New Performing Arts Center Opens at Festus High | Education

FESTUS — Link Luttrell will be honored with one last request as superintendent of the Festus school district when his favorite musical “Annie” opens this month at the high school’s new performing arts center.

After 14 years in the district of 3,250 students, Luttrell will retire from Festus in June to become superintendent of the Spring Hill School District in Kansas.

Luttrell has led Festus Schools for the past nine years as the fifth person to lead the district in the past 77 years. His accomplishments include raising teacher salaries to the highest among Jefferson County’s 11 school districts. Student test scores also became among the highest in the state, with about 65% proficient in English and 56% in math.

The $15 million Festus Performing Arts Center was built over the past two years with funds from a ballot initiative in 2019, the third approved by voters during Luttrell’s tenure. The initiatives funded construction, including new classrooms in elementary and secondary schools, two new playgrounds, renovations to Tiger Stadium, and a new baseball and softball complex, among other projects.

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Festus won Outstanding Musical for “South Pacific” at the 2017 St. Louis High School Musical Theater Awards, and was a finalist in 2019 for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

“We feel so lucky to finally have this quality of facilities here at Festus,” said choir director Christopher Boemler, of the performing arts center. “Festus performing arts legacy, we’ve been deserving of something like this for a long time.”

The 2019 ballot initiative, which resulted in a tax increase of 59 cents for every $100,000 in property assessment, will also fund a preschool program in 2023 and a district wellness center with facilities including a track walking, a cardio room and a 2,000-seat gym in 2024.

“Since my arrival in July 2008 as Deputy Superintendent, I have strived to pedal fast while collaborating daily with all stakeholders in the ongoing pursuit to firmly establish Festus R-VI as the premier district not only in the Jefferson County, but also in the St. Louis metro area, as well as throughout the state of Missouri,” Luttrell said in a statement. “To that end, I truly feel the prosecution has been accomplished and it does not NO doubt Festus R-VI set a high standard from which others now strive to emulate.”

The curtain will rise on March 24 on the high school’s “Annie” production in the new 750-seat hall. Community groups will be able to rent the 28,500 square foot theater and its adjoining spaces, which include a costume warehouse with laundry room, a green room and a dance studio.

“There are obviously a lot of great opportunities for students – the flight system, the lighting, the sound, the set design,” said theater manager Will Borgmeyer. “There’s a lot of buzz about getting kids involved, not just the actors but the tech support.”

Group director Stephanie Sekelsky said the performance experience is akin to professional theater.

“Compared to a gym, it’s pretty amazing,” she said.

William E. Bennett