Mehlville breaks ground for new auditorium

District to offer 19 AP classes beginning next school year

Mehlville Superintendent Eric Knost, Board of Education members, teachers, staff and Mehlville Senior High School band and choir students celebrate the beginning of construction of the district’s new auditorium during a ground-breaking ceremony last week.

Mehlville Superintendent Eric Knost, Board of Education members, teachers, staff and Mehlville Senior High School band and choir students celebrate the beginning of construction of the district’s new auditorium during a ground-breaking ceremony last week.

By Mike Anthony

Mehlville School District officials last week conducted a ground-breaking ceremony for the district’s new auditorium being constructed on the Mehlville Senior High School campus.

Superintendent Eric Knost and Board of Education members Venki Palamand, Elaine Powers and Larry Felton joined teachers, staff and Mehlville Senior High School band and choir students for the Nov. 7 ceremony.

The 20,300-square-foot auditorium will seat 522 and support a wide range of academic, musical, theatrical and civic events. The auditorium is expected to open next fall.

hat is 40 feet deep and 44 feet wide, plus two locations for a programmable lighting console, video recording equipment, digital-audio recording capabilities, a high-output projector and a motorized on-stage projection screen.

Other features include an 1,800-square-foot lobby, student dressing rooms, a costume storage room and a 1,400-square-foot shop for the construction of scenery.

During a Board of Education meeting Nov. 7, Knost briefly discussed the auditorium ground-breaking ceremony, which occurred that morning.

He also noted during his superintendent’s report that construction of the auditorium, as well as construction of a tennis-court complex at Bernard Middle School, are “curricular” decisions.

He said, “… Just doing some reflecting based on a comment that I recently heard — or read that I didn’t enjoy reading too much — but I thought about all of the students who have or will, for years and years to come, take Women’s Choir, Concert Choir Treble, Concert Chorale, Men’s Choir, Concert Choir Mixed, Jazz Choir, Women’s Chamber Choir, Madrigal Singers, Beginning Band, Concert Band, Honor Band, Jazz Band, String Orchestra, Introduction to Theater, Acting, Advanced Acting, Theater Stagecraft, Theater Workshop and even things like light engineering, sound engineering that we can’t do in a gymnasium.

“And I think about all the students that will be touched by that decision in a curricular manner …,” Knost said, referencing the new standards for Missouri School Improvement Program, MSIP 5.

“People don’t realize that we are held accountable now for kids going to college. And the first time I ever heard that, I thought that was absolutely insane and I still don’t enjoy it that much. But I like, I like, the goal. I like the fact that that needs to be there …”

Knost said Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro told him in a one-on-one conversation the thought process behind that is “one diploma is not enough. Students need two diplomas. Now whether that’s a career-tech type of a certification of what have you, that’s the goal of MSIP 5.

“So we are held accountable in a new MSIP 5 tool, part of the points are based on our kids getting on in college, and I don’t think people in our community realize because of our outstanding performing-arts programs how many students go to college because of that. Significant numbers of our students go to college in those performing-arts areas. Significant numbers of them receive scholarships and make that a reality,” the superintendent said.

“… That’s important to me and it strikes a little bit of a nerve when things are written that it’s not a curricular decision. It absolutely is and I just think it’s important to point that out …”

Knost also gave an update about the work on the tennis courts that are under construction at Bernard Middle School.

All of the underground work is done and asphalt will be poured on the courts this week, weather permitting, he said.

“That also, I believe, is a curricular decision because, by the way, if you have children and you can get them excited about tennis, there is no easier way to get a scholarship for a child than to have them involved in tennis, and especially female,” Knost said. “The colleges just look for that left and right, and we do that. Our tennis program does a lot of that.

“We can’t even host Missouri State High School Activities Association matches in our district because we don’t have the facility to do that. So I consider that connected to the (curriculum), too. Not to mention the fact it brings something that our community can use as well …”

Earlier during his superintendent’s report, Knost discussed the progress being made on two of the district’s vision points, increasing the number of Advanced Placement classes and career programs.

“AP courses are really, really important in my mind …,” he said, noting AP courses are based on nationally normed tests, “but they require the type of high-level calculating and critical thinking that students encounter in college. It’s why AP courses are so important …”

A number of new classes — including one in AP Chemistry, mathematics, technical education and science — were being considered for approval that night by the Board of Education.

“… With tonight’s approval of AP Chem for next year, we think there’s only one school district in the St. Louis area, potentially the state, that offers more AP courses than the Mehlville School District does …,” Knost said.

When he became principal of Oakville Senior High School, the district offered no AP courses, Knost said.

“… A lot of people got involved in the push, but we slowly started adding them and I made that a vision point and a goal, of course, that we continue to add upon my superintendency and we’ve done that. And we will continue to do that …,” he said.

With the board’s unanimous approval of the new classes, Mehlville will offer 19 AP classes starting with the 2013-2014 school year.