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Group's efforts continue toward school auditorium

Union Leader Correspondent

April 24. 2014 9:16PM

LONDONDERRY — A group is making progress toward realizing the dream of a new auditorium in town.

Tony DiFrancesco, chairman of the Londonderry School Community Auditorium Committee, said the group is researching the feasibility of building a freestanding, 950-seat auditorium.

The dozen-or so community members serving on the committee were tasked last fall by the school board to research the latest round of auditorium options.

DiFrancesco said it’s too early to tell whether the project would ultimately move forward, or what the final costs would be. DiFrancesco said the committee expects to submit its final report to the board in late August, with the board (and voters) to have final say on the matter.

School Board Chair Leitha Reilly said the board was updated on the committee’s findings earlier this month, and so far the process has showed promise.

The auditorium committee will meet again Thursday, May 1, at 3 p.m., in the School Board Room at the district offices. Architects will be on hand to share conceptual project renderings, with discussion to follow.

Another meeting will take place May 13 at 6 p.m. in Room No. 219 at Londonderry High School, where committee members will discuss their findings based on the conceptual plans.

“We’ll need to make a decision then about what this site will and won’t accommodate,” DiFrancesco said. The auditorium project has been listed in the school district’s list of proposed Capital Improvement Projects for several years now, though each year the project has been ranked low by district officials on the needs scale as opposed to more pressing problems like roofs and other costly facilities maintenance projects. In Fall 2012, Principal Jason Parent announced a committee would be formed to research various options over a three-year time span.

The committee met sporadically in the months to follow, DiFrancesco said, but began giving the matter more serious thought over the past year or so.

This past winter, the School Board agreed to fund a $25,000 architectural study under the direction of the auditorium committee.

“We’ve had previous studies completed over the years, but up until now no one got as far as to determine final costs, or where, exactly, 950 seats would fit,” DiFrancesco said. “Right now it’s very early in the process, and any number of reasons could still put this project to bed.”

Still, the efforts are worth working for, he said.“As a committee, we feel very strongly that the entire town would be able to use this facility,” DiFrancesco said. “That includes our seniors, our police and fire departments and our younger students.”Discussions on building an auditorium in Londonderry have been ongoing over the past several years. Earlier cost estimates soared to more than $15 million.

The lack of a performing arts center was one of the few areas where Londonderry High School came up short during the 2012-2013 New England Association of Schools and Colleges survey.

As it stands now, drama club performances are typically held at the Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry, while some of the other large, public events take place in the gym or cafeteria.

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