By Coty Kenneth
Meridian Times staff writer
Board members and staff gathered March 24 to discuss the past, present and future of athletics at Okemos High School. Athletic facilities and student-athlete development were the main talking points as the Athletic Director, Ira Childress addressed the board.
“Once I got my feet wet, I wanted to figure out if we had a plan for where Okemos athletics was going to be in the future,” said Childress. “After talking to a few people, it was evident that we did not.”
Okemos athletics has a bright future but the path at which it would follow was not as certain among the board.
“He (Ira Childress) is new to Okemos this school year and part of his role was to figure out where we are and where we are going,” said Superintendent Catherine Ash.
With hopes of making the future plan a collaborative effort, Childress created a committee. It is one that helps to shape the future of Okemos High School athletics. Comprised of 12 individuals, the Okemos Athletics Advisory Committee includes teachers, coaches, administration and boosters/parents.
“We have a large number of sports. We have sports that are not common among the other districts,” in the Capital Area Activities Conference, said board member Steve Vagnozzi. “We’re a microcosm of college sports.”
Facilities go hand in hand with sports teams but the quality of those at Okemos were of concern to the school board. The wrestling and weight room, the new outdoor track and a rubber gym floor will be happening in the near future.
“We all know that facilities are one of the biggest struggles within every school district,” said Childress. “Especially after this past winter we had, you realize how important those indoor facilities are. When all of the teams have to practice indoors, there has to be enough room.”
Last May, boosters purchased a new floor and curtain to turn the old wrestling room into a weight room but another problem came to the surface. For this space to be used as a multipurpose room, each time the wrestling team practices, all of the weights have to be removed. Childress said that while this is OK for the time being, it will soon become a problem.
“We could use the gym as a wrestlers space,” said Childress. “Rolling out the mats every night would become timely, but it can be done.”
The board was animated about the renovations.
“I am very excited about the improvements to the outdoor track and the rubber floor in the gym,” said Board President Amy Crites. “I am glad we can get those funds out of our sinking fund.”
Okemos’ sinking fund will be the main source that pays for these improvements. A sinking fund is defined as a fund established by an economic entity by setting aside revenue over a period of time to fund future capital expense. The money that has been put aside will fund the new outdoor track and the new gym floor.
Questions and concerns stirred among the board members once Childress completed his presentation. The opinion toward the importance of physical education was unanimous among the board as it to the next agenda item, the budget.