Choir room move debated
Tonganoxie High School senior Katie Kolman is in her third year with the Chieftain Singers, part of the vocal music department at THS.
Kolman had plans of spending her senior year in a refurbished choir room, but a restructuring of rooms on the THS campus has changed those plans.
The vocal department now holds classes in part of the Chieftain Room in the THS east campus, while the art department now uses the choir room, which was the former band/choir room until January, when the band moved to its new home near the Tonganoxie Performing Arts Center. The changes were made earlier this month.
The move was made because of administrator and school board concerns about students making the jaunt from physical education classes at the weight room near Beatty Field to the rest of the campus. The weight room was moved to where the art room had been on the west campus for the past semester. Before that, the room was used for industrial arts.
"They had to make room for the weight room, which I completely understand," Kolman said. "I realize in emergencies to bring the weight room closer to the campus."
But Kolman also said she was frustrated by the choir being moved out of its former room. That's why she spoke to the school board at the Aug. 13 board meeting.
"We've accomplished so much in the choir," Kolman said. "I don't understand why athletics and other things have to come before us. As a student, I believe I should have the same opportunity that football players and basketball players do."
Tonganoxie High School principal Jamie Carlisle had this to say about Kolman speaking on behalf of the vocal department at the meeting:
"I was real proud of Katie for the job she did at the board meeting," Carlisle said. "She did an excellent job and she was very well prepared. And she showed leadership. And those are the types of things we hope our students are going to learn and take with them the rest of their life."
Carlisle declined to comment further about the situation.
School board president Leana Leslie said she supported the decision to make the adjustments.
"I support the principal and the teaching staff," Leslie said. "They're making the best decision for all the students involved."
Kolman contacted fellow board member Mildred McMillon before the board meeting to explaining her concerns.
On Monday, McMillon said she wanted to further investigate the reconfiguration.
"In my opinion, for whatever it's worth, in being the new kid on the block, I don't know all the details that led up to this in the first place, but I have always, always been a strong advocate for the choir group and the band, the debate, and forensics," McMillon said. "I think they are just as important as football players, the basketball players, the track."
McMillon also expressed frustration in the reconfiguration in light of the $25.3 million bond issue that passed in 2004 for improvements to the district.
"I find it very hard to fathom with a $25 million bond issue that we couldn't find a proper place for the vocal group," she said.
Vocal music instructor Tom Gifford said Tuesday he also understood the move of the weight room to the west campus.
"It was done with security in mind because they are trying not to have so many students outside so much of the time," Gifford said. "I understand the weight room is way out there, the old one.
"The reason I was given was that they were trying to secure the campus better and not have the students all over the place."
Gifford also said that he had made changes during the summer to the former choir room.
"Changes were made, I had turned in some things I thought would help the room be a better choir room, especially in flooring," Gifford said.
Some carpet had been installed in the room during the summer, Gifford said.
According to Kolman, the Chieftain Room does not provide proper acoustics.