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Districts plan for athletics

In a little more than a year, three local sc\hool districts received millions of state dollars for the construction of new buildings and the renovation of old ones.

Thursday, September 02, 1999

In a little more than a year, three local sc\hool districts received millions of state dollars for the construction of new buildings and the renovation of old ones.

Currently, South Point School District is making plans for a campaign to receive funding for its schools this November.

But while this money will provide state-of-the-art schools, which will help the local school boards provide more educational opportunities for their students, it won’t move the current high school athletic facilities to the sites of the new schools.

"The School Facilities Commission does not provide state funding for the location of athletic facilities, so we will have local funding for the relocations," said Jerry McConnell, Fairland superintendent.

The Fairland School District received about $30 million from the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission in November after area residents approved a property tax levy to supply about a $4 million match. The money will be used to build a new high school and renovate the current high school into a junior high to house grades 6-8, the West building to house grades 3-5 and the East building to house kindergartners through second-graders.

Although no money was allotted for the creation of new athletic fields, local school officials said that athletics are a necessary part of a school, and the districts will try to build new facilities as soon as the funds become available.

"One of our goals has been to keep our athletic facilities close to our schools," McConnell said. "With the new building project, we have incorporated those athletic facilities in the plan."

Not all facilities will have to be relocated, however.

Fairland’s football field, football practice field, boys’ baseball field and track should be able to remain at their present locations, and be able to be shared between the new high school and new junior school, McConnell said.

But the new school, parking areas and a roadway will replace the girls’ softball field, he added.

"We will have the visiting Little League fields moved to another location and that will enable us to have our high school girls’ softball field," McConnell said. "We have plans designed for the new girls’ softball field. The athletic director and the coaches along with the board of education will pursue those plans."

The school district will be happy to see the completion of a new school gymnasium at the proposed high school, McConnell said.

"Our gym is small compared to newer gymnasiums in the county," he said. "Tentative plans for it will include the addition of locker facilities to the existing high school for when it is a middle school. The locker facilities have been totally inadequate for some time."

The Fairland High School gymnasium is also too small to offer proper seating at a basketball game, McConnell added.

"Several times throughout the basketball season our high school gym is definitely overcrowded," he said. "When presented with the plans at our last meeting, the board members were happy with the plans. The board was pleased that the building was large enough and that there was a good coordination between athletics and academics."

The new high school gymnasium will offer the possibility of more than 1,000 seats, which will be more than enough, McConnell said.

"Athletics at Fairland has always been utilized," McConnell said. "There has always been a lot of participation in our sports program. We are very successful in regards to academics. We are very proud of our students and their accomplishments. And, along with that, we are certainly proud of our athletic programs."

Rock Hill School District officials have already set aside $1 million for the construction of a new football field near their new high school.

Rock Hill voters approved a levy to provide $4 million to match $30 million to build a new high school and consolidated elementary school, as well as to renovate the current high school into a middle school.

"The long-term plan is to build a new football stadium and a new baseball field on the campus of the new schools," said Lloyd Evans, superintendent. "We hope to have everything together like a school campus area with all the schools and athletic fields and so on. But it is a little early to have very much detail on that right now, because the only thing we’ve really done is look at the site to see if those types of areas would fit on the site."

Currently, most of the athletic fields are located at the middle school, which will not even be used in the future, Evans said.

The new schools will be built on County Road 26, within walking distance of the current high school, he added.

"The girls’ softball field is across from the high school building," Evans said. "The boys’ baseball field is located at the middle school, so are the football field and the track. Only the football practice field and the band practice field are located behind the high school."

New athletic facilities have been needed in the school district for awhile, Evans added.

And the construction of a new stadium in the future is not just for the students, but also for the community, he said.

"Athletics are very important," Evans said. "The school is located within the community, and, when in a rural area, the sports programs are a very big part of community life. We have a great deal of team sports and a following. In fact, at the football game Saturday night, we played a considerable distance from here (West Liberty, W.Va.), and those people told us it was the largest crowd they ever had."

Hopefully, the school district will be able to build better facilities for the community soon after the new schools are completed, Evans said.

"We want to give the community a nice facility," he said. "And I also feel it is an important part of the kids’ education. I think they learn from cooperation, teamwork, working together, school spirit and community spirit. I think it builds character."

Receiving only $14 million in state funding and $2 million locally for the construction of a new middle school and the renovation of the current high school and elementary school, the Chesapeake School District will not have to change a thing about its athletic facilities, said Fred Wood Jr., superintendent.

"There will be no problem with access to our fields," Wood said. "The new school will be on the east end of our property, where our parking lot is at the existing middle school."

With all practice and playing fields located beside the school, the only concern for the district is the new gymnasium for basketball, Wood added.

"All we’re worried about is that we have enough seating," he said. "The Facilities Commission has given us enough money to provide adequate seating for all of our students."

The South Point School District is thinking ahead, even though board members haven’t picked out a piece of land for the district’s proposed new schools, and the community hasn’t passed the 4.84-mill bond levy, which would allow the district to build a new high school and consolidated elementary.

"We will definitely have to make better athletic facilities if we get new schools," said Rick Waggoner, superintendent. "But none of this money will be able to pay for this. We’ll have to wait. As soon as funds become available, we will be putting in new athletic facilities."

The district will eventually need new soccer, softball, baseball and football fields if the levy passes and a new high school is built, Waggoner added.

But the district is not too concerned with the improvements.

"No. 1 is building facilities and the educational aspect," Waggoner said. "That’s our priority. Then as funds become available we will improve our athletic facilities."

Waggoner thinks that finding money for the new facilities will be easy if area residents allow the district to build new schools.

"We’ll have less maintenance and there will be different ways we can save money. We will have some funds available. But it won’t be taken care of until after our No. 1 priority is taken care of."