Share school buildings after hours
“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.
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.
Read more about The Gym at https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Gym-in-Harrisville/186076728151989
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 www.railwv.org/mullens_opportunity_center.htm .
Want to explore a possible joint use agreement?
- In 2015, the West Virginia legislature resolved some of the liability problem. See http://www.preventobesity.net/inside-track-march-19-a
- There are many sample joint use agreements on the Web. Here’s a good example: “Playing Smart: Maximizing the potential of school and community property through joint use agreements (Public Health Law and Policy).”
- Here’s a good one, with a variety of agreements, from Changelab Solutions:.
- “Clarifying liability for afterhours community use of school recreational facilities.” From Active Living Research.
- Active Living Research offers a variety of shared-use resources: http://activelivingresearch.org/active-living-topics
- The American Heart Association offers a detailed, practical toolkit you can use step by step. Includes sample legal agreements, fliers, postcards and other materials that can be adapted.
Have something to add to this page? Write it in “reply” below, with your contact info, in case we have questions.