Auditorium Update: Ashes remain

Every year students across America practice safety drills for all occasions. Lockdowns, tornados, fire, evacuation, are performed every year in case of a freak act of nature.  Most have made it through all 12 years without needing to call on any of the experiences they have been instructed to dutifully mime in case of a crisis. So when the fire alarm went off last June, the common assumption was that it was prank pulled by a desperate senior who had not prepared for their calculus final.

Pretty quickly however, the presence of fire trucks and the delay in being given the all clear to return made the gravity of the situation apparent. “Our first and largest concern was the safety for all student and staff,” says Tom Sager, the director of finance and operations for the Owatonna School District. “Our second was the possibility of foul play.” Though fortunately the fire was ruled by the state marshal to be accidental, that was only the beginning of the restoration process. Sager continued by saying, “The damage will have cost us between $600-700,000 by the time everything is said and done. However, thankfully we have great insurance that has covered all but the $5,000 deductible.” The largest cost was not due to the first itself, but rather the copious amounts of smoke that seeped into the HVAC. “Our whole school has to be cleaned. It is fresher than it has been in years.” Some of the repairs have included shampooing the carpets and repainting walls throughout the building, updating sound and lighting equipment, dry cleaning or replacing the costume department, as well as acquiring a new stage curtain.

The hardest part has been coordinating with all the contractors to get a great deal of work done in a small amount of time, but Sager says that without the expertise of the theater and music department staff, such a feat would have “been next to impossible.” As of now, the auditorium’s restoration is on track to be useable late October, just in time for the fall show, “The Importance of Being Earnest” to debut.