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Old School Auditorium Steps Into the Future

 

By JOSEPH SAPIA

For Betty Ann White Slocum, the refurbishing of the Bradley Beach Elementary School auditorium is a step back in time.

“I love it,” said Slocum, who attended the school from kindergarten to eighth grade. “They made it look like the era it’s supposed to be from.

“This just makes it a special place,” she said. “It’s elegant-looking.”

For Slocum, the school’s secretary who has worked for the local kindergarten-to-eighth grade district for all but two years since 1981, and the rest of the town, the remodeling of the auditorium will also be a step into the future.

On Dec 12, when the kindergarten to third graders perform their Winter Concert, the refurbished auditorium will be formally debuted to the public, followed by the Winter Concert of fourth to eighth graders Dec. 19.

The $339,000 project, begun in late August or early September, includes work on the tin ceiling, stage, lighting, carpeting and walls. Earlier this week, the project – funded by the Board of Education putting the money aside over the years, rather than borrowing — was being wrapped up.

“It’ll be ready for the 12th,” said Joseph G. “Jay” Majka, the district’s superintendent and the school’s principal.

With schools now having multi-purpose rooms, the auditorium is a throwback – basically a stage with about 230 theater seats – in a throwback building, built in 1911. Above the seating, set into the tin ceiling, is a large stained-glass window with lead strips.

The auditorium also includes two balconies on either side that have not been open, instead used for storage, in recent years. They should be re-opened as seating, adding 40 to 45 seats on each side, for the school’s February talent show.

The school board is expected to approve a change-order for the remaining balcony work – basically putting in a glass barrier where there is now railing overlooking the lower level – at its Dec. 17 meeting, said David Tonzola, board secretary and school district business administrator. The change-order is expected to add little, if anything, to the $339,000 cost.

“It’s really a beautiful space,” said Bruce Cottrell, an electrician with Sodon’s Electric in Atlantic Highlands, who was working in the auditorium earlier this week. “Not all towns have this.”

“Our hope is to have a lot more community involvement (with the auditorium),” Majka said.

“If you saw this before, you would be amazed by the transformation,” Majka said. “Basically, it needed to be re-done. It was dilapidated. The plaster was coming off. It was unsightly.”

Up to now, the auditorium recently has been used for such things as school stage productions and music classes, Majka said.

“Having the auditorium for my classroom is fantastic,” said Anthony LeProtto, the school’s music teacher and band director. “Having this space. Having a stage we’re going to perform on makes everybody comfortable.”

With the refurbishing going on, LeProtto has had to use other space in the school, which includes newer additions.

“He’s been a trouper,” Majka said. “He hasn’t complained. I’m looking forward to getting him back home.”

When the balconies open, there will be total auditorium seating for 310 to 320, Tonzola said. The school has 300 students from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade.
“I’m very happy the board went forward with this, saved the money (for the refurbishing),” Tonzola said. “It was really in need of it. It was really great to restore a piece of the building.”

Pictured above – Bradley Beach Elementary School, from bbesnj.org.

 
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