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Date of Issue: June 04, 2008

School auditorium to get overdue renovations

Recent events held in the Anna Maria Elementary School auditorium, such as the building’s dedication to James Kronus and the fifth-grade production of “Cinderella,” drew the attendance of Manatee County School board member Harry Kinnan and that may have helped shed light on some outstanding problems with the facility.

Kinnan noted that the AME fifth-grade play was “outstanding” and that the “quality of the auditorium should be equal to the wonderful shows” that the Island community supports. “The auditorium is a great gathering place for the community and it gets packed for the school plays,” he said.

However, when the auditorium was slated to be renovated during the 2005-06 school year in conjunction with the construction of the new main building, items such as public rest rooms and new lighting fell victim to rising construction costs.

In August 2005, The Islander reported funding for the auditorium renovations that included approximately $290,000, would address air quality issues and provide new carpeting, a covered walkway to the music-art building, tie the existing building’s fire alarm, public address system and phones to the newly built main building and the interior and exterior would be painted.

Principal Tom Levengood, who transferred to AME after the completion of the school’s construction phase, said he found the auditorium still in need of attention.

“I put in work orders to repair the lighting,” said Levengood. “The lens covers needed replacing, but some of the lights in the back are the original light fixtures and the wiring and insullation just crumbles when touched. It will be cheaper to retrofit the lighting than buy parts to fix them.”

It’s not only the overhead lighting that needs to be replaced, but the stage lighting as well. In addition, Levengood said that the spotlights have to be plugged into extension cords rather than directly into a wall outlet, which poses a fire hazard.

A final point of contention is the lack of public rest rooms. “There is no public bathroom,” Levengood said. The auditorium has bathrooms, but they are on stage and therefore inaccessible to an audience during events. “Audience members have to go into an unlocked, unattended building to access a public rest room.”

Kinnan brought these issues to the attention of Manatee School Superintendent Dr. Roger Dearing on behalf of AME. “I’m pleased to announce that we will continue to do the things that need to be done,” said Kinnan. “Our goal is to keep enhancing [the auditorium] so AME plays continue to play a prominent role in the community.”

Levengood said that he has received a phone call from Dearing promising to “make it right.”

Meanwhile, Levengood is expecting a visit from the district’s construction services department to assess the auditorium’s lighting, electrical and rest room needs. After a site visit, the project will be put up for approval by the school board and following approval, the project will go out for bids.

Levengood said he does not yet have an estimated cost or timeline yet.