Friday, October 19, 2012

Congratulations are in order for the Monett R-1 Board of Education for moving forward with plans to build a performing arts center for the high school in combination with a storm shelter.

It's been 40 years since Monett's second high school disappeared, and with it went the last real auditorium to serve school district functions. That's long enough to forget. But the generation of people serving on the school board today have an inkling of what a facility added to an education program.

The open classroom idea on which the middle school building was built was a model of flexibility. Like many ideas that look really good on paper, this one had its drawbacks. The folding walls were taken out in the mid-1990s.

Even at its best, opening all the classrooms and inviting the community in for a big event, as was tried with the performance of "Messiah" to conclude Monett's centennial celebration in 1987, showed the newer school building design really could not replace what a real auditorium offered.

Like the One to the World laptop project at the high school, R-1 leaders are continuing to seek out the best facilities in which Monett students can learn. An auditorium will give a big boost to the performing arts. As serviceable as the Monett City Hall Auditorium is for some activities, the backstage dressing rooms are now gone. Stagecraft can barely be practiced there anymore.

It's really easy to lose a vision over time. Monett leaders could have stuck to the same plan as other area school districts and gone without an auditorium. Not this time. As time has passed, and the high school band performed at Mocha Jo's and at the First United Methodist Church in addition to the school gym and commons, the need for a better home base for performances has only become clearer.

Cataclysmic events like the Joplin tornado often have a ripple effect. In this case, making FEMA money available to towns with no history of having storm shelters will prove a blessing. It also shows a commendable model for what government can do well. We welcome the proactive response to help prevent storm deaths tomorrow and years from now.

Monett's school leaders have done a commendable job looking ahead. Students for decades to come will thank them for this move.