North Hall musicians, singers and thespians will soon have a state-of-the-art performing arts center, but East Hall performers will have to wait longer for the same facility.
Plans for East Hall High School’s new performing arts center have been postponed, according to Matt Cox, Hall County Schools’ executive director of facilities.
“We just felt like it was better for the SPLOST cash flow to postpone the East Hall project,” Cox said. “... Right now, the only thing really to know is the North Hall project will proceed as planned.”
While Cox couldn’t say how long the East Hall facility would be delayed, construction of the North Hall facility will begin as soon as school lets out in May. A portion of the existing building will have to come down first.
“Then the construction will be where the old chorus, band and theater were,” Cox said. “That space between the two existing gymnasiums is where this new building will be.”
The existing theater seats approximately 200 and was technically never designed to house a theater, according to Cox. It was built in the 1970s, when an existing small gymnasium was renovated into the theater. Acoustically, the building is not ideal for live performances.
Cox said this is one of the reasons North Hall will get a new performing arts center before other county schools that need one.
“It’s hard to compare them, because there are needs at several of the schools related to performing arts,” he said. “But this is an older building than some of the others, and we had to start somewhere.”
The new facility will be much larger, more functional and more equivalent to newer facilities like those at Flowery Branch High School and Chestatee High School.
Cox said the plan is to bring all the lacking performing arts centers in county schools up to a better size and quality. East Hall’s existing theater is also a renovated space, thus it will be the second to get a face-lift.
“The board is 100 percent in support of the performing arts programs at all of the schools,” Cox said. “We have done studies, obviously at North and East Hall and a couple of the other schools as well, and the intent is to eventually bring them all up to the same standard.”
Where North Hall’s current theater is located, a larger band room with multiple storage closets will be constructed. A new chorus room and drama room will go where the old band room currently sits, and a large room will be dedicated to drama-set construction.
The heart of the new facility will be a 350-seat theater. The old, small theater was in the back of the facility, but the new theater will be toward the front. A new lobby and ticket booth will be built in front, too, between the theater and the newer of the two existing gymnasiums.
Another advantage of the design is it connects the buildings, making the campus safer for students.
Jeff Fleming, school resource officer at North Hall High, said the drama department usually holds its biggest annual performances at the Brenau University Hosch Theater, because the existing theater cannot accommodate a large audience.
Fleming said he’s pleased the school’s drama department, which won last year’s GHSA state One Act Play competition, will get these new facilities.
“This building was built in ’57,” Fleming said. “It was some time later that they built the theater, but it’s old. It’s seen better days and it’s time for something better.”