There are other theaters in the area, such as the Cobb Civic Center, Theatre in the Square, Strand Theatre and Mt. Paran Christian School’s theater, but Earl Reece, the Strand’s executive director, said they are insufficient for what the high school needs.
“We only have one Saturday open between now and the end of August, and Theatre in the Square, they end one show and begin another show, so the availability is not there,” Reece said.
There is also the size factor.
“Our stage would not even accommodate the band for a band concert, and the way their arts program is growing,” Reece said. “There’s just not space to accommodate a full band or a full production.”
The Civic Center has a nice feature that allows for sets and scenery drops to be raised and lowered, Reece said.
“That’s a plus, but they’re booked so far in advance, and then seating capacity for us is 531, seating capacity at the Civic Center is 600, capacity at Theatre in the Square is mid 200s. So it would be a scheduling situation. It would be a problem of space as far as what’s on stage and what’s in the audience that would make it just not work at all,” he said.
The only other venue in the area Reece said he could think of is Mt. Paran Christian School’s 577-theater, “and it would be slammed as well.”
Reece compares a stage to a laboratory where students can perfect their skills.
“It would be like a science class not having a lab or an athletic team not having anywhere to pursue what they love to do, and statistics have proven, and I look at the scholarships schools in Cobb County are getting in the arts now, and it’s pretty astronomical, and it would just let that program grow where it should grow,” he said.
Marietta High School principal Leigh Colburn said it’s important to note the proposal is not just to build a stage. The band has outgrown the band room, which would be turned into the school’s dance studio.
“We have almost 200 girls that are enrolled in our dance program, and right now we don’t have a class for that,” Colburn said. “Our chorus has outgrown our chorus room, and so we have two classrooms, and we’re knocking down the wall in between those to have a chorus classroom, and beside the auditorium in the same building will be a new band room.”
Colburn said residents may not realize that a school auditorium is not something that students simply use on weekends.
“It’s something that’s used during the day,” she said. “We teach band every period of the day. We teach dance every period of the day and chorus, so it’s also our classroom space and our drama classes will work in there.”
Another use is as a meeting place for students and faculty.
“If I want to have a class meeting with my ninth grade, I’m not going to take them over to Mount Paran to do that,” Colburn said.
Marilynn Schafer, president of the high school’s PTSA, said her group voted in the fall to support the building.
“We do have some signs out, and we’re going to put some more out this week and some bumper stickers and probably calling people,” Schafer said.
The existing high school is not competitive with surrounding high schools because it lacks an auditorium, she said.
“There’s a small black-box theater, which is very small, and then there’s the gym,” Schafer said. “So if you want to see a play or hear the orchestra or the band, there’s really not a venue there to do that.”
There is also the factor of the system being an International Baccalaureate district, she said.
“The IB program has a big drama component to it, and it seems like if you’re really going to be serious about doing the IB program you ought to have all the pieces to make it work, and the auditorium is one of those,” Schafer said.
The system is counting on voters to approve a $7 million, five-year general obligation bond to pay for most of the building in the March 6 Presidential Preference Primary. The remaining $2 million cost would come from the system’s building fund.
The district proposed SPLOST III in 2008 to pay down its then-$40 million debt to about $400,000 by the end of 2013. However, the recession cut into tax collections, wiping out a $15.16 million line item for debt service. Consequently, the district will be left with an estimated $15.6 million in debt when SPLOST III expires on Dec. 31, 2013.
The city has two outstanding bond issuances on behalf of Marietta City Schools. One is a general obligation bond with a city debt service millage rate of 1.187 mills, with the current principal and interest outstanding on that bond, which matures June 30, at $1.4 million.
The second G.O. bond is being paid by SPLOST III proceeds with $26.7 million in principal and interest outstanding. That bond matures Feb. 1, 2019.
As for the proposed theater bond, the idea is to use SPLOST IV to pay for it were voters to extend the sales tax. If voters don’t approve the sales tax, the millage rate on 1.187 mills will not end June 30, but would continue until FY 2014. Residents would then see an annual property tax increase of about $11 on a $200,000 home from FY2015 to when the bond matures in FY2017, spokesman Thomas Algarin said.