JCHS To See Upgrades To Athletic Facilities: DOE, School Board & County Commission Strive For Gender Equity In Sports Programs

Jefferson County High School will soon see upgrades to their athletic facilities thanks to recent action taken by the School Board and the approval of funding from the Jefferson County Commission. For several months, the Jefferson County Department of Education and the Jefferson County School Board have searched for a means to provide equity in their sports programs. Shortly after the arrival of new Director of Schools Johnston parents of female student athletes brought to light the practice and playing conditions of the Lady Patriots Soccer and Lady Patriots Softball teams. Following a comprehensive look at the facilities available and the life span of those facilities Director Johnston began the process to bring a recommendation to the Board that would answer Title IX equity issues and provide a long term answer for athletic facility needs which also included a track upgrade. The Jefferson County High School Track team cannot currently host home meets due to the condition of the track. The Softball field has safety issues and the girl’s soccer team has to leave campus to practice at a location that has no restroom facilities, changing facilities or shelter.

Last week, Director Johnston brought a request before the Jefferson County Commission that allowed the School Board to access up to $2.4 million dollars in funding for a synthetic field ($745,000) which would allow the field to also become an additional practice field that would rotate between football and soccer, softball field ( $325,000), practice field ( $77,500), 8 lane track ( $875,000) which would allow the school to host state level meets and tennis court upgrades ($312,500). Initially, the facility plan passed the School Board on a 4-2 vote with Bradley and Fair in opposition. Bradley who had brought an unsuccessful amendment to the motion to approve that would have removed the tennis courts from the proposal, clarified his position and his support of the largest part of the proposal but desire to table the tennis court portion until later. Dr. Johnston stated that conversation with newly elected school board member Jarnigan pointed to this approval of the plan.

Funding for the project will come from several sources. Currently the School System has $2,428,331 in unassigned fund balance due to hefty roll over from the previous budget cycle, $200,000 in Capital Outlay funds, $737,508 from insurance payment and $214,688 from Capital Projects for a total available of $3,580,528. The Jefferson County Commission approved the funding with a 12-3 vote. Opposition votes came from Commissioners Byrd, Douglas and Solomon. The School Board will still have more than one million dollars unassigned in their fund balance to answer capital project needs in the schools.