AC board ponders a new project

    Adams Central Community Schools is less than halfway through a $10 million construction and renovation project, but talk has begun about another large-scale plan: building an athletic building, dubbed a community center, for multi-purpose uses.
    At Tuesday's AC school board meeting, no decisions were made, but a lengthy and vigorous back-and-forth discussion ensued about the idea that could cost several million dollars. The board made no decisions because of concerns over the cost of another project so close to the current one.
    Board member Dave Fox opened by telling how impressive is Norwell middle school's gymnasium, which had five events going on when he visited it. The site has three basketball courts, a three-lane walking or jogging track, and bleachers, he said.
    "How sweet that would be," Fox said, to have extra space so athletes could spend gym time in afternoons instead of having to come back in evenings, as is the case at Adams Central.
    Superintendent Mike Pettibone said there has been greater growth in programs (athletic, physical education, weightlifting, etc.) than in student population and he made these additional points:
    • AC's Title I students are housed in rooms so small that he called them "closets."
    • Five Title I classes share one classroom.
    • There are no "test rooms."
    • The school has insufficient locker rooms.
    • The life skills class is beside the noisy weightlifting room.
    • The weight room is too small and causes safety hazards as free weights are used.
    • The main gym is only partly renovated, with new bleacher seats on the lower level, but old wooden seats on the upper level.
    • The high school band's flag corps has to go to the former Monmouth Elementary School, north of Decatur, to practice in its gym because AC lacks enough gym space.
    However, he said the move of the high school wrestling team's practice area from the physical education gym to the elementary gym has worked out well. The wrestling team moved because the PE gym will be converted into 15 temporary classrooms for students who will be displaced in 2011 as the 300 and 400 wings are torn down and replaced.
    Pettibone said the school board must take a long-term look.
    Board member Steve Maller said AC is "a good school with a great staff. The facilities aren't the best, but we aren't spoiled." As a result, he said, AC athletes work harder to improve their skills and abilities.
    Maller added, "Sometimes life is better if you have to struggle. You appreciate it more." At AC, he stated, everybody does well with what they have.
    Aaron McClure, the middle school principal and the boys' varsity basketball coach, said he does not know if having a new athletic facility will lead to more wins for the basketball team, but it would help third graders, for example, as they play Amateur Athletic Union ball.    McClure pointed out that people from outside AC come to the school to use its facilities.
    Michael Mosser, a teacher, the varsity football coach, and a weightlifting instructor, agreed with Pettibone that "we really have grown" in the number of programs and said the life skills class ought to meet somewhere else so the noise from the weightlifters does not disturb the students. Mosser did say the noise level has been reduced.
    He said he is using the PE gym in the time between when the wrestlers moved out and when the temporary classrooms are constructed.
    Mosser told the board, "We do need some space. All of our programs would benefit from that."
    He went on to say that the AC community wants to see the school's athletes be the best in every sport. Athletics, he said, "is an important part of the fabric of our community," while admitting that individual academic achievement remains the school's number one priority.
    Pettibone said someone once wrote that academics is the living room, but athletics is the front porch.
    Board president John Sipe suggested seeking donations from individuals, businesses, organizations, etc. so the least amount of school money would be used for such a project. He made the point that AC spent $1.3 million to redo its swimming pool.
    A community center, he said, could be used for basketball, baseball, softball, track, football, 4-H, running in bad weather, or even graduations, meetings, banquets, etc.
    Sipe even suggested a location for the structure: on the east side of the school, near the Adams County 4-H dining hall or perhaps in replacement of the dining hall.
    Board member Steve Bailey said he heard the 4-H board has some funds, so a cost-sharing arrangement might be reached to let 4-H to use the AC building, since 4-H already uses the school greatly during the annual 4-H Fair.
    Board members also praised several times the new South Adams facilities. Fox mentioned that the SA middle school has two gyms and Pettibone said the weight room is "10 times better" than AC's.
    Turning to finance, board member Brian Tonner compared AC's situation with his situation as a farmer and said, "I can only afford to do so much. I cannot buy into that mentality that we bond into it. It's just wrong."
    Tonner added that his taxes have gone up a lot and worried about others facing the same circumstances as he asked, "When do we, as a board, say we can't afford it?"
    Pettibone asked why any athletes should play in less than first-class facilities, to which Bailey replied, "Because that's the way the world is."