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Demopolis City Schools gets $3 million grant

Demopolis City Schools plans to renovate the Demopolis High School auditorium with a $3-million grant provided through the State of Alabama.

The interest-free bond is part of $263 million in qualified school construction bonds distributed by the governor’s office as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly called “the stimulus package.”

“This money is going to allow schools opportunities to do things that they wouldn’t normally be allowed to do,” said Gov. Bob Riley in announcing the funding awards on Friday. “With these bonds, systems can repair, renovate and construct much-needed schools while also stimulating the economy.”

Demopolis is one of 46 school systems receiving money through the program. Schools applied for the grants, which were allocated based on a formula that considered each system’s ability to repay the bonds. Schools are required to pay back only 80 percent of the granted money over a period of 13 to 16 years. For Demopolis, that means that the school system would have to repay only $2.4 million over that time period, which means an annual payment of $150,000 to $184,615.

Acting superintendent Dr. Neil Hyche said the school system will work to repay the grant in 13 years.

“This will be used to build a cultural arts theater,” Hyche said. “We have a committee that has been appointed to work with the architects, McKee and Associates, in planning it. They will talk about it on Nov. 10.

“The current auditorium is small — it seats only 250 — and at one end, it has a terrific water problem. The idea is to go around and look at what we want in a theater. Whatever we design has to cost less than $3 million.”

Demopolis was one of only 21 city school systems to receive funding. Schools in this area to receive funding include Greene County Schools, $10 million; Bibb County Schools, $3 million; and Thomasville City Schools, $1.26 million.

“This is a great opportunity for Demopolis,” said DHS principal Leon Clark. “Not only for the high school, but also for the city, to have a venue like this that will accent the fine arts. We’ve got a great group of students who have a lot of talent in that area, so this will give us an opportunity to enhance what we’re doing.”

DHS drama teacher Jody White made the announcement of the funding to the cast of the upcoming play, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” at its rehearsal on Monday.

“This will be the last play that I direct in this theater,” she said to the stunned cast, then continued, “because we are receiving $3 million to renovate this theater!” The cast responded with thunderous applause.

Hyche said that ground will be broken quickly, perhaps as soon as next spring.