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Long time coming — Sandoval auditorium on preliminary list for 2024 bond

(Cover photo: map of possible projects in different parts of the city for a potential DPS bond issue in November. Source: presentation for DPS bond committee.)

A long-awaited, full-size performing arts auditorium for the Sandoval campus is on the preliminary list of projects for a possible bond election in November.

The auditorium is one of dozens of projects that three committees are reviewing for Denver Public Schools as it crafts a potential request to voters for hundreds of millions to build and improve facilities throughout the city. (Click here for more information on the 2024 DPS bond process.)

The committee working on arts and athletic facilities and equipment (called “Pursuit of Passion”) is considering the Sandoval auditorium as well as other auditoriums, stage renovations, arts centers, recording, production studios and a stagecraft shop around the district. An auditorium would be added to Building One in the northeast corner of the campus.

Those “passion” projects total $42.3 million, according to a committee presentation in the bond section of the DPS web site. The slides are posted as part of a Feb. 21 meeting of the “passion’’ committee which is actually a subcommittee of the Community Planning and Advisory Committee (CPAC) that is overseeing the entire bond preparation process.

The bond committees have just begun working and no decisions have been made on what projects will be included. They are scheduled to continue through May and deliver a final recommendation to the DPS board to consider on June 6.

The board is scheduled to vote Aug. 22 on whether to go to voters in the Nov. 5 election.

Recommendations in a preliminary 2024 DPS bond planning document.

The district’s last bond election was in 2020 when voters approved a $795 million package. An auditorium for Sandoval was not included in 2020 because of competition from other major projects in the district that also had been in holding patterns. The total cap that can be requested this year is $975 million.

A conceptual plan done several years ago by the Sandoval architects, LOA Architecture, envisioned a 14,500-square-foot auditorium that would cost roughly in the range of $12 million.

The possibility of finally getting an auditorium, after being open for eight years, is welcome news at Northfield.

“It’s great that they are thinking of building an auditorium because a lot of our students (at least a third of the school’s 2,100 students) are part of our program,’’ said Hanan Al- Naqeeb, Northfield’s theater director. “It would really showcase their talents.’’

Slide on overview of 2024 bond projects being used by the DPS Community Planning and Advisory Committee on a possible 2024 bond issue.

Al-Naqeeb established the theater program at McAuliffe International and “they brought me on (at NHS) because my focus is to build the program.”

Northfield High School, which shares the Sandoval campus with DSST: Conservatory Green High School, has wanted a full-size auditorium since it opened in 2015. The two schools use the cafeteria as their primary performing space, which for a variety of reasons, is inadequate for proper performing arts and other activities.

The acoustics are poor, space for rehearsals, storage, costuming, construction and other stage crafting is far from appropriate. Dressing rooms are needed and more space could accommodate a “black box’’ theater, a smaller, flexible performing space that’s fit for “theater in the round’’ and other stage configurations. The lighting, sound and other technical equipment is also not up to par for a campus of 2,600 students.

An auditorium can also be used for classes, meetings, evening/weekend orchestra concerts and choir and lectures. In addition, the current seating area is on a flat, concrete floor that hinders proper sightlines to the stage. A sloped floor in a new building would remedy that.

Northfield High School Theater Director Hanan Al-Naqeeb.

“It is not efficient use of space,” Al-Naqeeb said. “There is so much more we could do if we had better space.”

In addition, “there’s great value having an auditorium not just for students but for our community, too,’’ Al-Naqeeb said.

Another challenge with the current space is that the campus facilities crew spends hours setting up the cafeteria to accommodate audiences and then has to turn it back into a dining hall.  During periods of performances, that’s a daily chore, Al-Naqeeb said.

“I hope it would be hard to vote against an auditorium,” she said.



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