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NLS board OKs schematic design of building project

NEW LONDON -- The initial design of a $21.6 million building project in the New London-Spicer School District was approved Monday.Architects from the DeVetter Design Group presented the schematic drawings for a 650-seat performing arts auditorium...

NEW LONDON - The initial design of a $21.6 million building project in the New London-Spicer School District was approved Monday.
Architects from the DeVetter Design Group presented the schematic drawings for a 650-seat performing arts auditorium and two-court gym at the high school/middle school and two new classrooms and a new cafeteria/multi-use learning space at the elementary school.
The board’s approval of the sketches, which show the basic exterior and interior design of the structures, allows the architects to move into the design and development stage.
The exterior footprint has not changed much from what was presented to the public last fall prior to the special election in which voters gave overwhelming support to the project.
But some new “eye-catching” details are being explored, such as different brick colors and metal panels that will give the exterior “more animation” and “more vitality to the buildings,” Mike DeVetter said.
The angle of the performing arts auditorium, which will tie the middle school to with the high school, will give travelers coming off of state Highway 23 a clear view of the school.
“It’ll be a really exciting corner of the building,” DeVetter said.
Lighting in the auditorium and gym when events are underway will send “visual cues” that something is happening and will “give the appearance of being an active, vibrant school,” he said.
The plan may also include an outdoor performance area near the theater’s entrance. Superintendent Paul Carlson is seeking grant money to finance that.
The auditorium will include a spacious entrance lobby at the front for people to congregate and at the “back of the house” there is a scene shop, dressing rooms and a hallway for actors to enter the stage from multiple areas.
Currently, NLS theater productions are held in the historic - but very small - Little Theatre in downtown New London.
DeVetter said a manufacturer will provide samples of auditorium seats for the board to test.
“Seat comfort is what’s important,” he said.
The new two-court gym will be added onto the north end of the existing gym.
The space will allow the school’s gymnastics program to be housed on campus. Currently, gymnastics participants practice, and hold meets, at a defunct Bible camp near Spicer. That property is for sale.
A curtain will split the gym to allow other team practices, including wrestling or dance line.
The gym will include bathrooms on the west end - facing the football field. These facilities will be available after hours for fans attending football games. Currently, there are only outdoor portable toilets available.
At the suggestion of the building committee, architects are considering adding windows near the ceiling of the gym’s north wall. A model that tracked sunlight showed there would be minimal impact with glare in the gym, DeVetter said.
At the elementary school, the new cafeteria - which also includes a stage for performances and educational programs - will be added on to the north side of the current cafeteria/gym.
Two classrooms will be constructed, the special education rooms will be reconfigured and the elementary school’s enclosed entrance will be expanded.
DeVetter said the preliminary cost estimate indicates the project is “right on budget,” but they’ll keep watching for unexpected market changes - the price of steel, for example - which could alter the total price.
At this point, he said, “It’s all looking good.”
DeVetter said he expects the project to get a good selection of local and metro bidders.

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NLS voters overwhelmingly approve $21.6M bond

Related Topics: SPICER
Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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