Dimond Park high school planners choose an 'auditeria'

New school will have a space with theater seating that holds 500

Posted: Friday, January 07, 2005

The Dimond Park high school will have a main gym comparable to the one at Juneau-Douglas High School and a smaller auxiliary gym, but not a dedicated auditorium, planners decided Thursday.

The new school will have an "auditeria" - a flexible space that holds 500 people in stepped theater-style seats that can be retracted over a flat floor.

The Juneau School Board members and Juneau Assembly members on the planning team unanimously supported that design option.

Architects Minch Ritter Voelckers of Juneau are working to reduce the scale of the proposed high school, as voters directed in October. The $63 million school scheduled to open in fall 2008 will accommodate 840 students. The state is paying for 70 percent of the cost.

Designers cut the number of classrooms and proportionally reduced space for areas such as the library and counseling. But they also had to juggle competing demands for gyms and an auditorium, commons and cafeteria.

The chosen option has as large a stage and wings as if the auditeria were a standalone auditorium that seated 420.

The main gym has space for 1,400 people, based on a formula in the building code. In practice, more people will fit.

The auxiliary gym will be smaller than the auxiliary gym at JDHS. It will suit one volleyball court or two wrestling mats.

The commons, similar in size to the one at JDHS, also will serve as a cafeteria. It also includes space that's needed to circulate students through the area.

Planners rejected options that didn't include an auxiliary gym, or that had an auditorium that seated 275, or that combined the auditorium with the cafeteria, or that had a main gym bigger than JDHS's.

It's not certain how some of the spaces will be used. Assembly member Jeff Bush supported the chosen option, but said he hoped the auditeria would serve as an auditorium much of the time.

Recently built South Anchorage High School has an auditeria. It uses its commons for dining. But it has an open campus, in which students can leave for lunch. The Dimond Park high school will be closed, said School Board member Bob Van Slyke.

That raises the question of whether the school will need to use the auditeria for dining, especially if the school is ever expanded.

The advantage of an auditeria is it creates a third large space, besides the main gym and the commons, that can be used for events such as dances, testing or college fairs, planners said. The commons also can serve as a foyer for events in the gym and auditeria.

The Juneau community will present a consistent demand to use the auditeria in the evening for arts events, cautioned Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce.

JDHS drama teacher Bethany Bereman said she preferred a separate auditorium, but added that the South Anchorage model was interesting. Officials at that school have said they are pleased with the auditeria, including its acoustics.

In a related note, designers said the mechanical space in the school would not cut into previously planned instructional space as feared.

State guidelines approved in late 2002 require that space for mechanical equipment be counted as part of a new school's allowable square-footage. Mechanical space, such as for ventilation fans, formerly was left out of the equation or counted at a fraction of its actual size.

The school approved by voters in October is capped at about 167,000 square feet. The architects said they can fit the mechanical equipment without affecting instructional space.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.

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