Education

Rock Hill study: $1.72 million needed for equitable high school athletic facilities

A new Rock Hill school district report recommends improvements to wrestling and other facilities at South Pointe High School.
A new Rock Hill school district report recommends improvements to wrestling and other facilities at South Pointe High School. bmccormick@heraldonline.com

Rock Hill school officials are considering spending $1.72 million to improve athletic facilities at the three high schools in the district’s quest for equity.

Under a proposal devised by school administrators, the district would renovate existing space at South Pointe High School into a wrestling room, install air conditioning in auxiliary gyms at Rock Hill and Northwestern high schools, and add bleachers and storage facilities at school athletic fields.

The money to pay for the work could come from the $110 million bond referendum voters approved in May. The five-year capital improvement program – the basis for the bond referendum – lists $1.5 million for “equitable capacity for athletic programs.” The effort has been on the district’s capital projects list since 2012, with a $2 million fieldhouse at South Pointe.

The school board heard the proposal Monday. No date for a decision was set. School board Chairman Jim Vining said he wants input from the schools, as well as a separate, board-appointed committee on equity, before making a decision.

The committee that drafted the report toured each of the three schools, said Anthony Cox, associate superintendent for administrative services. In general, the district has “excellent” athletic facilities, he said, with some “minor deficiencies” at South Pointe due to lower enrollment and the high school’s design.

“The schools are fairly equitable overall, a lot more than people realized,” Cox said. “We found some instances where we need to close the gap.”

The high school principals praised the district for its comprehensive study.

South Pointe Principal Al Leonard said using money originally envisioned for his school in other ways is a school board decision.

The proposal would give Rock Hill High “ a couple of things that are much needed such as the air conditioning of the auxiliary gym,” Principal Ozzie Ahl said. “There are a lot of activities held there.”

Air conditioning could be among the last projects, Cox said, as the school district would have to budget for an increase in its utility bill, about $25,000 annually.

Conversations about equity are “headed in the right direction,” Northwestern Principal James Blake said. Northwestern officials need to study the recommendations, he said, to make sure they align with the school’s priorities.

Equity among the three high schools has been an issue since South Pointe opened in 2005. South Pointe parents raised their concerns with Superintendent Kelly Pew, who hired a Greenville accounting firm to audit the activity funds at all three schools – from athletics to French clubs and high school yearbooks.

Accounting procedures at the schools were inconsistent, the firm found, and South Pointe has run deficits in its student activity accounts for several years. The school board voted in June to forgive 50 percent of the deficit and allow South Pointe to pay the rest over three years.

The report prompted a broader discussion of equity, and the school board created a 15-member committee – five members appointed by each high school’s School Improvement Council to get public opinion. The committee has yet to meet.

The district office also appointed the committee of administrators to study high school athletic facilities. Committee members were Cox; Brian Vaughan, director of facilities; Eddie Robinson, trades and construction manager; and James Wilhide, an architect and registered educational facilities planner for Moseley Architects of Charlotte.

The group analyzed athletic facilities for size, capacity and condition. Storage areas and concession stands also were evaluated for safety and space management. Indoor facilities were compared to a national average computed by a Baylor University professor. The committee adapted the professor’s methodology to evaluate outside facilities, Cox said.

The committee found some safety concerns, which the schools were asked to address immediately. They found that some of the storage spaces were not being well used and recommended the district spend $120,000 to buy heavy-duty shelving and a high-level storage system for each school.

The group also noted some concerns with concession areas, especially refrigeration and ice-making equipment that was kept running while empty and, in some instances, equipment that was not kept clean or sanitized.

Many of the proposed projects are designed to enhance the fan experience for springs sports. Among them were public restrooms and a concession stand at Northwestern’s soccer field and new “field support buildings” for Rock Hill softball and baseball and Northwestern baseball.

Improvements geared toward athletes include training room renovations at Northwestern and Rock Hill and a locker room for softball at South Pointe.

Don Worthington: 803-329-4066, @rhherald_donw

High school equity recommendations

Recommendations from the Rock Hill school district’s in-house committee to bring equity to high-school athletic facilities:

Northwestern

▪ New heating and air conditioning system for all auxiliary gyms and weight rooms – $200,000*

▪ Demolition of old stage training area, improvement to main training room – $45,000*

▪ Heavy-duty shelving, high-level storage system – $40,000*

▪ Replace field support building for baseball – $90,000

▪ Public restrooms, concession area for soccer – $75,000

▪ Bleachers at activity fields – $75,000*

▪ Renovate metal field support building – $10,000 *

Total cost: $535,000

Rock Hill

▪ New heating and air conditioning system for all auxiliary gyms and weight rooms – $200,000*

▪ Relocation and renovation of training area – $45,000*

▪ Heavy-duty shelving, high-level storage system – $40,000*

▪ Field support building for softball – $100,000

▪ Bleachers at activity fields – $75,000*

▪ Renovate metal field support building – $10,000*

Total cost: $470,000

South Pointe

▪ Create designated wrestling area by altering existing space – $65,000

▪ Increase storage area, relocate laundry, convert old laundry into coaches’ offices – $400,000

▪ Heavy-duty shelving, high-level storage system –$40,000*

▪ Locker room for softball – $75,000

▪ Renovate metal field support building – $10,000*

Total cost: $590,000

District Three Stadium

▪ New digital sign – $40,000

District Three Stadium South

▪ New digital sign – $40,000

Total cost

$1,725,000

* Project for two or three high schools. Cost is equally divided among affected schools.

Complete report

To read the committee’s athletic facilities report, go to www.rockhill.k12.sc.us/districtinformation/boardoftrustees/boardmeetinginformationpacket.

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