Approval of a scaled-down, 850-seat auditorium at Bozeman High School has been delayed to give the School Board more time to discuss the plan and a strategy for raising the estimated $6 million it would cost to build.

Trustee Martha Collins asked at Monday night's School Board meeting to delay a vote on spending $51,540 to have Comma-Q Architects design the auditorium.

The board agreed, approving only $85,429 to have Comma-Q go ahead with other design work, but holding off on the auditorium design.

The other projects are part of the renovation of Bozeman High, and will include upgrading the old cafeteria, South Gym locker rooms, and reconstructing C-wing and F-wing to create a new home for the Bridger alternative high school.

Collins said after the vote that she doesn't object to scaling down the auditorium from the 1,250 seats first envisioned to the 850-seat plan. Superintendent Kirk Miller has recommended the change, saying it would allow using the auditorium as a teaching space for music, drama and speech students, without the millions of dollars of extra expenses for building a balcony and a tall fly loft used by community opera and theater productions.

"I think it's realistic to look at a smaller auditorium," Collins said. "It's a reasonable size, because of the cost. And we're going to have to replicate this at a second high school."

But timing is important, Collins said. The economy is bad, and that will make it make it harder to find donors.

Collins said she wants to have further discussion by the four-member auditorium committee about timing and the consultant's report on auditorium options. The committee is made up of Collins, Trustee Denise Hayman, Miller and Steve Johnson, assistant superintendent for business.

"Is this what we're really going to ask the board to sign off on?" Collins asked. "We still have a lot of information from the consultants' report we need to look at."

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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