MORGAN -- Recent debate over how to spend $4 million in low-interest federal loan funds has the Morgan County School District looking to the future and identifying other construction needs.
District officials are considering using the $4 million to build either a competition gym or the combination of a smaller practice/auxiliary gym and a 25-bay district bus garage.
But while the board contemplates which option to pursue, other district facilities are left wanting.
Sections of Morgan High School built in 1965, including classrooms and the media center, are in dire need of attention, Superintendent Ken Adams said.
"That wing of the high school has deteriorated," he said. "We should have done the classrooms first because they're going to pot. Parts of the building are not going to last."
Plans to demolish the wing and replace it with parking, a new media center, future competition gym and locker rooms are already on the board's list of priorities to tackle in the next five years.
Another item on the priority list is construction of a third elementary school. District officials had contemplated seeking voter approval for a bond issue as early as 2012, but are now pushing that projection back.
However, district officials are pretty confident that the bond also would include plans for major improvements to the high school, Board Chairman Joey Skinner said. Depending on how the $4 million loan is spent, those improvements could include a competition gym.
Morgan High coaches are worried that if the district constructs a practice gym or other physical education facility with the loan, voters will not approve a future bond for a competition gym anytime soon.
"It is a valid concern that the people would not vote for a competition gym if there is a practice gym," Skinner said.
"There is a big need for a competition gym," coach Jim Wiscombe said. "No one (in 3A) has an older gym than us besides Judge Memorial."
When the district sought the Federal Qualified School Construction Bond, its application included using the funds to construct a physical education/athletic facility to relieve scheduling burdens at the school's sole gymnasium, as well as replace and relocate a deteriorating bus garage.
A cost estimate for a metal, 38,000-square-foot P.E./sports facility is $2.1 million, while a bus garage could cost $1 million plus the price of land. Construction estimates for a competition gym are coming in at "a little over" $4 million, Adams said.
District officials are soliciting help from the public to decide how to best spend the loan money.
"We are still in research mode, deciding the best thing to do," board president Joey Skinner said.
Part of that research included a recent work session with coaches, physical education instructors and bus garage personnel. At the work session, coaches said they would rather wait a number of years for a competition gym than build a sports facility now.
Construction of a competition gym may cost the district more than the approved $4 million loan. However, support is ramping up for the competition gym because present facilities are lacking.
"There is no question the high school would greatly benefit from such an edifice," Adams said. "Our winter teams need more area in which to train and compete. The present locker room facilities are crowded and inadequate."
A new competition gym could help alleviate another district problem: where to hold annual graduation ceremonies. With seating for 2,000, the new facility would easily accommodate graduation ceremonies that typically require seating for 1,000.
Constructing a competition gym, however, would mean no new bus garage.
Those responsible for busing students are quick to point out the deteriorating condition of the current bus garage -- including collapsing bays and falling-down doors -- and district officials are listening.
"The present bus garage and storage sheds are an eyesore along State Street, and they have surpassed their lifespan. The acreage is limiting and would not accommodate the future needs of the district," Adams said. "New buses are costing the district $125,000 each. We need to protect these expensive pieces of equipment."