What: Public info session on possible new gym, theater

When: 7 p.m., July 29

Where: Telstar Regional High School

BETHEL — Residents of SAD 44 will have a chance next week to learn about and make comments on a tentative proposal to construct a performance arts center and a second gym at the Telstar Middle and High School complex.

Superintendent David Murphy said nothing is yet solid on the proposal. The meeting is to gauge interest from the community.

“Over the years, there’s been a lot of discussion about a second gym and a performing arts space,” Murphy said Tuesday afternoon.

The info session is set for 7 p.m., July 29, at Telstar High School.

The discussion could turn into reality because of the federal stimulus package.

Murphy said his district has been approved to receive $5 million from the $42 million distributed to the state for school projects. The district is not bound to use that funding, he said, but this could be a good opportunity.

The money, while not a grant, could be lent at 0 percent interest, which could save the district a considerable sum of money.

Although the proposal is still in the tentative stage, Murphy said if plans go ahead, the $5 million would likely be repaid over a 20-year period, costing the district’s five member towns about $250,000 annually.

The SAD 44 board at its last meeting agreed to hold the public information session to gauge the level of interest in the community and to receive reaction to the years of conversations about the possibility, Murphy said.

If the interest proves positive, Murphy said a referendum question would go before voters in November. That decision will likely be made at the board’s Aug. 10 meeting.

Murphy said the middle/high school complex includes just one gymnasium, a situation that has often led to teams transported to Crescent Park Elementary School or Woodstock Elementary School for practices. Sometimes, practices are held very late when players from both the middle and high school are scheduled for practice.

“We don’t have a lot of facilities,” Murphy said.

He also said that community interest in the performing arts has risen during the past decade.

Not only would a 7,500-square-foot performing arts center serve students, but also community arts groups, Murphy said.

The second gym would be built at the rear of the existing gym. The performing arts center would be located between the cafeteria entrance and the middle school office entrance.

Local architect Jim Reuter will present draft drawings of the two proposals at next week’s public information meeting.

“We want to know what citizens would like to see happen,” Murphy said.

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