School District Pursuing Additional Gym

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Addition To High School Would Cost $3.5-$4 Million

By Joe Foreman, Editor

 A $3.5 - $4 million auxiliary gymnasium being proposed for Glenwood Community High School was the focus of lengthy discussion at last Monday’s regular meeting of the Glenwood School Board following a power-point presentation by GCHS activities director Jeff Bissen.

Bissen’s presentation included diagrams and schedules showing current usage of gymnasiums throughout the district and how adding a second competition-size gym at the high school would benefit student athletes and their families.

One of the major selling points of the additional gym, Bissen said, is it would cut down on the number of students who have to participate in early morning or late evening practice sessions. This year, during the fall sports season, Bissen said high school students in cheerleading and dance team practiced in the high school gym at 6 a.m. This winter, the freshmen boys and girls basketball teams will be practicing at 6 a.m. and in some situations when the gym is needed for evening events, varsity basketball teams will be forced to practice early in the morning.

“Early morning practices make it tough on parents to get their freshman son or daughter to school by 5:45 a.m.,” Bissen stated in his presentation. “The addition of another gym would limit those practices and allow some of them to be after school in the fall or 6 p.m. A practice after school or later in the evening may increase the number of student-athletes who are able to participate due to no transportation at 5:45 a.m.

“Early morning practices take a toll on a student’s sleeping pattern which in turn affects their grades in the classroom.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Bissen said some student-athletes don’t get home until 8:30 p.m. because practice for junior varsity and varsity basketball often lasts until 8 p.m. 

Bissen said late evening practices reduce family time and potential study time.

Also, with teams practicing one after another in the late afternoon and evening, Bissen said athletes aren’t given the opportunity to stick around after practice to sharpen their personal skills like shooting jump shots or free throws.

Once basketball season starts, cheerleading and dance team often have their practices at the middle school or one of the elementary gyms. Drumline practices at 8 p.m. or 6:30 a.m. on basketball game days.

Bissen said the lack of open gym time also limits opportunities for youth and club athletic teams from the community that want to utilize the high school gym for practice or games.

Other benefits of having an additional gym, Bissen said, is it would allow Glenwood to host more girl/boy basketball doubleheaders and tournaments, eliminate the need to transport GCHS students to other schools for their practices and allow for an expanded wrestling and weight room.

Bissen said current space at GCHS allocated for the wrestling and weight room is “inadequate” and “maxed out.”

Glenwood Community School District Superintendent Devin Embray said the auxiliary gym would include a full-length basketball floor, seven or eight rows of bleachers on both sides of the court, a 3,000-square foot locker room area and 3,000-square foot wrestling and weight room area above the locker room.

Embray said the gym could be funded with revenue bonds through the district’s SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) dollars, which are currently being used for a variety of purposes, ranging from reducing existing bond issue debt to technology and building improvements. In recent years, SAVE funds have also been used for the purchase of bleachers, school bus radios, equipment for the music department, printing services and Internet expenses.

Embray said the district could allocate up to $350,000 per year toward the new gym without eliminating some of its current SAVE obligations and priorities. In order to keep the annual debt on the gym at $350,000 or lower, the district’s financing plan for the facility would have to be 12 years or longer. Embray pointed out a longer time period to retire debt on the gym would mean lower payments on an annual basis but higher interest costs in the long term.

Glenwood School Board president Theresa Romens said the auxiliary gymnasium, a science center and a freshman classroom wing were penciled in initially when construction plans for the $21.5 million high school were drawn up, but the district didn’t have enough money to include the additional items as part of the school’s opening in 2009.

“I think if we would have had the funds, we would have built it (gym) then,” Romens said. 

Romens said she believes GCHS athletic teams have made noticeable improvements since the new high school opened, but the additional gym space is needed.

“We’re not getting enough hours in our gym,” she said.

Embray and school board members have had informal discussions in recent months with representatives of the city of Glenwood about the potential of the locker room area of the new gym also serving as a shower and locker area for an outdoor swimming pool. Glenwood City Administrator Brian Kissel said last week a swimming pool committee is being formed and strong consideration is being given to building a pool on land adjacent to the site of the proposed gym. 

Embray said utilizing the locker room for swimming pool purposes would require an additional hallway to be built in the gymnasium building. The extra hallway, Embray said, would be paid for by the city and would have to be included in the gym project at the time construction plans are finalized. 

The school board is expected to make a decision on the auxiliary gym at its regular meeting in December after a letter has been sent to parents to solicit their thoughts on the issue. 

Embray said groundbreaking on the gym would likely take place in 2014 with the facility completed in time for the start of the 2015-2016 school year.