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Students fight for planetarium

by Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer
Pioneer High School Senior Laura Dobson, 16, is rallying her classmates to help stop a plan to level the Fleishmann Planetarium in order to build a parking garage.
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Pioneer High School senior Laura Dobson is rallying her fellow students to support a heavenly cause.

When the 16-year-old learned of plans by the University of Nevada, Reno, to demolish Fleischmann Planetarium to make room for more parking, she decided to fight to save it.

“It’s such an educational center,” she said. “We don’t feel that one person alone should have the power to tear it down without the public’s opinion. It’s there for the public.”

She circulated signup sheets in her school’s seven classrooms, encouraging her peers to join the fight.

With two sheets returned by Wednesday morning, she had about 20 volunteers and was hopeful the remaining five classrooms at the Carson City alternative high school would engender more.

“I’m not sure who’s going to listen to a bunch of teenage students from a small high school,” Dobson said. “But we’re going to get out there, and we’re going to try.”

The first step, she said, will be to listen to both sides of the debate.

On Jan. 22, Robert Bruce from the planetarium will present the argument to preserve it until a new facility is built. Keith Johnson, UNR vice president of public relations, will present the university’s side Jan. 28. Dobson also plans to ask UNR President John Lilley, who will make the final decision, to speak to the students.

The school has planned a field trip to Reno in February to visit the planetarium and research its history.

University spokesman Pat McDonald said officials are considering demolishing the building at the north end of the campus in June to increase parking spaces for students, staff, visitors and special shows at the Lawlor Events Center.

“The university is always dealing with a parking problem,” he said. “We have nowhere to go. Whenever we have the chance to increase it, we want to do that.”

McDonald said university officials want to work with outside groups to build a facility to replace the planetarium if it is demolished.

Dobson and her classmates plan to circulate petitions and picket to protest the demolition of the planetarium before a replacement is constructed.