Davis High School's small, decaying auditorium should be renovated and expanded.

That's what a committee of parents told the Davis School District superintendent Wednesday night.The problem is that the project could cost $1 million. The district only has about $500,000 earmarked for Davis High.

"I don't like this facility," Superintendent Rich Kendell said to the rumbling approval of some 70 local residents assembled in the auditorium. "But I would be very cautious about (expansion) until we know all the unknowns."

Prior to Kendell's remarks, parent Mary Pettingill said members of the Davis High community have "waited long enough" for the district to fund improvements in the aging auditorium.

The high school's current enrollment of 1,800 continues to rise, but the auditorium has only about 960 seats, giving Davis the smallest seat-per-pupil ratio in the district. Many of the seats are worn, torn and uncomfortable.

The auditorium's inadequacy forces community performing groups to find other facilities, causing the school to lose money in rents and royalties, Pettingill said.

Students are also adversely affected, said drama teacher Lauri Storey. The stage is too small, which limits the number of students who can participate; there is no orchestra pit; the electrical outlets are insufficient and dangerous; there are no dressing rooms; and the lighting and sound systems are archaic, she said.

"It is very hard to work with."Because the equipment is so poor, stagehand scholarships rarely go to Davis students, Pettingill said.

To accommodate the student body in assemblies, she said, the school must have split sessions, which costs class time for students involved in the assemblies, inconveniences guests and allows many students to wander off campus.

She presented three options for dealing with the problem but said her committee recommended Option 2. (Please see box.)

Kendell, however, said money is a real problem with Options 2 and 3.

The district is faced with an exploding student population - expected to reach 57,000 next year - but is already $114 million in debt on building projects. Any additional projects would increase the burden on an already heavily taxed citizenry, he said.

Kendell said he favors Option 3, although he admits it is "more of a dream than a reality.

"I've been promoting it in the community and am trying to get people enthused about it . . . I don't want to give up on it yet."

The $3 million project would require the district to donate land near the high school as well as $300,000 to $500,000. The rest of the funding would have to come from private donations, the adjacent Davis Area Technical Center and revenue bonds issued by the city.


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Options for curing the auditorium blues

Option 1 - Renovate. This would require about $350,000, money the district has already allocated. However, renovation wouldn't solve the problem of space.

Option 2: Expand. This would double the size but could cost $1 million or more. Problems include financing and whether the city would be willing to close 300 South.

Option 3: Build a new one. A free-standing structure would cost around $3 million, far more than the $500,000 in the budget.