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Students work to revive aging school auditorium

March 11, 2013 12:00AM

Lynsey Sholders had mixed emotions when she walked into the Lakeside Elementary School auditorium for the first time on Monday. The extent of the work needed was obviously great, but the potential was exciting.

“I did get excited,” Sholders said. “There is so much detail. This could potentially be beautiful!”

Sholders and classmates from junior- and senior-level interior design classes at Pittsburg State University toured the auditorium on March 11. They took photos, measured walls and the stage and began dreaming about what the 83-year-old auditorium could look like.

For their spring semester project, the PSU students have decided not only to come up with plans to remodel the auditorium, but also help with a fundraiser.

Department of Family and Consumer Sciences faculty members Denise Bertoncino and Holly Page-Sagehorn accompanied the students on the tour. They said the students will begin by researching the history of the auditorium and then will develop a set of plans and presentation drawings. But it goes far beyond just planning a facelift.

“The exciting addition to the project is that the students will also hold a fundraiser, tentatively set for May 2, to help support the auditorium renovation,” said Page-Sagehorn. “These teams of students will design the posters and tickets, promote the event, and host the event.”

Soon, Bertoncino said, the students will meet with Kathleen Flannery, director of the Office of University Development, to learn more about the art of fundraising.

“It is going to be a massive undertaking,” Bertoncino said, “but it has the potential to be a rich learning experience and at the same time a real benefit to the community.”

Bertoncino said helping with the project fits nicely with the university’s and the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences’ emphasis on service learning.

“We want our students to understand the impact they can have on the community with their skills in design,” Bertoncino said.

Lakeside Principal Courtney McCartney said because of deficiencies in the auditorium, the school is limited in how the auditorium can be used. For example, she said, fire codes and ADA issues prevent typical all-school assemblies.

“We really appreciate the students’ interest and their desire to help make the auditorium function as it was intended,” McCartney said.

Lakeside was built in 1926 as an elementary school and junior high school. Over the years, the building has been remodeled and added on to, but the auditorium, which seats around 650, remains essentially as it was built. Curtains in the room are thought to date back to the 1940s or before and trap doors in the wooden stage floor lift to reveal now non-functioning electric footlights.

The charm of the old auditorium has inspired previous efforts to remodel the space and Bertoncino said the students hope to re-engage alumni, parents and community members in the effort.

“This is undoubtedly a large undertaking,” Bertoncino said. “We hope that one of the lessons our students learn is that when a community comes together around something they believe in, big things can be accomplished.

For more information, contact:

Denise Bertoncino, dbertoncino@pittstate.edu, 620-235-4458.

Holly Page-Sagehorn, hpage-sagehorn@pittstate.edu, 620-235-4064.

©2013 Pittsburg State University