School leaders generally agreed space would be better used to omit the orchestra pit. To provide space for musicians, Hanson said the first four rows of seats could be removable, thus providing space for future performances.
Committee members discussed arrangement option such as a location for wheelchair seating, light controls and traffic flow around the ticket area in the lobby. Hanson suggested placing restrooms in the lobby that would not be accessible during a performance. Others suggested having at least a clean-up sink very close to the stage.
The design places the shelter against the art room at the far east end of the high school. Hanson said a door would be added giving easy access to the band from the side, so that band students would not have to only enter from the lobby.
Between the auditorium and the existing school would be placed a series of rooms along a hallway, including a classroom for drama students, plus two dressing rooms, a bathroom and a storeroom.
Storage will be a challenge. Hanson said space initially designed for a generator would probably be taken for storage, and the generator moved outside. Play director Ivy Nelson said according to current fire codes, storing material under the stage was no longer an option.
The stage itself would extend back 40 feet. Hanson said adding a loft for storage appears to be too expensive.
"It's a bit of a challenge to take a pre-cast concrete building and make it acoustically acceptable," Hanson said. "It can be done. We saw it in Ava. The hall itself will probably have a dropped ceiling.
Sapp Design Associates has been asked to begin making detailed drawings of the plan. Hanson hopes to have the committee meet again in January, 2013, to review the progress. Input from more members in the community with experience either performing in or attending shows in a variety of settings is welcome. Hanson asked for interested persons to call him at the superintendent's office, 235-7422.
Design work could be finished around March, 2013. On that timetable, the project would go out for bid in June. Hanson figured earthwork would begin in the fall. Construction could take 12 to 18 months.
Drama teacher Marilyn Mann thanked Hanson and the school board for making the commitment to build a performing arts facility. Other committee members echoed her support.