ST. PETERSBURG — There's a fresh coat of paint and new curtains in the St. Petersburg High auditorium.
Signs from last fall's fire, which caused water damage to the historic facility, are nearly gone.
Well, unless one spends a lot of time there, like members of the Thespian Troupe.
There are still a couple of curtains missing, some moldy spots on the carpet and bubbles underneath the carpet plastered below the stage, troupe members noted, details they hope will be taken care of by the time they stage Little Mary Sunshine in mid March.
"I'm sure it will be fixed," said Trish Grunz, the drama teacher. "There have been bumps in the road, but we're using it and the kids are at home."
A hot torch left by roofing company staff working on the auditorium on Aug. 31 caused the fire, said St. Petersburg High principal Al Bennett. The sprinklers that came on ruined the sound and lighting equipment and the projection room.
Repairs cost about $350,000, according to Pinellas County School District spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra. The district's insurance covers the majority of the cost; district officials are also seeking compensation from the roofing company.
While that is being worked out, school officials reopened the auditorium in December.
Since then, the facility has been used for several events, including the pinning ceremony for the International Baccalaureate students, said Susan Farias, assistant principal and IB coordinator.
"We really missed it," she said. "I didn't realize what an important part of the school it is until it's gone."
During the renovation, students were barred from entering the auditorium; there were clear plastic sheets hung over entrances, said thespians Luisa Laitano, a senior, and Stella Seeger, a junior.
The thespians hang out in the auditorium in the mornings, during lunch and after school, the girls said. Not being able to do that was tough.
"When they let us back here, it was a big day for us," Seeger said. "We had lunch together. It was amazing, it was exactly the way I remembered it."
"I know we're going to get it back eventually," Laitano said.