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Marietta High Auditorium Wins Support

The city Board of Education hears praise and only a few questions from a group of about 50 at the Sixth Grade Academy.

The and Superintendent Emily Lembeck are meeting with the public at the tonight at 7 to discuss the for and the to pay for it. We'll try to report the event on Twitter (@MariettaPatch), then copy the tweets into this article within minutes for further thought and discussion.

Marietta City Schools' plan to build a multipurpose auditorium at Marietta High School for an estimated $9 million received consensus support during a public forum Monday night at the Marietta Sixth Grade Academy.

After Superintendent Emily Lembeck and Marietta High Principal Leigh Colburn laid out the process and rationale behind the proposal for a facility of 800 to 900 seats, no one in the audience of about 50 people rushed to criticize or even question the proposal.

Students and parents alike talked about the importance of the arts and offered support for adding a facility that will give theater, music and dance enough space to thrive.

The toughest questions about the plan:

  • How many students are in the arts program, which Lembeck said is growing because the Middle Years International Baccalaureate program is driving more students into the arts when they get to Marietta High?
  • Do you have any studies to support the value of the new facility to the community and the students?

Beth Krier, the president of the Marietta Band Association, arrived during the meeting to announce that her organization had just voted to support the plan. She said the group will do whatever the school board needs to help pass the $7 million general-obligation bond that would allow work to begin next year.

That vote will come during the presidential primary in February or March. If city voters approve the five-year bond, construction should be done sometime in 2013.

The second vote related to the project, the 2013 approval of the school system's fourth Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, would pay off the bond and other debt without a property tax increase.

If the 2012 bond passes but SPLOST IV fails, owners of homes valued at $200,000 will face a tax increase of about $11 a year to pay off the bond, starting in 2015.

Rejecting the 2012 bond would delay the project until the 2013 SPLOST IV vote. A yes at that point would allow construction to begin in 2014; a no vote would shelf the project indefinitely.

7:44 p.m. And we're done. The PowerPoint presentation will be on the school system website Tuesday.

7:44 p.m. In closing, Lembeck says the Middle Years IB program is increasing the number of students entering the arts in the high school.

7:42 p.m. Question from a student: Why wasn't there an auditorium originally? The answer: "We were running short on funds," and it was cut.

7:40 p.m. A question from the audience: Are there any studies to show an auditorium like this would benefit the students and the city? The board doesn't have any studies but emphasizes that this would be a community resource.

7:39 p.m. The board's mission is to educate everyone on the options available.

7:38 p.m. You will need to voted in the Democratic or Republican presidential primary to vote on the bond.

7:36 p.m. The school board says it needs the support of the voters and asks people to get their friends to vote for the bond next year.

7:35 p.m. The head of Marietta Band Association says the group voted tonight to support the plan.

7:34 p.m. Colburn: In visual arts, 875; instrumental music, 243; music theory, 29; 252 in drama; dance 195. And many more.

7:33 p.m. A question: What's the current arts enrollment?

7:32 p.m. The third student dancer says Marietta High's program makes you feel so good because you work so hard to do well.

7:31 p.m. The second of the trio says it would be nice to have more space and not worry about rolling off the stage. "I'm really supportive of this auditorium."

7:30 p.m. Three senior dancers from Marietta High approach the mic together to talk about how great it would be to have more room than the school's black-box theater provides.

7:29 p.m. "It takes geniuses to be band nerds," she says.

7:28 p.m. "This isn't just a stage. It's not just a room for kids to put on plays. ... Every student in our school system will be able to use this," she says.

7:27 p.m. Bottom line, the woman say: "As the mother of a child who has really struggled to find her interest ... it gives me hope that my child is going to find her path."

7:23 p.m. The first speaker reads excerpts from last April about the arts and music and performance meshing with science and technology. She's quoting Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead.

7:22 p.m. It's comment time. We have about 50 people here. No one is rushing to the microphone.

7:21 p.m. Construction is estimated to take 12 to 18 months for the 800-to-900-seat facility.

7:20 p.m. The property tax increase would be an estimated $11 on a $200,000 house if the bond passes and SPLOST IV fails.

7:20 p.m. The five-year, $7 million bond is structured to avoid a property tax increase before SPLOST IV has a chance to pass and kick in.

7:19 p.m. The bond referendum would coincide with the presidential primary in February or March; the date hasn't been set.

7:18 p.m. Lembeck: The MCS building fund would provide $2 million; the bond would cover the remaining $7 million cost.

7:17 p.m. The facility would include much-needed dressing rooms, Lembeck says.

7:16 p.m. The high school has a slab originally built with the high school where the theater would go, facing Whitlock Avenue, Lembeck says.

7:15 p.m. The 900-seat capacity for the auditorium came at the recommendation of Earl Reece, who Colburn says reported that the Strand regularly gets requests for a space that size.

7:14 p.m. A slide shows the capacities of all the other high school auditoriums in Cobb County, except that Wheeler isn't on the list. It ends with Walton. Marietta also isn't on the list because it lacks an auditorium. The proposed auditorium would give Marietta High one of the biggest facilities in the county.

7:13 p.m. In addition to school functions, the auditorium could be a place for community events and meetings, Colburn says.

7:12 p.m. The Marietta school system lacks a modern auditorium at any of its schools, Colburn says.

7:11 p.m. Marietta High Principal Leigh Colburn now is speaking about the committee that examined the need and proposed the auditorium.

7:10 p.m. We're underway at the hearing. Lembeck is taking us through the process that got us here.

7:01 p.m. Three: Reject the bond but approve SPLOST IV. Then the project waits until 2014. Four: Reject both referendums. Then the project doesn't proceed.

7 p.m. Two: Approve the bond but reject SPLOST IV. Then the project moves ahead next year, but property taxes go up in 2015.

6:59 p.m. One: Approve the $7 million bond next year and SPLOST IV in 2013. Outcome: Construction starts in 2012 and finishes with no debt.

6:58 p.m. The information available at the sign-in table offers four options for what could happen, based on voter actions.

6:55 p.m. We're here live in the gym of the Sixth Grade Academy, awaiting the start of the hearing. About 20 people are here so far, including Superintendent Emily Lembeck, school board members and other school system employees.

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