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PHS Receives $1 Million for Music Program

Candace Braun

Princeton High School will now look even better thanks to gifts totalling $1 million that were recently donated to Princeton Regional School District.

The two donations, each $500,000, will go toward the music program at the high school and construction of the school's new auditorium. The money will help the district pay for the enhancement of the quality of sound and appearance of the room, so that it is more similar to a concert hall.

Board of Education President Charlotte Bialek said the district is thrilled to receive the donations.

"We have great music programs [at the high school], and now we're able to build a great auditorium to support them," she said.

Ms. Bialek explained that when the Board reworked the high school construction and renovation plan to make it fall within budget, it was forced to take out certain features of the planned auditorium.

The high school construction plan, part of the $81.3 million bond referendum to renovate all six schools in the district, went out to bid three times before a bid came within budget. In October, the school district awarded a contract to Ernest Bock and Sons, Inc., almost a year after construction on the other schools had already begun. The bid was $32.8 million, still almost $3 million over budget.

"All the bids were too high, and we had to cut costs," said Ms. Bialek. She said that certain features for the auditorium were put on a list of "add alternates" until the necessary money to fund the costs was found.

That money was found through the fundraising efforts of the Rev. Frank Strasburger, an associate rector at Trinity Church.

As former vice president and facilities chairman for the Board, Rev. Strasburger said he felt the auditorium was one of the most anticipated renovations on the school, and he didn't want the plans to suffer because of a lack of funds.

"When the bids came in for the project on the high school, and it was apparent that the auditorium was going to be stripped down from the original plan ... I was really disappointed," he said.

Rev. Strasburger then went to Ms. Bialek privately and asked for permission to raise funds for the auditorium.

"We will be able to do a lot more now than we would have otherwise," said Rev. Strasburger. "It will be a performance hall of tremendous value to the entire community."

The former Board member has helped raise funds in the past for the high school, including $0.5 million from Princeton University for the school's library, and $150,000 from Princeton Seminary for the school's health suite.

The gifts, provided by The New York Community Trust-The Scheide Fund and an anonymous donor, will support partnerships with community groups that want to use the high school facility. The groups include the Princeton Symphony, the Dryden Ensemble, and the Princeton Arts Council.

"The partnerships are related to educational programs and facilities use," said Ms. Bialek.

She noted that while many community groups would like to use the facility for free, the Board's facilities committee is examining which groups will be able to use the facility at no or little cost, and which ones will have to pay.

The Scheide Fund, set up by Princeton philanthropist William H. Scheide, has made numerous donations to local institutions, including the University and the former New Jersey Opera Festival.

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