School Auditorium Concept Remains with Uncertain Future

The status of a school auditorium – its cost, whether it would ever be built – continues to be a topic of discussion in town.
At the Tuesday, Oct. 22 School Board meeting, board member John Robinson noted that the most recent NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) evaluation of Londonderry High School again cited the lack of an auditorium, “one of the few things that LHS got pinged on as a shortcoming.”

He said he had attended a recent meeting of the auditorium study committee, “and I had the sense that there were a couple of questions that I think the board might want to discuss and provide some guidance in.”
He asked whether the board was “interested or willing to consider the proposal for an auditorium at all, or is this something that is being looked at primarily to check off based on the NEASC pinging and explain basically why we’re not going to do it.
“If we are going to do it, the architects’ costs seem to be in the neighborhood of $16.5 million for the auditorium that was presented in the original plan six or seven years ago, or if we are interested in an auditorium but don’t see that price, then maybe the board should consider what amount of money we do think we could see asking the town for,” he said. “Under what conditions, for example would we say that we’d fund 80 percent of some number based on private fund raising for the other 20 percent.”
Robinson also asked when the district would put auditorium funding on the ballot. The school auditorium regularly appears on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
Robinson said the committee was “dusting off” a previous proposal and looking at different aspects of it. He is seeking input from the board so the committee would not waste time.
School District Business Administrator Peter Curro suggested the architect be brought to the board, and board member Leitha Reilly suggested holding a meeting with the committee to discuss the concept.
Superintendent of Schools Nathan Greenberg, who had also attended the committee meeting, said the committee “didn’t think $16 million was going to fly. So the idea would be looking at whatever options, whether it was phasing, additional private funding, and going back to decide the purpose of it.”
Greenberg noted that in the previous incarnation of the facility, it was to include a lot of classroom space, with the expectation that would bring in state aid. With no state aid available, that space could be eliminated.
School Board member John Laferriere said the committee was given the task to study the issue and as yet he had been given no information.
“It’s a project. We’re asking you to go off with the people you have and work it,” he said. “We want to see what is going to happen with this auditorium. We understand it was something that was put together a while ago, we understand there is an economic decline that we have to look at, we understand all the other activities that have been going on, but what I would expect is that you go off, you do the work and come back to us and say, ‘here’s where we’re at’ and present it to us.”
Greenberg said the committee was charged to look at the auditorium project and come back with a recommendation, and that’s what it will do.

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