Merrimack Hall Center for Performing Arts triples class offerings for special needs children and adults

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Merrimack Hall Center for Performing Arts in Huntsville is wrapping up their first week of fall classes for students.

Things look very different there, since the school doubled the number of classes they offer children and adults with special needs.

The staff has been rearranging things inside their building to accommodate the new classes.

Essentially, the founder and her staff lost their offices to make room for new dance studios and other accommodations to bring the arts to people with special needs.

Right now, the center serves about 500 students from age three up to mid-30's.

The staff is committed to making room for anyone who wants to study there, since they always seem to have a waiting list.

"The demand is huge," said Debra Jenkins, founder of the Merrimack Hall.  "We have gone around for five years with a waiting list as long as my arm and I can't stand that.. to know that there are children and adults who want to be involved with us and we didn't have the room."

Now, Jenkins shares a huge room with a few other staffers who don't even have cubicles.

They had to give up their office space when the staff remodeled the center to make room for new dance studios.

Merrimack Hall tripled their class offering from 12 classes each week last school year to 23 this year.

And they've thought of everything.

"We're offering music, we're going to have a choir, we're having a theater class, yoga class, creative writing, a general fitness class, plus all of our dance classes, our visual arts program and our musical theater program for teenagers," said Jenkins.

While there are waiting lists for classes, Jenkins encourages families who want to be involved to call and inquire.

That's because if the center gets eight to ten students on a waiting list, they'll open up a new class.

If you're interested you can call them at 256-534-6455 or by email at

Jenkins says the center was able to expand and take on more classes because they cut down on the number of professional companies they bring in to raise money.

This year, they'll only have a Christmas show by a group in Birmingham.

All other performances will be done by Merrimack Hall students.

Some 260 volunteers come each week to teach and work with the students.