The Orion school board has hired Legat Architects to produce conceptual drawings of an auditorium and an early learning center.
Board members voted Wednesday, March 18, to pay the firm up to $15,000.
"When we get the drawings, we will hold another public meeting, board president Peter Nedved said. The conceptual drawings are not building plans. They are rough drawings, he emphasized.
The drawings will allow the board to get a ballpark estimate for construction costs.
"If they come back and say $15 million, that doesn't mean we'll say go ahead with it,"board member Aaron Kayser said.
Superintendent Joe Blessman told the board his goal is maintain the district's tax rate. His plan is to pay construction with money freed up when bonds are paid off in December 2021.
A week before the March 18 meeting, the board held a special meeting to hear from two Legat Architects representatives. Jeff Sandberg, an Orion resident, is a senior architect and project manager. He is the director of the Moline studio. Robin Randall, director of pre-K through 12 education for Legat Architects, is one of only eight Accredited Learning Environments Planners in the state.
In February, the board had toured fine arts auditoriums at four high schools, including North Scott, Eldridge, Iowa; Davenport Central, Bettendorf and Moline.
Based on what they had seen, board members listed their priorities for an auditorium at Orion High School.
"We need a Chevy," Sandberg said, prompting Blessman to respond, "We have a moped. We don't need a Mercedes."
They mentioned a building that could be used for as many activities as the school district and the community want, such as cheerleading practices, Scholastic Bowl tournaments, parent meetings for each sports team, movie nights, plays and musicals, and concerts by school groups, the Orion Community Band and out-of-town performers. Community groups could access the auditorium without going through the high school.
An auditorium would not have enough seats for graduation, said Nathan DeBaillie, Orion High School principal.
All four of the fine auditoriums the board visited were heavily scheduled, Blessman said.
The wish list developed during the meeting included a horseshoe drive for dropping people off at the entrance, a ticket booth, a concession stand, an open gathering area, restrooms, a stage big enough for all of the band students from sixth through 12th grades, an orchestra pit, at least 600 comfortable theater seats, a user-friendly sound system, a good lighting system, a screen that drops out of the ceiling for presentations, a shop for building sets, storage space, meeting rooms, offices, separate rehearsal spaces for band and choir, music practice rooms, dressing rooms,
lots of electrical outlets and charging stations.
Tom Hamerlinck, the district's maintenance director, said the facility should be easy to clean. He asked to be included in planning HVAC and electric systems, and Sandberg said he would be included.
Orion could use the extra space, the superintendent said. When it rained all day on March 9, the Orion High School Drama Club was trying to hold final rehearsals with lights and sound for "Little Shop of Horrors" in the gym, which spring sports teams couldn't use.
An auditorium would benefit every child in the district, said Stephanie Moen, music instructor at C.R. Hanna Elementary School, Orion. C.R. Hanna students from pre-k through fifth grade present concerts, and it's hard to find nights when the high school gym is not being used.
An auditorium would help attract families, DeBaillie said.
"We'll need community support for this," board member Kim Nightingale said.