COVINGTON — After building a new Covington PK-8 building and adding improvements to the high school to invest in academics, the discussion focused on potentially using available land for athletics at the special Covington Board of Education meeting on Monday.
The purpose of Monday’s meeting was to get community feedback on how to best use the land that will be available to the district after the Covington Elementary School (CES) and Covington Middle School (CMS) are demolished. There are also over 8 acres available to the district near the new building site.
“We’re very fortunate to have these available resources at this time,” Superintendent Gene Gooding said. “We own just about 9 acres of land just to the north of the new building … we’ve been talking about this for months.”
None of the ideas that Gooding and the board presented during Monday’s meeting are set in stone, but they discussed four different options they currently have for the 8 acres and CES site.
For the 8 acres, they mentioned possibly putting in three practice football fields. The second idea of having three youth baseball or softball diamonds was mentioned for that site as well.
For the CES site, they suggested they could have two practice football fields and a grass parking lot. The second suggestion of having one practice football field, one youth baseball or softball diamond, and a grass parking lot there was also mentioned.
“We’re one practice football field short,” Gooding said.
Covington schools lost that practice field to the creation of the new building.
Gooding later added, “We have to have a practice football field … That is our most pressing need as a school system right now.”
Gooding also mentioned that the board had discussed the possible expansion of Smith Field locker rooms. Gooding stated that the locker rooms would be used for more than football, but also for cross country, track, softball, baseball, and more.
“It’s going to take care of all of our outdoor sports,” Gooding said.
Project manager Steve Miller explained that they were discussing using grass parking lots instead of turning them into paved parking lots in order to avoid also adding a retention pond. There would also be the added expense of adding asphalt. Board member Alex Reck mentioned that a grass parking lot would also mean additional green space.
“It’s more do you like the schematics of the parking area,” board member Mark Miller said, telling the community not to worry right now if the parking area was grass or paved.
Community member Joe Speer discussed a desire for the board to have some park space.
“We don’t have any park on this end of town,” Speer said.
Speer stated that he has seen kids playing at the CES playground all of the time.
Both of the options that were mentioned for that site included keeping the existing playground equipment.
“I was hoping that whatever you decide, allocate a little green space for some equipment down there,” Speer said. “We’ve got nothing for kids down this way.”
In regard to the idea of having three baseball or softball diamonds, one community member stated that if they made those regulation high school diamond fields, the district could hold tournaments there.
“That could be a source of revenue for our sports program,” he said.
Community member Katie Hamilton asked about the Covington sports program going from having three gyms to two available to use. Gooding stated that it will require some “creative scheduling” for practices and they may have to bring a net down to create two separate spaces in one of the gyms.
Hamilton also asked how budget and zoning considerations “have been weighed into some of these plans.”
“I think we’re in phase one here,” Mark Miller said, which was getting community feedback. “We’re more interested in what would everybody like to see … We don’t want to put a budget to something people don’t support.”
As an example of what one plan would cost, Gooding stated that Steve Miller and he received an estimated cost of $170,000 to put in three practice football fields.
“We both believe it could be done cheaper than that,” Gooding said.
“I think we have to … spend our money wisely here,” Glen Hollopeter of the Buccs Boosters said.
Hollopeter said that the boosters would help with whatever plan is decided upon, but he reiterated that the board should be mindful of costs toward the district.
In regard to the final piece of available land to the district, there have been no plans as of yet for the CMS site.
“It’s the land nobody has a plan for,” Gooding said. He jokingly added, “Every kid in the hall tells me we need to build a town swimming pool here.”
Another community member asked about the possibility of selling the CMS land or any of the available land sites in general.
“We had some early developers come,” Reck said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of interest.”
Reck added that they are also not advertising, which could contribute to the lack of interest.
There were no final decisions made during the meeting. The board is planning on continuing discussions with interested parties.
The regular meeting of the Covington Board of Education will be held on Thursday, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at the board’s office at CMS, located at 25 N. Grant St. The board will honor Brad Hall for his 12 years of service on the board.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall