Rock Hill students won't be walking tight ropes in the trees anymore -- the district has permanently closed the challenge course it shares with the York County Baptist Association.
The course behind District Three Stadium on Constitution Boulevard includes high and low ropes activities and an alpine climbing tower.
"It's been a good thing," said Susan York, director of school climate. "I think our children have certainly been served well from the challenge course. ... But everything has a time, and it's just time to let this one go."
A combination of factors caused the district and the association to close the course.
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On the school district's end, participation has declined, it's hard to find and keep facilitators trained and it would be costly to replace equipment that is starting to age, York said.
In addition to declining participation, the Baptist Association did not want to pay a director to manage programs at the course, said Mike Wallace, mission development director for the organization.
The district and the association typically spent $1,500 to $2,000 a year to have the equipment inspected. Groups using the course paid the operating fees.
That cost is coupled with the fact that the school district appeared likely to have to start purchasing extra insurance to operate the course, said John Hair, associate superintendent of administrative services.
The course will be dismantled and either sold or thrown out, York said.
Right now, the space around it is used for parking during football games. No plans have been made to pave the area into a parking lot, but Hair said it definitely is a consideration. Winthrop University owns the land that has been used for parking in the past.
A safe risk
The vision for the challenge course came from Lynn Hathcock, then the substance abuse education coordinator for the school district, in 1992.
Hathcock said she saw the high ropes adventure as a way for students to take risks in a safe environment.
The Baptist Association helped bring in the alpine tower about 10 years later.
"It was used as an outdoor classroom to facilitate team-building skills and to let people see that all of us have all kinds of strengths," said Hathcock, now a counselor in the district's Rebound program. "Sometimes, our academic strengths are best shown hands-on."
Hathcock said she is sad to see te course go, but she understands why it needed to close.
Many of the team building and communication activities on the low ropes require little equipment and can be done at individual schools, York said. Hair also said the district is mulling over the possibility of relocating some low ropes equipment.
Part of the problem with participation was that testing in the spring made it increasingly difficult for teachers and students to spend a day outside the classroom, York said.
School groups used the course 32 times this school year, compared with 67 times last school year, said Larry Doggett, facilities manager for the Flexible Learning Center. However, last school year, the course was used in the fall and spring, and this school year it was used only during the fall.
Wallace said the Baptist Association only used the facility a handful of times last year. He said the course seemed like a fad, with lots of interest when it first opened but not so much anymore.
The school board honored course facilitators Monday night for their work.