School system reconsiders facility rental policy
by Kellen Moore
The policy, last revised in 2005, describes the process and fee structure for community groups or individuals who wish to use the elementary school buildings outside school hours. A separate policy was created earlier this year for Watauga High School.
After concerns arose with how the policy would be applied to nonprofit groups — particularly events such as the Boone Roundball Classic tournament — the board voted unanimously to table the matter until the next meeting.
Superintendent David Kafitz said the policy will be re-examined with more input from principals and others and may not come back to the board for several months.
“We’re going to take the entire policy back to the drawing board,” Kafitz said.
In previous years, how the policy was applied and who paid for facility use was “hit or miss,” Kafitz said.
The school system began reviewing the policy in an effort to ensure a fair process that safeguarded the school facilities and helped cover the additional personnel, cleaning and utility costs incurred by operating the buildings, he said.
At the Oct. 8 Board of
Education meeting, staff presented an overhaul of the policy that would charge separate usage fees
based on the type of user.
Under the proposal, school-affiliated groups, government agencies and nonprofits “devoted largely or entirely to educational/youth service purposes” would have paid no rental fees. Personnel charges for custodial, cafeteria or other staff could have been levied by the principals.
Other nonprofits not associated with educational or youth purposes, religious and political users would have paid $25 up to two hours, then $10 per hour per area, along with personnel charges if required.
Fee-related events such as athletics or arts events that charge admission, along with commercial users, would have paid $75 up to two hours, then $50 per hour per area afterward, the proposal stated.
Watauga County Parks and Recreation and Ensemble Stage would continue under existing contracts with the school system.
The proposal also included a contract that would require the facility user to have liability insurance and hold the school system harmless from any lawsuits that might arise.
At the meeting, Hardin Park teacher Andy Eggers raised several concerns —
not as a teacher, he said, but as a taxpayer and a supporter of youth athletic teams, scout groups and other activities.
He spoke about the value recreational events provide in improving fitness, morale and teamwork and said charging more for facility use could stifle those benefits.
“They’re having to pay already for tournaments, uniforms, travel, food — adding another cost to their plate could eliminate a lot of these teams,” Eggers said.
Blowing Rock Principal Patrick Sukow said he agreed with Eggers, adding that he would rather have youth using the gyms to practice a sport than out in the community with less positive activities to occupy their time.
Kafitz said this week that the board will have to determine how it deals with activities that are a community service but also profitable for organizers.
“Is it up to the public schools to let them come in and use our facility to make a living?” Kafitz said.
He stated that the school system’s goal was to recover only the costs of utilities and personnel time in unlocking the buildings and doing cleaning and maintenance outside normal hours.
“We are not trying to make any money off this whatsoever,” Kafitz said.
The policy is expected to be discussed at the Oct. 26 meeting of the policy committee, he said.
It probably will not return to the full board until December or January, after new school board members have been installed following the election, he said.
Visit http://bit.ly/facilityuseproposal to read the proposed policy change.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly conveyed comments made at the meeting by Andy Eggers. Although Eggers is a coordinator of the Boone Roundball Classic, he said his comments were intended not in reference to that specific tournament but about a variety of youth organizations that use school facilities, including travel basketball teams, Junior Olympic volleyball, Boy Scouts, track clubs and others.