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June 04. 2014 12:33AM

Londonderry's proposed auditorium to have 800 seats

LONDONDERRY — A new auditorium at Londonderry High School won’t likely change the recent practice of holding commencements at the Verizon Center in Manchester, school officials said this week.

During Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Tony DeFrancesco, chairman of the school district’s auditorium review committee, said the project being explored for the Londonderry High School campus would probably have about 800 seats.

Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said that last year’s graduation ceremony in Manchester drew a crowd of just under 4,000 people, including staff members and graduates.

Graduations have been held off-campus for the past several years.

“It works out fantastically, because our students aren’t limited in the amount of guests they can invite to the ceremony,” Greenberg said.

“I think it goes without saying, then, that this definitely won’t be a new graduation venue,” Council Chairman Tom Dolan added.

DeFrancesco saud that many area school districts, including Alvirne High School and Pinkerton Academy, hold graduation at the Manchester arena.

“My answer to anyone with concerns about this is: We’re building this to use 365 days a year, not just one day,” he said.

The dozen or so committee members plan to present their final project proposal to the public in late August, DeFrancesco said.

An earlier incarnation of the committee had previously explored auditorium options in 2006, when plans for a 950-seat, $1 million facility were ultimately placed on the back burner because of more pressing district needs.

DeFrancesco said this week that the proposal presented eight years ago “was really well-crafted” and some aspects were worth reconsidering, though on a smaller scale.

“Our original concept was to have two classes of high school students be able to fit into the facility at the same time,” DeFrancesco said. “So right now we’re trying to keep with that same theme, while recognizing cost constraints. And having an 800-seat auditorium is considerably cheaper than building a 950-seat building.”

By comparison, the Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy in Derry has 930 seats.

While final cost estimates and square footage of the proposed facility have yet to be determined, Greenberg said the auditorium being proposed is expected to be smaller than the high school gymnasium.

The site being considered for an auditorium is adjacent to the high school’s cafeteria.

“That area would meet a number of needs,” DeFrancesco said. “It’s easy to get in and out of, it’s a cheaper site to build on, and it’s easily accessible to the community at large.”

Having an auditorium next door to the cafeteria would also give school staff the option of using the cafeteria area as a prestaging area — a much more economical option than building a new room.

Londonderry High School’s 2014 commencement ceremony will take place Friday, June 13 at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center in Manchester.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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