WPHS Performing Arts Center Needs Work

WHEELING – Ohio County Board of Education members learned Monday night the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center at Wheeling Park High School has issues with storage, lighting and maintenance.

Assistant Superintendent Bernie Dolan presented to board members a report compiled by co-technical coordinators of the facility – speech teacher Bill Cornforth and vocational teacher Mike Harris – detailing the needs of the $12 million Performing Arts Center, which opened in March 2012.

Board president Shane Mallett, a four-year member of the board, said it was the first time he had heard of inadequacies with the facility.

The report stated usage of the Performing Arts Center is high from September through December, then decreases during winter months. There were 63 events at the facility during the 2013-14 school year, with 17 events staged by entities from outside the school district. The Performing Arts Center brought in $21,000 during the school year, according to the report.

School board members Gary Kestner and Tim Birch toured the facility with Cornforth on Monday afternoon, and learned of what is needed there.

Birch said in recent months some persons said they donated to constructing the facility’s off-stage green room, an area for actors and staff to gather when not on stage. The room is instead being used for storage, as the facility doesn’t have enough room to place the items it needs.

The facility also has only about one-fifth of the lighting it needs, according to Birch. He said the Ohio County Strings Association paid for lighting required for the WPHS string orchestra’s events. There are also nicks in the drywall in the facility that could be easily repaired by the school district’s maintenance staff, he said.

Dolan said when the Performing Arts Center was built, it wasn’t constructed with all the bells and whistles and it was decided needs there would be addressed as they were determined over time.

Board member Christine Carder said the type of production happening at the Performing Arts Center dictates how many lights it needs. While smaller shows may only need 30 lights, the annual holiday show the Festival of Sound requires 300.

“When I was getting updates over the last four years, I thought it was state-of-the-art and made for the Festival of Sound,” Mallett said. “We had those lights and that performance at (WesBanco Arena) for how long? We knew we needed 300 lights to have that performance. It was my understanding when we were putting all this money into it that that was what was happening. I guess you shouldn’t assume anything, but I assumed that was being bought. I didn’t think we had strings money paying for things that were already in the budget.”

The board voted to establish a committee to consider concerns at the facility, with Birch being their representative to the committee.