2009-05-30 / Top News

Summer Gymnasium Use Debated at Island School

By Jane Alexander

The public and some members of the Mackinac Island school board debated the idea of unlocking the school gymnasium in the summer for sports practice at a school board meeting Thursday, May 21. Ultimately, it was decided to limit use of the facility at the discretion of school coaches, but the board will revisit the issue at a June meeting.

Boys' basketball coach Jim Fisher requested access to the gymnasium this summer so members of the basketball team and local volunteers can practice.

Mr. Fisher spoke vehemently about his concerns that the outdoor court is insufficient for practice, saying the concrete makes players prematurely sore and that practice could only last until sundown.

Members of the board expressed concern for the security of the unlocked school and the messes left behind in the past, possibly from strangers wandering into the open building.

"We're not anti-recreation, but we have to protect our building," said school board vice president Jason St. Onge. "It's not the YMCA, it's not the rec center, it's not Turtle Park. It's our brand new, multi-million dollar facility that I just don't feel should be open to the general public."

Superintendent Roger Schrock suggested beginning a community action program, in which someone is hired for five hours a week to police the building during practices. Island businessman Ben Nye offered to conduct a fundraiser to help cover the costs of a new employee. Mr. St. Onge said he did not support allotting money to summer practices.

"I'm all for the student body using the facility and limiting it to them and their respective coaches, but no way can I sit here and say we're going to spend money to open up the gymnasium when there's another one on the other side of the brick wall that you can use for free, at will. And I can't speak on behalf of the city or the recreation budget, but I'm doubting the council would go for that."

Mr. St. Onge is also a member of the city council.

Part of the concern was centered around alumni helping the teams practice. Many times, too few students show up to practices to have enough players on each team, so alumni volunteer to fill the ranks. Members of the board worried over how to legally designate who may enter the gymnasium in the summer, besides current students or coaches.

Finally, the board decided to limit summertime gymnasium use to the student body, coaches, and alumni at the discretion of the coaches, and asked that other suggestions for gymnasium use be brought before the board at the June meeting.

"I'm in favor of gymnasium use," said school board president Ben Mosley. "The more that you can keep kids busy, the less trouble they're going to get into. I'm all about our kids, I just think that we need a plan to police it. We need a plan enacted before I'm really comfortable with it."

Also discussed at the meeting was a plan to formally recognize retiring kindergarten and first grade teacher Vicki Urman at next month's board meeting. Dr. Schrock added in his superintendent's update that Mrs. Urman was designated as the Mackinac Island School District Employee of the Year at the Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District Awards Dinner this month.

The personnel committee received more than 80 applications for the kindergarten/first grade teaching position, Dr. Schrock said. Job interviews will take place the first two weeks of June, and a hiring decision will be announced to the board by the June or July meeting.

Several flags will be added to those displayed in the gymnasium to incorporate the school's sports teams successes from the 1990s to the present.

Mathematics teacher Susan Bennett acknowledged four students for academic honors at the meeting. Meadow Greenlee and Dana Roguska, both in sixth grade, and eighth grade student Onaca Bennett scored in the top 10 language arts Michigan Educational Assessment Program scores in the Upper Peninsula, and senior Darcy Brodeur-Bunker was invited to the Principal's Luncheon for his grades and ACT scores.

The board also confirmed plans to allow the building and grounds committee to select a color for the new flat vinyl siding for the school's storage building and solicit bids for the project. Replacing the closures and hinges on the deteriorating elementary school doors is planned, as well.

After an inquiry by resident Richard Bolander, the board explained that the boys and girls basketball teams will be traveling to Put-In Bay, Ohio, in December and are considering asking several organizations to help raise money for a tour bus. The two schools alternate games, with the girls volleyball team playing here and the basketball teams playing in Ohio this year, and next year the basketball teams will play on Mackinac Island while the volleyball teams will play at Put-In Bay.

The school board will next meet Thursday, June 18, at 6 p.m. at the school.

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