Hard-hat summer underway at CHS

       The rebuilt Coronado High auditorium won't just look different on the inside; it's going to be noticeably higher and wider.
       With the start of summer vacation in late May, the $3.9 million project's plans are turning into bricks and mortar at the hands of Gerald H. Phipps Construction crews. The hoped-for completion date is January 2008.
       Phipps, the hired contractor, is also redoing the school's science and art areas as part of a summer of upgrades at the school. The latter jobs ($1.2 million and $200,000, respectively) are to be ready for use when classes resume in mid-August, plans show.
       What students are likelyto see on the auditorium project when they return will be construction workers installing the new roof, according to Jeff Brisk, the project superintendent for Phipps. The highest point, needed to accommodate a rebuilt balcony, will be 49 feet; the roof at that location now is 18 feet lower than that.
       The current auditorium interior, including the backstage areas, encloses 15,500 square feet. When the rebuild is done, it will be more than 50 percent larger, at 24,140 square feet. This will include a new stage, new wiring, better acoustics and an interior so revamped “it will look brand new,” Coronado assistant principal David Engstrom said.
       Some of the extra square footage will be “bumped out” at the north and south sides of the building, where the entry doors are located. As a result, he explained, the space should feel less like a school hallway and more like a lobby for performance attendees. “It will be so much more friendly,” he said. “It could be a place for people to linger or where we could sell concessions.”
       Other noticeable expansions of the building footprint will also be on the northern side, toward the eastern corner. These areas will provide space for a “green room” (where performers can ready themselves to go on stage), as well as for men's and women's dressing rooms and access to that area through a separate lobby door.
       New stairs to the balcony will be part of the added square footage on the north and south sides.
       The expanded balcony, along with a redesigned main seating area, will give the auditorium more than twice as many seats (792 compared with the current 340), said Terry Johns, the project manager for District 11.
       “That's going to be the really radical part, tearing the whole roof off so we can put in the new balcony,” he said.
       The basic design of the auditorium will not change too much from the way it has looked since its construction as part of the original Coronado High in 1971. Both Engstrom and Johns expressed some regret about that, noting how the back end of the auditorium is what people see from the parking lot.
       But the big problem (other than age), the aspect that made the auditorium one of the featured projects of the 2005 District 11 bond issue, was the short-sighted functionality of the original building's design. “They built it so small,” Johns pointed out. “It's one of the smallest in the district. Even the auditorium at Queen Palmer Elementary is bigger.”
       As Principal Susan Humphrey has previously pointed out, she can't even fit her entire freshman class into the current facility.
       In addition, as Engstrom put it, “the best seats in the house don't exist.” That's because the center of the auditorium was left seatless in the original design to allow a partition between the left and and right seating areas. Meanwhile, the balcony has space for hardly any more people than a lighting crew.
       Creating a new/old auditorium is not coming cheap. The estimate for the work, when the bond issue was first put to avoters in 2004, was $1.4 million. Fueled by construction cost hikes over the past three years and an admitted cost underestimate to begin with, District 11 has had to raise that price tag to $3.9 million in the final contract with Phipps. “The inflation over the past three years has been tremendous,” Johns said. “The hurricanes last year hurt us badly. And a lot of the work is petroleum-related, which has affected all kinds of materials.”
       Fortunately for the school district, the bond issue's tax proceeds have been drawing interest; plus, other projects have come in under estimates, so money was available to supplement the auditorium cost.
       The final product, according to Engstrom, will be a facility that will make the school and surrounding community proud. “We're real excited to have a venue usable for the whole Westside,” he said. “And, we can showcase the good things from our performing arts.”
       The science upgrade will result in more sensible classroom arrangements. Now the area is “like a maze,” Engstrom said, in which students often have to work through other classrooms to get to their own.
       The art area will be “gutted and streamlined,” including a new two-dimensional (drawing/ painting) classroom, a remodeled three-dimensional (clay) classroom and a remodeled computer graphics lab, he said.

Westside Pioneer article