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William Kelley auditorium renovation begins

About 30 volunteers tore apart chairs in the William Kelley High School on June 11. New chairs, a new sound system and new lighting will go into the auditorium over the summer. (Teri Cadeau/News Chronicle)1 / 4
Cushions overflow from the top of a trash bin outside of William Kelley High School. A bin had to be removed, emptied and replaced during the volunteer day June 11. (Teri Cadeau/News Chronicle)2 / 4
Zack Fredrickson stacks seat cushions in a pile on a rolling cart. Cushions were placed in trash bins while the metal pieces were recycled. (Teri Cadeau/News Chronicle)3 / 4
Volunteers tear cushions off of chairs and unbolt rows from the floor for disassembly. (Photo courtesy Paul Deaner)4 / 4

Volunteers at William Kelly High School tore out over 700 chairs from the auditorium June 11. Nearly 30 volunteers spent eight hours pulling the chairs apart in order to make way for the theater renovation over the summer.

After a long new chair sponsorship campaign that has raised close to $175,000 as of publication, the theater renovation got a kick-start June 11 when volunteers, alumni, custodians, students and staff disassembled seats.

"It's been a real community effort, this whole project has been," alumnus and volunteer David Samuel said. "We started at 8 a.m. and just got to work. I think the progress is much more than we expected."

How do you tear apart a theater chair?

"Brute force," said Joe Preston, a facilities manager at the high school. "You just start unscrewing things. We wanted to separate the cushions from the metal since they're going to recycle all the metal, so they just started pulling them all apart. It all has to get unscrewed."

The auditorium was built in 1958-59 and hasn't been renovated since.

"The chairs were pretty warn and dented. It was time to replace them," Principal Joe Nicklay said. "We started looking into replacing them last year and thought, 'Why don't we look into a donate-a-seat campaign?'"

English and theater teacher Katie Fritz led the campaign to replace the seats, sound system and lights. Each donated seat cost $200 and will have a plaque listing the donors' names.

"Katie really took the reins and made it come to life," Nicklay said. "It's all her hard work and writing of grants and contacting people that made this possible."

The total work costs an estimated $195,000 and donations are still rolling in.

The new chairs won't be placed until August, but there's other work to be done in the auditorium in the meantime. The floors need to be prepped, new lighting and sound systems installed, the ceiling painted and more, according to Preston. Not all 700 chairs will be replaced; instead, the number will be reduced to about 500.

"It'll give us a little more space between seats and rows, which is nice. And we'll be able to make it handicap accessible," Nicklay said. "We'll have leveled seating for handicap and removable arms so they can slide in on the ends."

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