When it was announced that the Shelbyville High School auditorium was going to be renovated, the response was overwhelming. The community saw it as a need.

The question now is, how will an auditorium that has felt cramped and dated for decades, like any old high school auditorium, be renovated? Will it just be good, maybe better, or possibly the best?

“If we are going to do this, we need to do it right,” said High School Principal Kyle Ladd. “The auditorium initiative represents all the best things about raising kids here in Shelbyville. We are proud of our fine arts department and we want to give them a space they can be proud of.

“This auditorium has touched the lives of so many people. They have a connection to it. Some have said ‘Our children are going to go to school here and we are excited about this.’

“This could be a draw and attract people to our community. This could be a showplace that will make our community unique.”

The auditorium is used every day by the students, although the community may only see it at various school performances. There are guest speakers almost weekly, besides fine arts performances, family engagement events, and awards ceremonies. Despite its constant use, there have been no major renovations in decades.

Some believe the small, wooden, theater-style seats are original. The seats fit youth and small adults, but are uncomfortable and cramped for many adults and even students. Imagine small wooden seats with no padding on a Greyhound bus with no leg room.

Renovations have been made in the stage area. The curtains were replaced a few years ago and the stage painted, but with this opportunity, Ladd believes so much more could be done.

When faculty were asked last spring what projects should be undertaken, if financially possible, the auditorium was the top priority. They wanted it to be an attractive place. It was also an immediate target for Shelbyville’s superintendent when he came four years ago as high school principal.

When people heard about the renovation project they got excited. Habitat for Humanity gave $15,000. The Robert and Melinda Heckler & Family gave $50,000. Shelby County State Bank gave $5,000 and First Federal Savings & Loan gave $5,000. Most of the donations came about just from “word of mouth.”

“I went out in November in the community and started mentioning it,” Ladd said, “I was blown away by the response. Most of the donations have been in the $1,000 to $2,500 range. Thus far, we have raised $100,000 in a few short months.

“The community is very giving and generous. About 30 people, individuals and businesses have given up to this point. Our community continues to rally around this monumental effort, and for that, we are thankful.”

Grants have been written, but they are waiting on responses. Ladd said that they have not scratched the surface yet in terms of fundraising efforts. The volunteer faculty committee has also planned special events as fundraisers through April, then they will see where they are financially.

The renovations are slated to be done this summer to be ready for the fall semester.

There will be a Daddy/Daughter Dance on Feb. 8. It will be a special night, including a carnation and digital photos. There will be a Mommy and Son Night Out on April 18.

There will be a CTE (Career and Technical Education) Vendor Fair on March 28, where students who are developing proposals and products can display their efforts along with other vendors, who will be on hand.

The Purple Punch Card is already for sale for $25. Businesses from the community have donated products and services worth many times more than the $25 cost of the card.

There will also be a “Donor Wall” in the auditorium with lasered plaques for donations, by families or individuals, in memorium, etc. that will be displayed for years to come.

Ladd explained that now is the time to make as many improvements as possible, because some of the improvements can only be made while the original seats are removed and before the news seats are installed.

When the school spends over $50,000 a Regional Office of Education approved architect has to be consulted. Ladd has met with the architect and passed on the faculty committee’s suggestions. Ladd and Superintendent Shane Schuricht will meet with the architect again and review the plans and see what can be accomplished.

“In addition to the new theater-style padded seating, the auditorium update includes: LED lighting, flooring, a complete paint job, and technology upgrades, depending on how much money is raised,” Ladd said.

Ladd said that currently there are seats for 356 people. After the new padded seats are installed there will be seats for about 330 people, a loss of about 25 seats. More noteworthy than the loss of some seats will be the extra space per seat and the comfort of those in attendance at events.

Ladd suggested that despite it’s vast use already for students, daily, and for their annual performances, the forecast is for even more unique events in the future for the school district and even for the community.

“Our ukelele club is having a performance this afternoon, as a practice for when they go to be presenters at the ILMEA State Music Festival in Peoria,” Ladd said.

Alan Dove was also selected as one of just 26 students in the state to be on the Jazz Choir Ensemble at the ILMEA Music Festival.

“Our teachers, Mrs. Charity Astrouski, the Band/Ukele Instructor, and Mr. Joe Amato, the Musical Theater and Choir Instructor, and the students are working hard to grow our performing arts programs and the auditorium is an important part of that effort,” Ladd said. “It’s important to have a facility that they can be proud of and that can welcome members of the community to see those performances.”

For additional information or to contribute to this community initiative, please contact Kyle Ladd (SHS Principal) via email at laddky@shelbyville.k12.il.us or by phone at (217) 774-3926. Checks may be made payable to Shelbyville High School-Auditorium Remodel and sent to Shelbyville High School, 1001 W. North 6th Street, Shelbyville, IL 62565

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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