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Rock Hill school board casts its eyes on athletic equity

James Wilhide, an architect and registered educational facilities planner for Moseley Architects of Charlotte, points out changes that could be made at South Pointe to school board members Helena Miller, Jane Sharp and Terry Hutchinson and South Pointe Athletic Director Michael Drummong (in back). The school board toured the three high schools Friday as it studies equity among the schools.
James Wilhide, an architect and registered educational facilities planner for Moseley Architects of Charlotte, points out changes that could be made at South Pointe to school board members Helena Miller, Jane Sharp and Terry Hutchinson and South Pointe Athletic Director Michael Drummong (in back). The school board toured the three high schools Friday as it studies equity among the schools. dworthington@heraldonline.com

The Rock Hill school board spent five hours Friday peering into all the forgotten corners – as well as the big public spaces – used by the system’s three high schools for athletics.

The board wanted to see how equitable facilities are among among the district’s three high schools. A recent district office study recommends spending $1.72 million on the three schools to achieve equity.

Included in the district’s plan is converting existing space at South Pointe High into a wrestling room, air conditioning for auxiliary gyms at Northwestern and Rock Hill high schools, and making storage improvements and adding bleachers at all three schools.

Board members said what became evident is that some of the equity questions are an issue of age – Rock Hill (which opened in 1979 on Springdale Road) and Northwestern (1971 on West Main Street) were built with almost the same plan and nearly at the same time, South Pointe (2005 on Neely Road) is the youngest – as well as changing needs in athletics, especially girls’ athletics.

No timetable for a decision has been set. The board wants input from the three schools as well as from a parent committee appointed to study the issue.

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Northwestern High School athletic director Lauren West, left, explains to the school board and administration the need to air condition its older gyms. The gyms often become too hot to use for classes, she said. DON WORTHINGTON dworthington@heraldonline.com

At Northwestern High

The biggest change that would improve facilities for all students at Northwestern is air conditioning for the smaller “auxiliary” gyms, said Northwestern’s athletic director, Lauren West. The lack of air conditioning often makes the gyms unusable for regular gym classes, she said.

West also said converting a mobile classroom into a locker room-storage facility for the girls’ softball team was a great idea that could be done to address space and locker-room needs elsewhere.

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Members of the Rock Hill School Board examine a classroom Friday that school and district officials want to convert in a practice area for the Stallions’ wrestling team. DON WORTHINGTON dworthington@heraldonline.com

At South Pointe High

South Pointe’s biggest need is finding a dedicated space for its wrestling team, said the school’s athletic director, Michael Drummond. Plans call for a classroom near the main gym to be converted into a practice space. The additional space would avoid “stacking of winter sports practices,” where several teams use the same space at different times. “That would mean our athletes would get home earlier. We have some practices that now end at 8 or 9 in the evening,” Drummond said.

Adding more windows to the baseball press box would allow the facility to also be used as a press box for softball.

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Members of the Bearcat defense pause during a team meeting Friday. Athletic officials want to turn this classroom in a training room for all athletic teams. DON WORTHINGTON dworthington@heraldonline.com

At Rock Hill High

Rock Hill has repurposed its athletic spaces several times to meet its needs. A recessed seating area in the first gym was turned into a wrestling practice room many years ago. The school weight room is the old auxiliary gym.

Rock Hill athletic officials now want to convert a classroom into a training room, giving all athletes easier access to the facility.

Rock Hill officials said their biggest need is outside practice fields which are used by students during the day as well as by teams after school. Installing synthetic turf at the soccer practice field has been suggested, but is likely too costly. New fields could be built on 24 acres the district owns adjacent to the high school. New fields are not part of the proposed $1.7 million equity proposal.

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Rock Hill School Board members Walter Brown, Ann Reid, Jim Vining, Jane Sharp and Helena Miller discuss Friday’s tour of athletic facilities during a stop at District Three Stadium. DON WORTHINGTON dworthington@heraldonline.com

District Three Stadium

The district’s equity funding plan proposes adding digital signs at District Three Stadium and District Three Stadium South (at South Pointe) to indicate who is playing there. School board members said there has been confusion in the past, particularly from visiting fans, over which of the two stadiums they need to be at. Current signs list the stadium name, but not the teams playing there.

The board also also toured the Rock House, a 1939 facility that was the site of dances during World War II. The rock building has been used for school district offices. The interior has been gutted and improvements to the building are a possibility in the board’s long-term capital improvement plan.

Don Worthington: 803-329-4066, @rhherald_donw

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