Request to start funding Londonderry auditorium may go to voters in MarchBy April Guilmet
Union Leader Correspondent
August 28. 2014 10:07PM
LONDONDERRY — A warrant article that would start the process of building a school and community auditorium on Mammoth Road could appear on the March ballot.
Following nearly eight months of research, the final report from the Londonderry School/Community Auditorium was released earlier this week.
Committee Chairman Tony DeFrancesco said the group had been working since January to research various options.
The school board hired the Walpole-based Marinace Architectural firm earlier this year, paying $25,000 to study size, pricing and several locations.
“We spent many hours studying, researching and visiting auditoriums and performing arts facilities throughout New England,” DeFrancesco said.
After contemplating five sites, both the committee and the firm determined that building an auditorium in space adjacent to the high school cafeteria — the same spot favored by a prior study committee in 2006 — seemed the most feasible option.
DeFrancesco said the committee’s final recommendation this time around calls for an 800-seat, 28,600- square-foot facility that would cost “less than $10 million” to build.
During a presentation to the School Board Tuesday night, the committee recommended placing a warrant article to fund the auditorium’s architectural and engineering fees on the March 2015 school ballot, with a bond article to construct the facility to be placed on the March 2016 ballot.
If built, the auditorium would be used not only for educational programs for students and staff during a regular school day, but as a local hub for musicians, actors, dancers and video presentations.
With no such facility in Londonderry at present, groups like the high school drama club have most recently been performing plays and musicals at the Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry.
“Right now we’re limited in what we’re able to do,” drama club adviser Valerie Nelson said. “We simply can’t perform larger-scale musicals and productions because our current venue doesn’t allow us that opportunity.”
School officials noted that about a quarter of the high school population participates in music programs, while most of the district’s schools offer some sort of drama program.
DeFrancesco said the auditorium could also be used by the town for police and fire department awards ceremonies, town and school deliberative sessions, senior citizen programs and events hosted by local Scouting troops, dance academies and civic and religious organizations, among others.
Principal Jason Parent noted that the lack of a school auditorium was noted in accreditation reports by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges in 1982, 1990, 2000 and 2010.
In the report released by the committee Aug. 26, the new auditorium’s annual operating costs would be about $160,000, including $60,000 for utilities, $14,000 for maintenance and repairs and $72,000 for custodial services.
However, a portion of those costs could be funded through facility rentals, DeFrancesco said. Further funding could come from corporate sponsorships, local charitable foundations, alumni donations and a potential public/private collaboration.
“Currently, numerous classes bring in guest speakers to assist students in becoming college and career ready,” district curriculum coordinator Kim Lindley-Soucy said. “Guest speakers are often asked to remain at the high school for multiple hours and repeat their presentation numerous times since there isn’t a space large enough for them to address everyone simultaneously.”
“An auditorium is a necessity for our students as the opportunities to delve deeper into curriculum are numerous and difficult to access in our current facilities,” Lindley-Soucy added.