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Board may OK fields for Collins High School

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Sharing athletic complex reviewed as alternative

By Josh Moore

Members of the Shelby County Board of Education said on Wednesday that they want to keep their options open for athletic facilities at the new Martha Layne Collins High School.

But after a specially called work session to discuss those options, Superintendent James Neihof said he expects board members to vote next week to seek bids on a multipurpose stadium for football, soccer and track as well as game fields for softball and baseball for Shelby County’s new high school.

A motion was made at last Thursday's meeting for that purpose, but discussion about looking at other options tabled the vote. Members scheduled the work session to continue the discussion.

One option would be for baseball and sottball teams from Collins to share the  Shelby County Athletic Complex on Burks Branch Road with Shelby County High School and East and West Middle Schools. That facility has baseball, softball and soccer fields.

“What they asked me to show them was what would it look like if we shared game fields for baseball, softball and soccer,” Neihof said.

He presented the board with sample schedules for those three sports if both schools were to share the complex.

Neihof said those schedules showed it would be difficult to accomplish.

“We could make the practice work, but it was going to be very difficult for us if we had rainouts,” he said.

Neihof said members wanted to see what those options were in case the board decided it couldn't afford game fields at the new school.

The new fields would cost about $1,175,000.

He also presented board members with estimates for new practice fields that  might eventually be required if the schools were to share the complex.

“If that happens, we would clearly have to practice fields at both high schools,” Neihof said.

Practice fields at Shelby County High, and East and West middle schools are estimated at about $619.990 total.

Though members couldn't take any action at the work session, they agreed they wanted to see about the costs of new game fields at Collins and about the money they will have to spend before they make a final decision.

Member Sam Hinkle, who began the discussion about baseball and softball fields at last week's meeting, agreed with looking into the bid but said money should be spent with all students in mind.

“I really hope we keep in mind the big picture of student achievement in the county,” he said.

Pointing to bar graphs on the wall representing each schools' test scores over the past few years, Hinkle said that each year Shelby County schools get farther behind in their achievement goals.

“We need to spend money for our students to do better,” he said.

Neihof said he thinks board members are more comfortable with the proposal at Collins after Wednesday's meeting.

He said he expects the board to vote to accept bids for the stadium and new game fields at Collins.

And Neihof said he expects the board will be able to afford them once the bids come in.

“I feel confident we'll be able to afford game fields,” he said.