Shedding light

Stage rigging upgrades planned for Smithsburg High School

Stage rigging upgrades planned for Smithsburg High School

September 21, 2005|by KAREN HANNA


In the first act of the new school year, concerns about the supports for Smithsburg High School's theatrical lights have brought a temporary intermission to the use of the school's stage.

While upgrades are planned to bring Smithsburg's stage rigging up to current code, a Washington County Public Schools official said Monday the system is exploring whether other stages also might need improvements.

"It is off-limits for a while," Smithsburg Principal Melvin Whitfield said of his school's stage.

According to Whitfield, concerns about the school's rigging came up after workers refinished the stage's floor this summer.

The system that holds the curtains and lights above the floor is as old as the school, which was built in 1965. It no longer meets code, Whitfield said.


Neither Whitfield nor Rodney Turnbough, school system director of facilities management, said they were aware of any instances in which students or staff were in danger because of problems with the rigging.

"I don't know of any failures, and I don't know of any near failures," Turnbough said Monday. "Basically, the system has performed as designed up to this point, but we're trying to be proactive and responsive to life-safety issues," Turnbough said.

Work to repair or replace the rigging will take place in October, Whitfield said. The school's first play of the year opens Nov. 17, and until the stage is finished, the orchestra, which normally rehearses during first period in the school auditorium, will practice in the cafeteria, Whitfield said.

Turnbough said Monday he learned of the problems the first day of school. He said he is not sure how much the upgrades will cost, or if other schools' rigging might need to be upgraded.

"We'll be doing a survey for all the supports for lighting for all of the schools in the county," Turnbough said.

Turnbough said regular inspections of the rigging are not required, and the equipment was not inspected as part of a recent maintenance survey detailing the needs throughout the county. Maintenance workers rely on school staff, including drama teachers and play advisers, to notice problems involving the stage's specialized equipment, Turnbough said.

According to Ed Masood, school system supervisor of athletics, health and physical education, inspections and work on the rigging would have to be authorized by the facilities department. That department would prioritize projects, he said.

"Part of the problem is we have a lot of facilities that are very old, and over the years, there's not been a lot of money provided for preventative maintenance," Masood said.

For every project that needs to be done, Masood said there is someone who believes his or her priority is No. 1.

"When you're looking at redoing a stage, you're looking at $250,000. Minimum. Per site," Masood said.

Turnbough said he believed Parlights Inc. of Frederick, Md., a theatrical lighting and rigging company, had inspected Smithsburg's equipment after concerns were raised about the rigging. Turnbough said he was not award of how much the inspection cost, and he still was awaiting word on what changes need to be made.

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