Monday, March 12, 2007

Marylin Cleland Barnay: Pen High facilities an asset to the community

This letter was printed in the Western News Advertiser

By Marylin Cleland Barnay
Mar 11 2007

Reference to the letters recently published in the Penticton Western News regarding the urgency to keep the Pen High gymnasium/Pen High auditorium from being flattened: “Time running out for historic buildings” (Fedorak Mar 2, Terris, Jan.28). Mr. Fedorak and Mr. Terris echo thoughts voiced by many in our local newspapers since the funding announcement by School District 67 for a new senior secondary school October 14, 2005.

Larry Little as chairman, School District 67, (picture and front-page article Kathy Michaels Mar 2 and subsequent letter to the editor), is “looking for an organization” to come forward with a plan before the end of the month in order to avoid demolition in spring of 2008. Do we have such an organization in our community? An individual? A benefactor? Mr. Little proudly states that the new senior secondary school will have more gym space than the north and south gyms combined. Bravo! With the number of students I am sure that will be appreciated and with public awareness for more activity, this will be a further bonus. Obviously our students will be well taken care of.

What about our community needs? Can Penticton be like other cities that provide facilities for the community like The Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Orpheum, in Vancouver, Massey Theatre in New Westminster? Communities that are thinking as a community make concerted efforts to utilize what they have, make available and provide for arts, culture and recreation thus confirming that these are vital and essential elements in a balanced community. Community organizations, education and city work together for the benefit of all.

Ergo, realizing the need for an auditorium/gym in 1948 when our high school was being rebuilt. Forward-thinking school, city leaders and citizens applauded the chance for the “companion buildings” (Pen High auditorium and gymnasium) as an addition to the new high school. (At the official opening on May 8, 1952 the cost was shared by the city and education department — for all in the community).

In recent years as a “designated classroom”, accessibility of the auditorium has been restricted, conservation has been minimal, uninviting to touring performers. To upgrade and improve would be considered positive. Financially at this time, it seems practical. The recently talked about state-of-the-art performing art centre (by the PDPAFS) is anticipated. Right now, however, it cannot take the place of these two on Eckhardt East but, with the suggestions of growth, it too, should become a necessity and an asset.

To many of us retaining Pen High auditorium/gym is not obscure but rather, preserves a valuable community asset. Serious solving is unavoidable! Demolition costs and additional piles at the landfill? Or protecting the assets we have now for our community?

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