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Riverview says it's time to finish arts center

DUVALL — It's easy to assume that Cedarcrest High's performing

arts center is a state-of-the-art facility filled with plush seats and ruby red

drapes. But that aura is only an illusion because the auditorium was never

finished when the school opened in 1993.

"An analogy a friend said was, `You have a Cadillac chassis and

seats and absolutely nothing else,'" said drama teacher Karen King.

That's why the Riverview School District is asking voters to approve

a two-year, $210,000 levy in February which would provide the

necessary equipment (see box) for drama students and community groups alike.

Cedarcrest's earlier performances were powered by a karaoke

machine and borrowed lighting equipment, which was "only adequate for a

lounge act in a club."

Since then, King and her students have raised more than

$36,000 through candy bar and ticket sales. The money was able to slowly

purchase essential items such as fabric for a curtain, a sound system, lighting

instruments and more.

"The students are really proud in knowing that they have contributed

[to the program]," King said. "But it would be nice to have it a little bit

more finished."

The interest in completing the performing arts center was recently

revived by Carolyn Butler of the Duvall Arts Commission, who reminded

the board of directors that the center was not yet finished.

"I'm seeing a combination of people who've been here awhile

and accepted it and new people desiring arts services that haven't been

available," Butler said of the renewed push for arts. "So suddenly, there's a

demand."

"Also, in the last two years I've seen the community's interest

continue to grow and it's a reflection of them becoming more aware of arts

in Duvall," added Houston Barclay, the president of the Duvall Foundation

for the Arts.

School Board President Laura Ritter said a year after the

school opened, a consultant gave the district a list of what was needed to finish

the arts center, but at that time, there wasn't enough money.

"We couldn't [issue] a bond, so it was put in a file," she said. "Then

a year ago Carolyn approached us with the things that still needed to be

done, and I think that's when it got put to our mind that it wouldn't cost

too much and that we could ask voters for a short levy and get it done."

When voters finally passed the $11.55-million high school bond

in 1990 — four similar bonds had failed before passage — the amount

was pared down so much that it was evident the district wouldn't be able

to equip the school with athletic fields or the performing arts center.

"Eleven million dollars is cheap for a high school," said Scott

Hodgins, the district's former capital facilities manager. "Right now, the average

high school costs between $27-$30 million."

Hodgins joined the district in 1997 and spent much of his time

planning for the projects that weren't finished seven years ago. But he said that

even though the district could not complete the arts center, former

superintendent Dr. Jack Ernst anticipated that it

would happen one day and planned ahead.

"Jack had some foresight saying, `The hard thing to do is not put

the infrastructure in, so leave out things I know I can come back and

add,'" Hodgins explained. "The

infrastructure is there. They may need to make minor revisions to it, but anything

we have to do to expand those systems, the infrastructure can support."

When the equipment is finally installed, Butler said, it would be

easier to attract community groups and special presentations to the center.

Right now the Duvall Arts Commission is partnering with the

district to bring arts into the Valley. They have already sponsored several

successful events, but are limited to who they can invite because of the lack of

adequate facilities.

The commission recently applied for a $22,500 King County

Cultural Facilities Program grant to help update the arts center's sound

system. They will find out whether they are a grant recipient in March.

Both Carolyn Butler and Houston Barclay support the Performing

Arts Center Levy because they say the drama class challenges the

students' mind and abilities — a skill they

will need in the real world.

"Technology companies hire people with `out-of-the-box'

thinking who have problem-solving skills,"

she said. "Arts develops critical and creative thinking skills."

Even if the levy doesn't pass, King said, the students will continue

to peddle candy bars to stock the center with the needed materials.

"I'm not going to just sit down. We'll keep on fund raising and

doing the best we can with what we have," she said. "We just need to sell half

a million candy bars to finish it."

The district is also running a $7.4 million replacement Maintenance

and Operation Levy and a $1 million Technology Levy on the Feb. 29

ballot.

If all measures are approved, a homeowner with a house assessed

at $200,000 could expect to pay approximately $2.95 ($2.52 for the M &

O, 36 cents for technology and 7 cents for the arts center) per $1,000 of

assessed value, or $590 in 2001.

For more information about the February election and the levy

requests, call the Riverview School District at (425) 333-4115.

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