School officials adjust facility-use policyBecause of what they deemed abuse of the system, Mitchell school officials have tightened controls on who can use school facilities during non-school hours.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
Because of what they deemed abuse of the system, Mitchell school officials have tightened controls on who can use school facilities during non-school hours.
A committee of administrators revised the policy earlier this summer with the approval of the Mitchell Board of Education. The old policy was established about seven years ago.
Mitchell High School Activities Director Geoff Gross said school district employees had been using facilities too liberally. Under the new policy, employees can use the facilities with their children but cannot bring other athletes in with them.
“We have issues with certain school members inviting a select group of people to private practices in our facilities,” Gross said. “It’s a ‘who knows who’ group, and it’s not a healthy environment for our students. We revised the policy now that I know about the issue.”
Gross declined to name any of the offenders.
Steve Jendersee, a coach for the Mitchell Magic traveling youth baseball team, said it’s likely that people won’t use the facilities because of the new fees.
“By them charging, they’re not going to get anyone to use it,” Jendersee said. “As far as I’m concerned, we pay taxes and I don’t think they should charge for that.
“Those facilities are used to get kids into the gym and off the streets. By taking the gyms away from the youth, they’re not hurting the teams. They’re hurting the kids.”
The use of school facilities for extra practice has long been commonplace. Former Mitchell Kernel and current NBA star Mike Miller used district gyms with his father Tom Miller, then a district staff member.
“Having access to a facility to put the time in was a great benefit,” Tom Miller said.
Gross said abuse of the system has grown in recent years. He said some people, unassociated with the high school or the Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department, which has a joint-use agreement with the school, used facilities without knowledge of proper officials.
“We had people sneaking in using the district facilities, and the school was at risk due to liability,” Gross said. “The custodial staff was put in awkward positions because they didn’t know if these people were supposed to be there. We don’t know how they were getting in there, but we just clarified the policy and made it clearer for everyone.”
Another reason for the revision was because the old policy left the issue of club programs unclear.
“The addition of the words ‘club teams’ was added into groups that will pay rental fees,” said Gross, referring to non-South Dakota High School Activities Association-sanctioned teams. “There was no policy that was in there to deal with them. Now if club teams want to rent a facility, they can.”
Some of the non-sanctioned teams in Mitchell that would have to pay rent for facilities include the spring baseball team, the fall fastpitch softball team, summer softball and baseball teams and the Mitchell Marlins hockey teams. Those teams have ties to the school district — their players can letter, for example — but are not SDHSAA-sanctioned.
Non-volunteer coaches for the district can practice with players any time a coach schedules an open gym. An open gym is a scheduled time that is open to all district students in a specific sport, gender or age group.
Open gyms have to be open to all eligible students by rules of the activities association, which allows club team members to participate in open gym if the athletes fall under the group holding the open gym.
Because of the joint-use agreement, Mitchell Parks and Recreation Department groups or teams can use the facilities for free but must schedule the facility ahead of time.
The district has no joint-use agreements with club programs. Under the revision, the policy says club teams can use the facilities but have to schedule and rent out the designated areas.
Some rental fees were also revised and were increased by 20-30 percent. The use of Joe Quintal Field for private groups was increased from $500 to $600 without the use of lights, and from $600 to $700 with the use of lights.
Gymnasium prices were not revised. The senior high upper gym, middle school wood floor gym and Longfellow Elementary gym are $225 to rent. All other district gyms are rented out for $100.
Facility rental prices are for three-hour time blocks and all renting of facilities must be approved by the administrator assigned to the requested facility.
“The intent is not to keep people out of the facilities, but they need to have accountability,” Gross said.