Old planetarium at Central Texas school could reopen next fall

Posted at 10:14 AM, Dec 14, 2016
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:34-04

A planetarium at Waco High School that has not been used in 20 years could reopen as soon as next fall, if approved by the Waco ISD Board of Trustees.

The planetarium, which was built in the 1960s, has not been used since the mid-1990s.

On Wednesday, a company from Utah gave a demonstration of their digital planetarium system to be used for the revival of the planetarium at Waco High School.

The revival of the planetarium estimated at up to $900,000 would include a new aluminum seamless dome, new lighting, up to 44 reclining seats and a new projection system. In addition, an interactive science exhibit in the adjacent room and a dedicated entrance would also be part of the project.

Evans and Sutherland from Salt Lake City, was the second company doing a demonstration about the capabilities of the planetarium to several people, including educators from Waco ISD.

“We can take people under the ocean. We can take people to a distant ocean that is in another planet. We can talk about engineering, art, mathematics and physics and chemistry and so on,” Evans and Sutherland employee Kevin Scott said.

He said other educational institutions and museums around the world use their digital planetarium system, which would allow Waco ISD share content.

"Students here in Waco could present their own content show, productions to these students in Mumbai, New Zealand and China and vice versa,” Scott said.

Waco ISD’s Science Content Specialist Dustin Sykora said the innovative resources would help students’ education.

"It's totally different seeing a 2D model on a piece of paper say a star or a planet,” Sykora said. “Actually seeing it in motion, that almost 3D feel is what will allow those connections to take place effectively and more concrete."

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade would be able to use the facility.

“The younger we start that spark and interest in science, that whole stem curriculum only sets us forth. Let them have an advantage furthering their educational careers,” Sykora said.

Waco ISD Communications Director Bruce Gietzen said right now only 15 districts have their own planetarium.

"The district is trying to develop a reputation or further a reputation of being innovative, willing to reach outside the box to do some things maybe can't get elsewhere,” Gietzen said.

Other school districts and members of the public would be able to use planetarium, which is expected to be a source of revenue for the district.

Gietzen said the district believes it can obtain the majority of the funding for the planetarium through grants, private donations, gifts and sponsorships.

If approved, the planetarium could reopen next September or January of 2018.

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