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Silver Bay steps up to improve school auditorium

Major changes are happening at William Kelley Schools in Silver Bay in the near future.

Already this summer, the elementary and high school libraries have been combined to make more space and create a new computer lab and study room for students. Before school starts the chimney that dominates the view of the WKS driving through Silver Bay will be torn down because it is cracked and leaking water into the school. After school ended in June, elementary teacher Terry Blood painted murals on the wall of the auditorium with materials donated by the class of 2017.

In addition to the changes to the library and external look of the building, a campaign has started to raise money to replace the chairs in the auditorium at WKS. Principal Joe Nicklay and English teacher Katie Fritz couldn't be sure but both wondered if the chairs in the auditorium are original to when the school was opened nearly 60 years ago. New chairs cost $200 each and the goal is to raise enough money to purchase new chairs throughout the auditorium, as many as 700 new seats, to be installed during the summer following the 2017-18 school year.

The auditorium is large for most schools, but especially for a school as small as WKS, but it also serves the community at large, hosting piano recitals, productions from Prairie Fire Children's Theatre and Lake Superior Community Theatre as well as the WKS annual one act play, band and choir concerts and graduation.

"It's huge and we're so lucky that it's huge and we're also challenged in that it's huge. It's a pretty incredible space and it's time that the chairs matched," Fritz said. "Those orange chairs have been there for a long time and you can tell. They're bent and ripped and put back together with duct tape and all sorts of stuff. It's a space that allows really amazing things to happen and it's time that the chairs match that."

Fritz isn't sure of the exact number of chairs needed because there is also a plan to reconfigure the floor plan in the auditorium to include more space between rows and a spot to put a sound board in the middle of the auditorium.

Fritz said every little bit helps and people don't need purchase an entire $200 chair to make a donation. She said she is also planning to write some grants to area community development organizations to help pay for the seats and she wants to approach the alumni group to gage interest in purchasing the seats in honor of their classes. Even her own family, who are not from Silver Bay, is getting involved in the campaign.

"I talked to my family over the Fourth of July holiday and for Christmas we donate to a charity and this year we are going to chip in and buy a family chair," Fritz said.

The auditorium is a real asset to the community, according to Fritz, and Silver Bay has a history of stepping up when a need like this arises.

"It's a really stunning professional space that reflects well on our community and then the chairs are falling apart and I don't think that reflects who we are at all," Fritz said. "That's what the Silver Bay community does, when we see a need we all find a way to make it happen, both for our kids and the community at large and that's a pretty cool thing."

To find out more about the campaign or to donate call WKS at (218) 226-4437 or email Fritz at

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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