Planetarium hopes to open by spring

| January 30, 2018

COSHOCTON – The Coshocton High School features an impressive auditorium used to showcase many community events, an indoor pool where the ECOL was recently held, and a large gymnasium perfect for watching both Coshocton boys’ and girls’ teams take on their opponents. But the high school now has a new feature to add to its list of what makes this school a great place to learn: The planetarium.

Ron Derewecki, retired earth science teacher at the high school, has reintroduced the planetarium to not only the students at Coshocton but the community as well. This project, which started in 2013, is nearing completion and Derewecki hopes that the project will be ready for public viewing by this spring.

The planetarium could not have been possible without the donations from the community including but not limited to the Coshocton Foundation, Montgomery Foundation, Schooler Family Foundation, Gannett Foundation, Timmons Foundation, and Peoples Bank. Individuals gave private donations as well.

The planetarium features 50 seats that were all sponsored by members of the community. Seats on the outside aisle are handicapped accessible. Each seat was $400 and Derewecki said they had all 50 seats sold in just three weeks. Ron Stein of Stein Engraving and Framing in Newcomerstown made the plaques that are attached to each seat bearing the sponsor’s name.

The planetarium was also funded by a $75,000 matching grant which came from a cultural fund through the state of Ohio.

“We share this planetarium with the community,” said Derewecki. “One thing I am hoping for is to do public shows.”

Derewecki had a vision in 2013 to build a planetarium in Coshocton School District after the original one had been destroyed when Central Elementary was torn down. A committee was formed to help locate a place to house the project, and after looking at many options, a back room on the fourth floor of the high school was selected due to its size. It was the only room big enough to house a dome. However, the roof had to be raised 10 feet to get the dome in place.

“We originally didn’t consider this room because it had a sloped floor,” said Derewecki. “When we did consider it, we had to remove that slope, which had a cost to it. We started raising funds right away, asking the foundations mostly. We also had a GoFundMe account.”

The nine committee members originally estimated the project at $400,000. Through donations received, they were able to collect around $420,000. They are still collecting money to help pay for programs to bring to the planetarium. Depending on the program, they can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per program.

The construction started in July 2017 and Hathaway Construction was the main contractor. Elements that were sub-contracted mostly went to local businesses. Specialty Roofing Inc., Dave Unger, did the roof, Fischer Decorating provided the flooring, and Hilscher-Clarke did the electrical work. Frank Weaver, a graduate of Coshocton High School, was the architect.

“Chuck Hathaway, he and his crew, they did everything,” said Derewecki. “They knew the blueprints and the specifications. Just beginning to end, they handled everything. I give a lot of credit to Chuck and his company. I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.”

The main feature of the planetarium is the projector.

“As nice as all of this is for the school, the student’s main part is the projector,” said Derewecki. “That is what’s used to teach astronomy.”

The projector is the original projector purchased in 1962. The reason it is in such good condition is because there was a maintenance agreement between the school and the company where they came in once a year to clean the projector and replace any damaged parts.

“The original actually gives you a better view of the night sky than the newer ones,” said Derewecki. “Astronomy is kind of making a comeback, and planetariums are making a comeback. They’re putting a lot of it in the news. An awful lot of things are happening in astronomy today and it’s coming to the forefront and people are being made aware of these things and interested in these things, so we’re at the right time with the planetarium.”

The original planetarium was completed through a grant in the 1960s. The grant was written by Ron Cramblet, then the school principal.

“They were putting in a new science wing at the time and the planetarium was part of it,” said Derewecki.

Cramblet, along with Malcolm McQueen, physics and astrology teacher, became the first planetarium directors.

In addition to the projector itself, which features more than 2,000 pinprick holes that make up the night sky, the planetarium will also feature photographs of the night sky taken by local photographers as well as photos of the moon landing that were taken from the original negatives. These were donated by a local doctor whose father used to work for Kodak and had access to the original negatives.

The planetarium will also feature a brass telescope that’s from the 1800s and is the original telescope used by Coshocton High School students in the 1930s.

“Up until about 2002 or so, you couldn’t talk to a high school graduate who hadn’t been in the planetarium,” said Derewecki. “Now, those people are very interested in seeing their children going to the planetarium. I can’t tell you how many emails I have received from people who say they can’t wait to take their kids or grandkids to the planetarium. It really is a unique experience and it’s another thing for the community to enjoy. I’m anxious to show it off to everybody. I can’t wait to open it up to the community.”

The new planetarium programs are much different than how they functioned in the past. Students don’t go into a darkened room, listen to a 45-minute presentation, and then leave anymore. Now, after a brief segment, lights are brought up, students talk and take measurements, the lights are dimmed, and the process repeats itself. The programs now are more interactive.

Derewecki said it feels good to see his vision coming together at last.

“It’s not going to hit you until you start doing programs here and see the benefit the kids are getting and seeing the enjoyment on their faces,” he said. “I’m glad the school board agreed to go along with this project.”

Derewecki has high hopes for the planetarium.

“For one thing, I hope it increases the students’ interest in science,” he said. “Most of the elementary kids have never been to a planetarium. When they see this and the programs that we’re going to do, I hope it increases their interest in science. I want them to take science a step further in high school. I want them to enjoy science. When you’re in a classroom learning out of a book, it’s a bit dry. I hope this takes the dryness out of it.”

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Category: Education

About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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