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2 Hall high schools set to upgrade arts departments
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East Hall and North Hall high schools will soon be home to brand-new facilities for their fine arts departments, including their respective theater programs.

The plans are in the very early stages of development.

“There are a ton of renovations that need to be made to the existing structures,” said Damon Gibbs, executive director of facilities. “And realistically, they’re ... inadequately sized for the number of students within those buildings.

Principals at both schools have called the proposed improvements long overdue, particularly for the drama departments.

“It’s really a makeshift theater,” North Hall High Principal Joe Gheesling said. “It was part of an old gym. It’s very inadequate in every way.”

At North Hall, the changes are expected to include upgrades to the band and chorus facilities. Over at East Hall, principal Jeffrey Cooper plans for this project to bleed over into other areas.

“(The theater is) connected to the part of the building where we’ve got a special education area that’s going to be remodeled,” Cooper said. “And then, we’re going to tie it in with a horticultural lab on the back side of the building.”

Both schools are currently forming focus groups including teachers, students and parents to determine exactly what they would like to see included in the renovations. These groups will begin meeting in January.

It’ll be a long process, Gibbs said.

“Just getting the plans ready is probably a six-to-eight month process,” he said. “It’ll be summer before we even get the plans completed. If all goes well, there’s still a long process after that.

“We’re talking about a year or so to be ready to break ground on those things,” Gibbs added.

Beyond East Hall and North Hall, Gibbs said that school leaders are also considering future upgrades to the fine arts facility at Johnson High.

Regardless of timing, Cooper and Gheesling are looking forward to the changes over the next couple of years.

“We need to make some significant changes and upgrades to that part of our curriculum,” Gheesling said. “Our theater and our performing arts facilities are very dated and inadequate to what we expect.

“I know our teachers work very, very hard to put out a quality product and we have a lot of participation (in the fine arts programs),” he added. “I just feel like right now is a good time for improvement.”

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