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Share school buildings after hours


Dozens of cars fill the Braxton County High School parking lot most week nights. On this night, college classes, childrens’ wrestling practice, basketball, zumba, and toning classes were taking place inside the building.


Braxton County High School prinicipal Dawn Dooley kept a calendar of events that take place in the building after school. “It’s pretty packed,” she said. (photo, Kate Long)

“After school’s over, the building becomes a beehive of community activity,” said Braxton County High School principal Dawn Dooley.

A local zumba teacher taught evening classes rent-free in a classroom. Down the hall, a toning teaching taught in a math classroom. In the gym, community volunteers coached young wrestlers.  Dance classes and college classes met in the central area.

All over the state, in towns with limited facilities, school buildings and other public buildings are making off-hours activities possible. “Shared-use agreements” of buildings with gyms and tracks help cash-strapped communities create more exercise opportunities.

  • Senior citizens walk the halls at the middle schools of Wirt and Wood counties when school’s not in session. Park Middle School even laid out a “track” through the halls.
  • Sutton officials found yoga and exercise teachers to offer classes at the town’s community building after hours. “People want those classes, so why not?” said J.L. Campbell, mayor.
  • In Clendenin, kids and parents use school playgrounds outside school hours.


    A community dance at the refurbished gym in Harrisburg is one o dozens of community events that take place every month. (photo, courtesy The Gym)

In Ritchie County, starting in 2010, Harrisville residents, all volunteers, turned abandoned, crumbling gym into an impressive community recreation center. “Volunteer labor was the only way our little town could afford a facility like this,” said Doug Jackson, a member of the Assembly of God church that spearheaded the project.

They call it “The Gym.” The Gym now has a fitness center, children’s romper room and party center.  There is a pitching machine and a golf simulation program. The Gym provides a home for a children’s basketball league.  The local Mini Football League and a children’s soccer league play on a leased adjacent field. They hold dozens of dances and other community events there.

“Lots of people pitch in, and I think we all feel kind of proud of ourselves,” Jackson said.


The Mullens Opportunity Center in a refurbished public school building offers workout equipment and other programs. “We’re doing our best to fight an epidemic of diabetes,” said coordinator Charlene Cook. (photo, Kate Long)

Read more about The Gym at


In Wyoming County, the Rural Appalachian Improvement League took over a closed school building. The Mullens Opportunity Center (MOC), the Diabetes Coalition and other community-minded groups have installed a community gym and weight-loss center that people can use at no charge.

“You’ve got to be creative when you’re looking for a place to put programs,” said program director Charlene Cook.” You can’t let limited space be an excuse.”

Read more about MOC at .



Want to explore a possible joint use agreement?



The after-school “Indoor Walking” plan for Jackson Middle School is posted throughout the school for those who want a safe place to walk in cold weather. (Photo, Kate Long)



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