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Performing Arts at OHS    

Over the course of the last year there have been a number of very positive discussions

regarding improving the schools of USD 290.  Predominantly the topics of those

conversations have centered around building a new elementary to replace Eugene Field

and the renovation of Ottawa High School.  Nearly every topic of conversation to this point

regarding OHS has been met with little to no resistance as far as the understanding of need

and purpose.  The one area that may have some questions that need answered surrounds

the addition of a performing arts center.  Thus, I hope to be able to provide some insight as

to the need for such a facility here.  

I will begin by drawing some correlation to the number of students participating in the

performing arts in comparison to our other programs.  Our vocal music program has grown

dramatically under the direction of Lori Underwood swelling to 111 students in 4 choirs as

well as another 22 students participating in musical theatre creating a total enrollment of

over 130 students in the vocal music department.  The band continues to be have strong

numbers with 61 students currently enrolled and another 16 in jazz band taking us to nearly

another 80 students.  Other performing arts programs include Ms. Flax’s forensics class, 27

students, and Mr. Hutton’s debate course with 17 students.  In total we have over 250

students enrolled in a class associated with the performing arts.

If you compare this to our athletic programs

there is certainly a difference.  Football had 78 students on its roster this year, freshman

through varsity.  The soccer team who boasted a 3rd place finish in the State Tournament

split 38 students between 2 squads.  Our volleyball team also fields three levels with a total

of 27 participants.  Girls and boys basketball just finished tryouts and will include 23 and 29

students on their respective rosters between freshman, JV, and varsity.  Furthermore, the

number of events that each of these teams host at home on our fields are far less than what

we would see from our performing arts if the opportunity were there.  Football this year

hosted only 14 events between its 3 teams (6 varsity, 3 JV, and 5 freshman), soccer hosted

11 events, volleyball played 8 events at OHS, basketball will only host 10 events, wrestling

just 2, and of course the Ottawa Invitational will be the only track event hosted at OHS.  My

purpose here is to show that in taking a look at the activities that host events consistently at

OHS (soccer, football, volleyball, and basketball) we still do not get close to serving the

number of students involved in the performing arts (Athletics 195/Performing Arts 254).

There are other differences as well that effect the overall ability of our school to promote

and inform parents of what we do at OHS.  Statistically we can show that at OHS there is

very little crossover between our students who are involved in athletics and those that are

involved in the performing arts.  Without access to an auditorium in which we can host

events in our building there are very few opportunities for us to showcase what our arts

programs produce with the fallout being that we fail to truly draw those parents, future

students, and patrons into our building to promote what we do academically, create

excitement with our future students, and build relationships with the patrons of our

community who support the performing arts.  

There are 352 high schools registered with the Kansas State High School Activities

Association.  Ottawa High School is by far the biggest school in the state without a

performing arts center or auditorium.  We have great facilities for many of our athletic

programs and some of the best venues in our league and the State to play.  Yet, our

performing arts students do not have a place that they are able to create similar memories

in, or a sense of pride and belonging.  They do not have a place that they are able to call


I hope that without getting into the absolutes, the readers of this article will also understand

that OHS would be able to fully utilize an auditorium daily along with a number of benefits

for the entire district and the community.

Dr. Ryan Cobbs
OHS Principal