Tupelo School Board has begun a work session before today’s school board meeting. The session will focus on short- and long-term facilities plans and and on a safety and security audit the district recently completed.
Three board members are present, although board member Kenneth Wheeler is expected here shortly. The fifth spot on the board is currently vacant, following last month’s resignation of board president Beth Stone. Mayor Jason Shelton has not yet made a recommendation for Stone’s replacement.
Board Vice President Rob Hudson is presiding over this work session. The board will elect new officers during its regular meeting, which begins at noon. The board also will meet again at 5 p.m. today at Joyner. It will discuss its agenda at the noon meeting and vote at the 5 p.m. meeting. The 5 p.m. meeting also will have several student recognitions.
Wheeler has arrived.
Athletic Director Andy Schoggin will speak first and talk about athletic facilities for the district. He said many people look at the Clarion Ledger All Sports Award as a sign of athletic success and that TPSD has won it 18 times.
He said it is the district’s responsibility to provide the coaches the resources and facilities they need which helps lead to All Sports awards.
Schoggin is talking about facilities of other top programs in the state. He is mentioning those who have field turf on their football fields. He mentions that it would also allow the band to practice on the football field, rather than in a parking lot.
Schoggin is now making a proposal for field turf at Tupelo High School. It would use blue turf, which Schoggin called “A bold design.”
He said he and football coach Trent Hammond polled students and they heavily favored the blue design. It would have a blue field with golden end zones and sidelines. The track would be resurfaced and would also be gold.
He said Boise State University has a trademark on a blue field and has to give schools permission to have one and that they have given Tupelo permission.
“Without a doubt it is a bold design. I’d say it is a bold initiative also,” Schoggin said.
He said a project like this requires more than one person. They are working with an advisory board of community members and representatives of band, soccer and track, others who would benefit from it. He said they want to make sure this is what they actually need and talk about timelines. They have been designated a special project by the CREATE Foundation which allows people to contribute to it.
Schoggin said since 1992, Tupelo has added every sport available. He said estiamtes about 566 students use the football facility, a number that includes football, track, band and soccer. It does not include students who use it for PE classes, the intramural lacrosse team and a community football team that uses it on Saturdays. Schoggin said high school athletics and activities support academics.
Groups that financially support the new field turf could get their logo placed somewhere on the field (on the sideline maybe). Schoggin called it a “legacy panel” or “sponsor panel.”
Right now we have a very nice football field, but it is very underutilized…I’d love to see our band practicce on the field. I’d love to see our football team practice on it instead of going to a practice field or a parking lot. It is something that would be continually used,” he said.
The advisory board will meet after Thanksgiving holidays to put a plan together and put this in motion and talk about community sponsorship.
Board member Joe Babb asks about how long the turf would last. Schoggin said it has evolved. In 2006, the life was 8 years. Now it is 10 to 12. Maintenance is about $5,000 a year because there is no watering. The average for natural grass is about $40,000 a year for upkeep. He said for example, they recently had to pay $400 to re-line the field before the football playoff game. If there is a damaged area of the field, it can be replaced as a path. You can put some of the turf on top of the room of a field house so it ages at the same rate as the field and it wouldn’t stick out if patched to the field.
Hudson asks about cost.
Overall cost including rehabbing the track would be about $935,000. He would like to get about 12 sponsors, at $60,000 each for a panel the field. That would provide $720,000 in funding.
Schoggin said they would keep the practice field. They would use it for some days, maybe in the summer when the field turf is much hotter than the natural grass. He said they would keep the practice field but maintenance on it would be less.
Ambitious goal is that the field turf would be ready for August. Workers would need unencumbered access for six to seven weeks. Work would then start in mid May.
Loden notes that the school also hosts several big meets and regional events in track.
Hudson asks, if sponsorships don’t come through, how much would financially committing to this project hurt other possible projects.
Schoggin said the commitment to other projects is already there with the expansion of the baseball facility and the new track/cross county/ soccer field house being build under the football bleachers. He said this is a new project.
Hudson said he appreciates Schoggin’s confidence and belief in this project and he believes that will get other people to believe in it. He said the district has some time to find out how much it can get from sponsors.
Schoggin completed his presentation. Now TPSD Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon and Facilities Director Julie Hinds will talk about construction projects: past, current and future.
Past projects include the THS cafeteria, the TMS rubber floor gym, Milam updates and Carver renovation.
Dillon said he has seen many students use the new outdoor dining space at THS. They’ve also been able to host several events in the new indoor part.
The TMS rubber floor gym lingered into the school year but has now been completed. It includes a weight room and locker rooms. The rubber floor hadn’t been replaced since the original building and was very much needed, Dillon said.
Milam updates included floors, painting and adding some new lockers. One small wing has not been completed and they are working to complete that. It will keep same floor and color scheme.
He said with the new flooring at Carver, he’s heard it is more inviting. They also put in new perimeter fencing and working on some ground erosion issues.
The district also moved the curriculum team from the Hancock Center to Church Street school. They more recently moved the finance department there. The finance department had been using rented space at Frisco Park. Dillon said that Frisco Park and its owner Heyward Washburn (spelling?) treated the district very well.
Now Dillon is talking about the baseball field update. They made a new entrance to the field. They’ll keep concessions in the same building, but they added a new building for bathrooms. They’ve added perimeter fencing around the entire facility. “The baseball field itself is in great shape.” They will add clay for drainage and put a warning track all the way around for safety of the student athletes.
They put visitor stands on their own.
The next update is on the soccer/ cross country and track field house that will be built behind the home bleachers on the football field. It also will include new bathrooms.
There were some electrical and soil issues that pushed back the deadline but the goal is to have it complete by the end of December which will allow it to be used for the end of soccer and also for track season.
It will include a female dressing area and a male dressing area for all three sports when they were in season. Dillon said the coaches were excited and parents are excited.
Footing should be going up the end of this week or next week, weather permitting, Dillon said, and the process will move quickly after that.
Dillon will now move to current projects. Now he is talking about “guard tour cyber points.” These are different devices installed at the schools that security officers check into a different points of the day. The security officers log-in with a key when they pass these points. It allows the district to better monitor the patrols of the officers. They have been installed in some schools and others are being installed. The number for each school depends on how many “hot spots” were identified by the administrative team. The most is at Tupelo High, which has 43 cyber points. Most of the other schools have 8 to 10. Dillon said it is a way to hold people accountable and make sure we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.
The topic is now on future projects. Some will include safety and security updates. Now he will speak about school entrances. He notes the new entrance at Rankin Elementary and shows the entrances of Joyner, Lawndale and Lawhon.
Thomas Street and Pierce Street schools just have a canopy. The one at Thomas Street looks the same on the side as on the front. Dillon said he wants the buildings to be safe and secure and to make sure visitors know where they are going.
The district’s maintenance building is located behind Joyner School. They are running out of space there. They try to keep supplies there so they don’t have to go to the store every time. They are looking at new options for maintenance storage.
Dillon said in the event that pre-K continues to grow, the district is looking for where it could put those classes. They had explored expanding the ECEC and adding more classrooms, but bids came in much higher than expected.
Now reevaluating and trying to be the best steward of their money, they are looking at using Church Street if pre-K continues to grow. They have five available classrooms on the opposite end of the building of where the curriculum department is located. They would have to add a playground. Members of the curriculum department could serve as the site administrator.
Loden said this is a long-term plan because the state is just starting to talk about pre-K. But as momentum builds, Church Street would be an option if they could add more classrooms. They still have one room available at ECEC.
Hinds said the district has applied for a FEMA storm shelter grant. The grant would pay for 90 percent of the building and the district would pay for the rest. FEMA will know in January how much money it would have available to fund these grants. It could also be used as a gym. Tupelo listed several schools where it has most need and FEMA asked them to go back and reprioritize.
Schoggin said they are also exploring a small cross country trail that it can put on its campus. It may not be a full trail but would give the team somewhere else they could practice without having to get in their cars and leave campus.
The board’s work session has ended and the noon school board meeting is about to begin. I will live blog from it in a separate blog entry.