The District 95 Board of Education voted April 12 to hire a company to replace the stage curtains in the S.E. Gross Middle School auditorium, following a redesign of the project that lowered costs by approximately $70,000 from the original estimates.

The board accepted the Grand Stage Company’s bid to replace the curtains for $10,200, with an addendum for curtain alterations of no more than $1,500. The work is scheduled to be done by May 27, which S.E. Gross Principal Thomas Hurlburt said will be in time for the stage to be ready for the school’s annual musical and the eighth grade pins and ribbons and graduation ceremonies.

The curtains, along with hanging stage lights, were removed two years ago after a facilities survey found the 50-year-old scaffolding holding them in place had become a safety hazard.

According to Superintendent Douglas Rudig, when the district initially looked into repairing the scaffolding, the cost of doing so was estimated at $80,000 to $90,000. In working with the district’s new architecture firm, FGM Architects Engineers, Inc., however, Rudig said they were able to develop an alternative scenario.

Instead of replacing the existing scaffolding the architect simply created a new frame structure supported by the stage’s side walls. This new design brought the estimated costs down to below $11,000.

After the replacement of the curtains, Rudig said the board’s next step would be to replace the stage lights, hopefully again in a way that avoids replacing the hanging scaffolding.

“We’re looking for ways to do it to avoid all the hanging structure that in the past has become a safety issue,” he said. “It’s really a more modern approach, and it saves the district lots of money.”

?”Jessica Glowinski