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District 21 looks at reopening gym

Directors weigh costs of using old Chenowith Middle School facilities

— Gym space is in hot demand in The Dalles and North Wasco County School District 21 gyms have reached their limit, which is why the district is crunching numbers to see if the money can be found to reopen the Chenowith Middle School gym.

After Chenowith Middle School students began attending The Dalles Middle School when the two school districts combined, the gym was still used for sports practices. However, it was shut down for the 2011-2012 school year to save money.

Kyle Rosselle, athletic director, said last year it was common for a single gym to get used by four or five different groups in a day. A team would practice from 6 to 7:30 a.m. and then the gym would be used for physical education classes during the school day. Another team would practice from 4-6 p.m. and then a traveling team or Parks and Recreation group would use it from 6 to 8 p.m. Sometimes yet another group, like adult basketball, would begin practice at 8 p.m.

Director Carol Roderick requested the district look at reopening the Chenowith gym for the next year. Before the school board’s July 9 meeting she worked with facilities director Dennis Whitehouse to round up offers of labor and material donations and find a cheap solution to get running water into the building again so teams don’t have to use bottled water and portable toilets.

However, Whitehouse said the main issue with getting running water back into the buildings would be keeping the building heated even when not in use so that the pipes don’t freeze.

Randy Anderson, chief financial officer for the district, said in the past keeping the gym open but not having running water cost about $10,000 above the $2,500 the school costs the district when completely unused. He estimated it might cost about $3,000 more in utilities to have running water, although he said if the gym was closed in March when basketball

season was over the district could save some money on all utilities.

The board asked Superintendent Candy Armstrong if she had a recommendation, but she said at the moment she couldn’t recommend either way until she had concrete numbers and knew if there was a way to come up with the extra money.

“We could probably manage to find $10,000 but if we go beyond that I start to get very nervous because we are going to have unexpected things come up this year that we will have to pay for,” she said.

Director John Frederick said he felt this was an administrative decision instead of a board one, and Anderson pointed out that the school district had previously approved the Chenowith gym for District 21 sports team practices so a new motion was not needed. The directors agreed it would be a good idea for administrators to get solid numbers and try to find the money to reopen the gym without water and then later try to resolve the water issue.

First, however, they discussed possible revenue from the district’s current gyms. Whitehouse said all of the gym use was getting too expensive in terms of maintenance, cleanup, and coverage of the building. Some directors questioned why the costs to keep District 21 gyms open late at night and on Saturdays and Sundays weren’t covered by charging groups to use the gyms.

“It drives me crazy when I see our kids doubling and tripling up on practices … we really have got to start putting the community on notice that we have to start focusing on our kids,” Brian Stahl said.

Armstrong said District 21 activities always have first priority for the spaces. She said the district does charge a few groups, like adult basketball leagues, but most of the gym use is for groups like Parks and Recreation basketball camp, where more than 90 percent of the children participating are District 21 students.

She said if the board wanted to start charging everyone to use the facilities then they needed to sit down and work out an agreement over time because just flipping the switch at the last minute for this school year would cause a lot of ill will.

Director Robert Bissonette suggested holding some kind of bazaar or other fundraiser in the Chenowith gym. Whitehouse said a fundraiser would be better in some other venue because dragging tables and other equipment across the Chenowith floor would mean the district would need to pay to refinish the floor.

Frederick said if the community wants to have nice sports facilities, people have to be willing to support it financially.

“There are some very nice facilities in our conference that are very well maintained, but the whole community is involved and not just the school,” he said, referencing venues in places like Portland. “There is no reason we can’t have facilities just as nice as those other districts have.”


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