County hears proposal for auxiliary gym

By Allen Worrell

February 16, 2014

A new auxiliary gym at Carroll County High School would take care of many of the school’s current issues, school officials told the Carroll County Board of Supervisors Monday night.

Supervisor Bob Martin made a motion at the board’s November meeting last year for the county to do a feasibility study for an auxiliary gym at Woodlawn School. The motion failed 4-2, and since that time Martin had asked for the Carroll County School Board to make a presentation to supervisors about an auxiliary gym.

On Monday, Carroll County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Strader Blankenship told supervisors the discussion would be more than just about an auxiliary gym. Even with the renovations that began at CCHS three years ago, he said there are still four issues facing the high school. While new construction took care of safety and security inside the buildings, the movement of children between buildings during the day is still a major security concern, he said, referring to the new ninth grade wing on a different part of campus than the main building.

“We have about 300 who transfer between buildings out in the open, weather, cold, rain, whatever during the day, transferring between buildings and classes about five times during the day if you include lunch,” Blankenship said. “Particularly going by such a major highway, it is a security issue for us.”

Classes have to be delayed if there is a hard rain storm, he added, to keep students out of the weather. Additionally, CCHS now has 32 sports in which it participates.

“Having an opportunity for all our students to practice and participate in games or events is problematic in one gym with that many sports being participated in,” Blankenship said. “As you are aware, our wrestling program is actually being housed in the old Woodlawn building. We have no home for them.”

When the new construction took place, three new classrooms were carved out of the old library in the main building. Seven new classrooms were created in the new building for a total of 10 new classrooms. But with the addition of the ninth grade to CCHS adding over 300 new students, Blankenship said there are still classroom issues such as “traveling teachers” who have no classroom.

“They move about all day long, and that tends to cause class to start late because they have to get the room prepared before they start to teach,” he said.

And finally, there are handicap-accessibility issues, Blankenship said.

“When you are moving 300 kids between buildings, outside, it becomes an issue for handicapped students,” Blankenship said. “We had one student this year who was on crutches, and it was very problematic. We have more students on the way who are in wheelchairs and have various other physical handicaps.”

The high school does not have any handicapped-accessible restrooms in the area between the gym and auditorium, he said. The auditorium has a capacity of 900 people, while the gym has a capacity of 1,800 people. The men’s restroom has one stall and three urinals, while the female restroom has two stalls, Blankenship said.

“Neither one of them is handicapped accessible. I have been there twice this year when we had events going on at both the auditorium and gym at the same time, which is a capacity of about 2,700 if they are both full,” Blankenship said. “Those restrooms are woefully inadequate and they also are not handicapped accessible. It is also true our handicapped students cannot get to the second floor of the gym. There are some issues out there.”

Blankenship then went over a blueprint for a new proposed auxiliary gym at CCHS, which would also provide for additional restrooms and classrooms, as well as a covered hallway that would connect the old building to the new building of the high school. There would also a ramp for the old building that would add handicap accessibility.

“The hallway, of course, gives us security as well as gets kids out of elements,” Blankenship said.

The auxiliary gym would also include four classrooms, one of which could double as a wrestling room in the evenings. It would also add new men’s and women’s restrooms in the lobby between the gym and auditorium that would be handicap accessible. Blankenship said the proposal would solve all four issues facing the high school.

“It solves the handicapped issue, it solves the safety issue, getting kids out of the weather, and also off the street,” Blankenship said. “It also provides the auxiliary gym we need for our classes and sporting events, and also gives us more classrooms to use for our ninth grade students.”

Supervisor Tom Littrell asked if the auxiliary gym would take away the need for the high school’s programs to use the Woodlawn School gym.

“It would absolutely take away the need for Woodlawn with the possible exception of the outside ball fields,” Blankenship said.

Later in the meeting, Supervisor Bob Martin talked about the possibility of funding an auxiliary gym and a swimming pool complex together. He said estimates for an auxiliary gym are approximately $3.4 million.

“I can see feasibility of combining the two projects on the funding. If you took a swimming complex and put it on a pretty ready-to-go site such as Woodlawn, you avoid spending all of this hundreds of thousands of dollars on buying a piece of property,” Martin said. “At the same token you avoid a blue zillion dollars on grading because the county already owns that property. It would take zero grading or very little and it would settle the issue about what are we going to do with Woodlawn. So I throw it out that we do some soul searching. I think both of them are doable. I think it’s not going to go away. That might be the answer.”

Allen Worrell can be reached by calling (276) 728-7311 or on Twitter @AWorrellTCN.