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Renovations to Natrona County High School will blend history with technology and allow in a lot more light, according to architects during an update on the design Wednesday night.

A Bassetti Architects team is 10 percent through designing renovations for the main NCHS building, said Marilyn Brockman, a Bassetti team member. The Seattle firm’s plans feature many windows and walls for better interior and exterior views.

Renovations are being designed to complement an overhaul of the secondary-school curriculum based on academies, which Brockman described as “smaller schools within a school.”

One conceptual drawing shows students at upper floors looking into an academy space designed for collaboration and projects that combine multiple classes.

“That is so people going through the school have the opportunity to get excited about the creativity that’s happening in these spaces,” Brockman said, adding that could include younger visitors.

The theater will remain historic but will support 21st century operations, Brockman said. Plans include fewer seats but the stage will extend farther.

Plans also feature a full orchestra pit. “That brings the orchestra into the room with the people in the audience and it provides for a much better musical experience,” Brockman said.

Original plans included getting rid of the theater’s balcony, but designers in collaboration with locals decided to keep a small portion intact. Most of balcony will become a light and sound booth.

The interior décor of the theater will remain but be restored, Brockman said.

The theater, too, will have natural light, Brockman said. Beneath layers added over the decades are original windows featuring stained glass insignias. It’s unknown what condition they’re in, but the team hopes the windows can be restored.

A number of graduating classes have given gifts to the school – such as inscribed bricks — and the designers are working to preserve and include them, Brockman said.

The team has been working with local people on the design, and will flesh out many more details by September, Brockman said.

Construction is set to begin this summer on a building that will house temporary classrooms during renovations and later become an athletics facility.

That building will house various classes and the school’s physical education program during construction, as well as all competitive indoor sports, said Tim Schenk of GSG Architecture, the Casper firm designing the structure.

After the main school building renovations are complete, the approximately 82,000-square-foot building will become the Student Fitness and Activity Center. The structure will have 103,000 square feet of interior space thanks to a mezzanine level. It will be capable of containing a 200-meter track with areas for field events. It also will feature spaces for other competitive sports and house 80 percent of NC’s physical education classes.

Plans include a feature called a light monitor to allow in natural light.

The entire campus currently is cut up by streets and alleys, Brockman said, but the new campus will incorporate surrounding areas for safety and ease of traffic by foot, car and bus. The Natrona County School District currently is buying and working on lots around the school.

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Reach education reporter Elysia Conner at 307-266-0593 or elysia.conner@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @ElysiaConner

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