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Bond sought for new facilities

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Would Sulphur Springs be state football champions if Royse City Independent School District hadn’t built a multi-purpose indoor athletic facility three years ago?

The week before the Wildcats’ state semi-final showdown with Everman, howling winds and bitter, near-freezing temperatures made practice miserable and ineffective on the Sulphur Springs practice fields.

“We’d tried working out Tuesday in the cold and the wind. I really don’t know how much we got accomplished,” head coach Greg Owens said at the time.

But Royse City school officials agreed to let the Wildcats use their indoor facility on Wednesday.

“Because we weren’t concentrating on the weather, we could focus on football and we got a really good practice,” Owens said just two days before the Cat’s knocked off the Everman Bulldogs 47-34 at Texas Stadium.

The Wildcats would go on to win the state title the next week in a record-setting victory over Dayton — but not before practicing at another indoor facility at North Lamar ISD.

The state title was sweet, but having to ask permission from other districts to use their facilities left a somewhat bitter taste, recalled Sulphur Springs ISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton.

“It was embarrassing,” she said during a recent interview.

That would change if voters pass the $48.4 million bond proposal put forth by the SSISD school board.

The vast majority of the bond money would be used to build a new middle school on 53.39 acres south of Interstate 30, between State Highway 19 and County Road 1103. All third and fourth graders would be moved to the current middle school, and all first and second grade students would be housed at Travis, Lamar and Bowie schools. Plans also call for moving the alternative classrooms to the newest buildings at Austin Elementary School; the rest of that 70-year-old building would be closed.

Each of those proposals has raised at least some controversy, yet one of the more contentious issues about the bond proposal has been the suggestion to build a multi-use facility for extracurricular activities.

On Monday, for example, local resident Bob Burns addressed the SSISD school board, saying a multi-use facility was “not something essential to the day-to-day education of children,” pointing out that not all student participate in extracurricular programs while quite a few students participate in athletics, band and special programs, not all do.

The idea of a multi-use facility has been considered — and voted down before — and those who are currently opposed to building such a facility might be surprised to find that they once had an unlikely comrade — Superintendent Patsy Bolton.

“When folks started talking about this multi-purpose building, I thought, ‘That’s a lot of money, and I’m not sure we need to do that,” said Bolton. “We’re conservative. We’re going to squeeze every bit of the dollar here that we can, just like we would do if it were our own money.

“But the more I have heard about it, the more convinced I am that our kids need it, our kids deserve it, and I am 100 percent sold on it now. It will be used every period of the day and is something that our kids deserve just like anybody else does in any other districts,” she said.

The facility, if built, would not host athletic competitions. The cost of installing bleachers would raise the price significantly, as would complying with stricter city building codes.

But it would be available for every extracurricular program that involves the outdoors, from football to softball to marching band and drill teams.

“It can be used by elementary schools at the end of the year when they have field days,” Bolton added. “We also now are required to do physical fitness tests for all students, and that will be an excellent thing it can be used for.”

Several school districts in the area have built climate controlled facilities, but Bolton said SSISD officials see the need to keep down costs.

“It’s not like it’s a Cadillac of a building. It’s just a large, open building,” she said. “The large part of that — the field part — will not be air conditioned. It will have garage-type doors in different places that they can open up and utilize in all kinds of weather. In the winter, there will be some blower heaters, but that’s not nearly expensive as air conditioning.”

The facility would also expand the available space for dressing rooms, which are already crowded, Bolton said.

“Right now, in the field houses they’re using, they don’t have enough space for each student to have lockers, or separate dressing areas for different sports,” she said.

Building the facility would also allow Greg Owens to reassign existing spaces to allow the athletic facilities to be used more efficiently — for example, giving the trainers enough room to help more than one person at a time, and actually giving tennis players a place to change clothes.

“Go to other places and see what they are providing for their kids,” Bolton said. “Our kids are as deserving as anybody else’s.”




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