2019 | Schools

Designs Approved For Loiederman Performing Arts Center Addition

$7.5 million project would add theater space to middle school

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A $7.5 million project to update A. Mario Loiederman Middle School’s performing arts space has received preliminary approval from the county school board.

The school, south of Aspen Hill, is poised for a 17,000-square-foot addition, largely simple in design aside from a transparent front-facing facade that provides a unique facility among the county’s 40 middle schools.

A performing arts magnet school, students from across the county attend Loiederman, with an enrollment of 944 students in sixth through eighth grade. Loiederman opened in 1956, and now offers specialized programs in dance, band, choir and theater.

The school was named to honor A. Mario Loiederman, a civil engineer and lifelong supporter of Montgomery County arts, in 2005. Loiederman died in 2001.

“I know the community overall will benefit from this project,” Principal Nicole Sosik said. “It creates a sense of equity for all of our programs and doesn’t leave anybody out – all of our students will benefit from this.”

The addition will be the “defining element” of the school, said Jim Determan, an architect with South Carolina-based Craig Gaulden Davis, in charge of designs for the project.

Designs include two classrooms separated from the new performing arts space by movable partitions that, when removed, create a larger theater area. Movable bleachers will seat 425 and backstage features include dressing rooms, set construction space, a box office and storage. Six new parking spaces for people with disabilities will be added along the entrance to the addition.

Project leaders have proposed renovation of some existing classroom space as an option, an idea school board members said they support.

“This is really exciting,” school board president Shebra Evans said. “I hope the community will see the value in the theater. It will alert people to the school and draw them in to see what’s going on.”

Originally, the school system had budgeted about $5 million to add a black box theater, a simple indoor performance space with plain black walls and a level floor, at the school, but community members argued it wouldn’t be large enough to accommodate student productions and using nearby high schools for performances isn’t feasible. In response, the school district added a larger project to its capital improvements program, totaling about $7.5 million.

“This could be really transformational … if students have access to this really real-world facility being built in a public school,” student school board member Ananya Tadikonda said.

When completed in January 2021, Loiederman will have a student capacity of about 1,000. The school is approximately 115 students over its 871 student capacity cap. Construction bids are expected to be awarded in October.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com