Public demand is high for use of Morgan schools

Oct 20 2011 - 11:32pm

MORGAN -- While researching a new building-rental policy, Morgan County School Board members are learning district buildings are used by the public more than they thought.

"Things are coming out of the woodwork," Business Administrator D'Lynn Poll said. "We had no clue."

The district is prepping a new 46,000-square-foot physical education building for an early 2012 completion, and officials are expecting a flood of requests from the public for use of the building.

"We will be inundated with requests for the Trojan Center," board member Ken Durrant said. "I don't feel prepared."

In a county with few large public buildings, area schools are in high demand. The newest building in the district, Mountain Green Elementary, is the one most in demand. Principal Tom McFarland said he fields at least 15 requests for use of the building each month. Morgan Elementary gets three requests each month, while Morgan Middle School gets about 10.

Many of those who do the requesting were at a recent school board meeting.

"We would like to use school facilities," said Jeff Stokes, representing Morgan AYSO soccer league. "We feel we should be paying to use the fields, but we want it to be equitable."

Charging for use of the school could impact the Cub Scouting program, 20 members of a children's choir, 29 Girl Scout members, 40 community choir members, 60 community orchestra members, 122 children enrolled in a basketball club, and 550 kids enrolled in AYSO soccer.

"I didn't realize how much the buildings were being used by different groups," board member Jody Hipwell said.

The board is beginning discussion of a new policy that would govern public use of district buildings, including associated fees, such as a $16 lockup fee, to cover operational expenses. The board will hold a public work session to further discuss the policy at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the district offices, 240 E. Young St.

The board would like to more fully define commercial and noncommercial uses of public buildings.

"We can open buildings up to civic groups, but we have to cover the costs," Superintendent Ken Adams said, noting that charging for use of public buildings is a change that may be difficult in the Morgan community. "Change is always difficult."

"I don't want to subsidize someone making money," board member Bruce Galbraith said.

In the past, principals of each school have had the responsibility of approving public requests for use of the building. Many board members agree that in the future, that responsibility should be shifted from the district's four principals to a single person who can administer the new policy fairly to all four buildings.

"It's not fair to put (the responsibility) on a principal," Durrant said.

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