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High school performing arts center renovations near completion
A-High School Facilities Update pic1
Renovations are underway to reformat the current fine arts space at Dawson County High School. The space will include a counselor suite and space for student testing. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

Despite the torn up parking lots, construction equipment and debris both inside and out of the facilities at Dawson County High School, the Dawson County Performing Arts Center is in its final stages and is set to open with the new school year.

Since the drama, band, chorus and art classrooms will find a new home in the facility, the existing spaces are also currently undergoing major renovations.

The changes to the existing performing arts areas will also be completed before school begins on Aug. 5.

"The current fine arts spaces are being completely reformatted this summer and being turned into eight classrooms, a conference room, teacher work room and a counselor suite. The clinic is also being moved to a larger space," said Dawson County School Superintendent Damon Gibbs.

The additional, flexible classroom space will also allow for on-site AP testing and bring the building's classroom capacity to 1,450 from 1,150.

According to numbers presented during the May Board of Education meeting, the total budget for the project on the existing facility is $1.9 million.

"All of our summer renovation projects are funded with ESPLOST," Gibbs said.

ESPLOST is the education special purpose local option sales tax. In March 2015 Dawson County voters approved a new five year ESPLOST. The 1-cent sales tax originally dates back to November 2009.

The expenditures of the collected funds are restricted to repair and renovations, land acquisition for projects, technology equipment, books and media.

The breakdown of the numbers for the summer projects includes a projected cost from the contractor of $1,375,087 and an additional amount of $82,505 for architect and engineering fees.

There is also new low-maintenance flooring called LVT (luxury vinyl tile) going into classrooms throughout the building to replace a product called VCT (vinyl composition tile). The flooring will be managed in house and will not exceed $300,000.

The new flooring has a wood finish look and gives a warmer, less institutional feel.

There will also be additional furniture for the project and the cost, according to the board's summary, which will not exceed $100,000.

"We also have to furnish the new offices and classrooms with furniture and technology," Gibbs said. "We will complete the project within budget."

The original 2009 ESPLOST was projected to generate about $30 million dollars over five years and $15 million of the projected revenue was bonded out for the performing arts center.

The performing arts center has a substantial foyer with large restroom facilities to accommodate visitors.

"The performing arts center is going to seat 1,000. So when you seat 1,000, you have to accommodate 1,000," Gibbs said.

The main foyer and auditorium will be separated from the classroom portion of the building.

"We separated the building into two pieces. We have a performing arts area, which is really for community events, school events, that sort of thing. We have a school classroom area that we are going to keep separated. Students will not be accessing this area on a daily basis," he said.

The building has a canopy covered walk way to connect to the original building and provide coverage in inclement weather.

The new facilities provide ample storage space for each of the fine arts departments.

The drama department will have room to store props and sets.

"We talked to several drama teachers when we were doing the planning of this building and one of the things they said-they never have enough storage areas for sets," he said.

Beyond the theater stage are men's and women's dressing rooms that open to a common area offstage. There is also an elaborate fly system for the productions.

"This is something that most small systems don't have," Gibbs said of the intricate system. "We can fly backdrops up and down. It's a really, really a big part of theater. You go to the Fox, you go to the big theatrical productions and they all have this kind of set up."

The theater also features an orchestra pit that will raise and lower, sloped and stadium seating and a sound and light booth.

The massive new art room will easily accommodate art supplies and includes cabinets, sinks and a kiln room.

The chorus and band areas are also significantly larger and the band area has double doors that open on the stadium side of the building. It will give marching band members a place to congregate and easy access for game time.

Teachers in the performing arts programs are excited about and looking forward to the move, according to Gibbs.