Tafia Naahi can tell you a lot about the before and after experience in the Fine Arts Department at her school. The MacArthur High 10th grader played her violin in the 100-student strong orchestra concert in the school’s auditorium as they celebrated their ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 9.
The ceremony, complete with tours of the new spaces; celebrated the school’s additions and renovations of the Fine Arts Department and the Athletic Area.
Naahi said they used to have no place to store their musical instruments, leading to damage and breakage.
“We would have to squeeze them in,” she recalled. She also mentioned not having enough room to practice, because other fine arts disciplines were using the limited rehearsal space. Now each orchestra student has an assigned locker.
“Nothing gets stolen, nothing can be misplaced,” Naahi said.
Clint Rodde, Director of Athletics; Jeff King, Director of Fine Arts, and Superintendent of Schools Jose L. Parra were present. Roddy detailed the upgraded lighting, raised ceiling, polished concrete floors, ceramic tiles and the logo now stained into the concrete floor as renovations in the athletic area.
King said there is now 16,000 square feet of renovated fine arts space with bigger and better rooms. Sharing some of the added benefits, King said they have steel-reinforced shelves for the many trophies of honor, acoustacized side panels and rooms to improve the sound quality, a place for uniform storage, wider doors and floors that are easy to clean and maintain. The improved band hall now occupies 3,200 square feet; there is a 2,500 square foot orchestra room and a 2,000 square foot choir room. Each of those rooms has a library.
King, a trumpet player with a double Master’s degree, became Director of Fine Arts in Irving a year and a half ago. He had to hit the ground running in his new role, as renovation plans were already in place when he started. As a band director for 31 years, 26 of which were in Duncanville ISD, he had some ideas to contribute to the planning and designing of MacArthur’s new band hall.
“You learn that a room should have an entrance and an exit if you have large numbers of kids,” King said. The new band hall, which is located in a space that used to be the school lawn, has a garage door that opens to a hallway and enables large numbers of students to flow in and out with their instruments. For new construction like this and the brand new dance studio, he said they were able to make things the way they wanted them. The 1,500 square foot percussion room and 1,000 square foot second rehearsal room add to the fine arts facelift.
“We have more space, and we’re able to practice now,” 11th grader Camia Nelson said. The viola player sees herself being a part of a larger orchestra body down the road as she enters the larger, wider world.
Involved in construction oversight and some design aspects was district Superintendent Jose L. Parra. He made sure they were able to accomplish what they desired with the space. Pointing out that many of the district’s high schools were built in the 50s and 60s.
“Some rooms may have worked well at the time,” Parra said. “All of a sudden the space no longer worked.” Citing one example, he said students often could not see the band director due to a large pillar that blocked their view. “It’s not constructed to the best experience,” he said. Designers had the chance to reconfigure the space so students could be free from such challenges.
Parra credited the new environment with providing a way for the students to be successful in the pursuit of their passions. Principles advocated for the students to discuss what they needed and where there were deficits.
“That means that they are engaged with their campuses and know what the student needs are,” Parra said.
As for the students, Parra said this undertaking gives them validation that what they are pursuing is important to the district.