On September 16, 2018, the newly renovated USD 490 Performing Arts Center opened its doors to patrons for the first time for the Rededication Ceremony. Students and staff treated guests to a performance that took them "Through the Decades" as they reviewed the building’s history and highlights from the decades students traversed its halls.
Elementary students gathered in the new pocket theater, formerly the gymnasium, and high school students tuned up their voices and instruments in the second floor rehearsal room.
An EHS orchestra ensemble played Selections from the Wizard of Oz as the auditorium seats were filled.
USD 490 Board of Education President Norm Wilks welcomed everyone and introduced fellow board members. He thanked taxpayers for supporting the students and the district’s desire to provide adequate space and equipment to house the nationally competitive fine arts programs.
“This facility is important for expanding the imagination, education and involvement of USD 490 students,” Wilks said.
Two EHS drama students, one dressed in a leather jacket with jeans and a white t-shirt and another in a polka dot dress typical of the fifties, talked about the building’s highlights from 1937 to 1959. A slideshow projected on a large screen behind them scrolled yearbook photos as they spoke. They described the building’s construction, the courtyard and Ag classroom where part of the curriculum included butchering chickens and pigs and the old underground tunnels. They talked about glee clubs being popular as they introduced EHS Encore.
Encore sang I’ve Got Rhythm before the next two drama students moseyed toward the stage from the back of the auditorium in tie-dyed clothes and long hair to reflect on the 1960’s and 1970’s.
This era focused more on the people who were in the building and the transitions that took place. McCollum Road was named after one of the principals from these decades. There was a tumbling club and the cafeteria was added in 1964. In 1968, the new high school was built and they were the last class to graduate from the 500 West Central building. Once they split, the Jr. High sports teams were known as the “Kittens” for several years.
Featuring a vocal performance by Mara Stewart and tenor saxophone solo by Devin Larson, the EHS Jazz Band played R-E-S-P-E-C-T before the final two EHS Drama students skipped onto stage in neon tutus and side pony tails to recap 1980 through 2013.
They giggled about the sports teams being called “Kittens” and reminded the audience the name was changed to Cats during the eighties. The suspended ceilings were installed and air conditioning was added in the nineties. The building’s construction made it difficult to accommodate the changing technology needs and seating in the gym had become dangerous. In December 2013, EMS officially moved to their new location.
EMS eighth grade student Niomi Ndirangu’s vocal solo led fellow EMS drama cast members in singing Circle of Life.
USD 490 Board of Education Vice President and EHS Class of 1984 Alumnus Tom Storrer asked other alumni to stand and be recognized and to remain standing so they could join EHS STUCO as they sang the Alma Mater EHS - Our Hearts and Hands to You.
Superintendent Sue Givens acknowledged the historical significance of the building. It served as a college, high school, junior high, and middle school during its 80 years as a pillar of this community. After a year of construction, it will now be able to continue serving students and community members for years to come.
“District success in the fine arts has been a hallmark for El Dorado, with graduates performing at the collegiate, regional and national levels,” Givens said. “El Dorado boasts Broadway performers and lifetime contributors to the arts. You won’t see that data on state test results because it’s about quality of life, not about test results.”
She invited everyone to enjoy a self-guided tour of the facility and enjoy a cookie served by the board of education.
As a surprise, Givens invited alumna Katie Banks-Todd to the stage where the two sang For Good before the elementary students closed the show with Can’t Stop the Feeling.
Families stopped in the hallway outside of the auditorium to look at the old yearbook photos displayed on mounted acrylic panels and delighted in the repurposed sections of gym floor that were turned into benches in the dressing rooms. Several people took photos of the original building dedication bricks that were incorporated into the pillars of the restored courtyard and admired the flexible learning environment of the EHS Extend Campus.
USD 490 Performing Arts Center Rededication Ceremony cast
For those that missed it, you can watch the video here.