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Sports complexes proposed for 3 middle schools
Rec department to get shared use and help maintain the facilities
WJMS Athletic Master Plan.jpg
A rendering of the proposed athletic fields to be built at William James Middle School is shown. A similar complex is proposed for Langston Chapel and smaller-scaled facilities are planned for Southeast Bulloch Middle Schools. (Rendering courtesy Hussey Gay Bell)

Bulloch County Schools and Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation have a proposal to build outdoor athletic complexes at three middle schools and provide programming – including competitive sports – both to the students and their communities.

Langston Chapel Middle School, Southeast Bulloch Middle School and William James Middle School would get the new fields and other facilities. Portal Middle School, as part of Portal Middle High, would share in the expanded afternoon and evening programs using existing facilities there.

Paul Webb, the school system’s chief operations officer, led in unveiling the concept at last Thursday evening’s Board of Education meeting. A majority of Bulloch County voters last November approved a five-year extension of the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.  Requested by the schools’ principals and ranked high by a facilities committee in 2015 and the E-SPLOST committee in 2016, middle school athletic facilities are among nearly 100 projects slated for funding, he said.

“Some of those projects are going to impact a few schools, maybe a school, some students, some students to come, but there is not a project that is on the list of things to be funded by the E-SPLOST that has a more transformational possibility than what we’re going to talk to you about tonight,” Webb said.

He had help in the presentation from representatives of the engineering and architecture firm Hussey Gay Bell and the design company CHA Consulting. The design team first met with Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation Director Mike Rollins and Webb to develop the initial design. Then it was brought before the principals, athletic directors and some of the coaches from the three schools for their input, Webb said.

After some recommended changes, master plans were completed for each school’s athletic facilities, and from these a Phase I plan was proposed to be funded with the current E-SPLOST. Phase I is estimated to cost about $9 million.


Schools’ master plans

The master plan for the grounds of Langston Chapel Middle School would eventually add a stadium with a combination soccer field and high school-standard football field surrounded by an eight-lane, 400-meter track, plus two baseball fields and two softball fields in a “pinwheel” arrangement, eight tennis courts, two rectangular fields outside the stadium, restrooms and a concession stand, a netted batting tunnel, a storage building, a throwing field for track events and expanded parking.

The master plan for William James Middle School also includes a stadium with the same soccer, football and track features; also two baseball fields and two softball fields and eight tennis courts, and all the other same features as the LCMS complex. But at WJMS, one of the rectangular fields outside the stadium would be overlaid with a softball practice field, and a new entry drive and future gym expansion are listed.

Southeast Bulloch Middle School’s master plan includes far fewer features than the other two schools.’ This is because the BOE owns very little unoccupied land at the Southeast Bulloch site, Patrick Graham from CHA Consulting explained.

So at Southeast Bulloch Middle, the master plan calls for one competition baseball field, one competition softball field, two rectangular practice fields, a new entry drive and a concession and restrooms building.


First phase

The Southeast Bulloch project, which has a projected cost of $1.77 million, could be built entirely in Phase I, Graham said.

Although Phase I of the LCMS project is estimated to cost $3.11 million and Phase I of the WJMS project more than $4.18 million, these would not include all of the master plan features. At each of these two schools, four of the eight proposed tennis courts would be built in this phase. Neither the tracks nor any proposed lighting is shown as funded in the Phase I list.

Stadium features such as grandstands and a press box would wait for a second phase, as would the batting tunnels and additional rectangular fields. But some portable bleachers are included in Phase I for each school.



Webb’s assertion that the program has “transformational” potential is based on the idea that student participation in extracurricular activities, especially athletics, is associated with greater success in school, higher self-esteem and staying out of trouble. In his slide presentation, he noted several national studies supporting this.

He also shared 2017 participation counts in existing fall sports programs at the middle schools. With boys participating in football and girls in cheerleading and softball, his numbers suggest that fewer than 20 percent of boys and girls took part last fall, with participation lower for girls than for boys.

Through the year, the schools each have teams in football, cheerleading, basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, golf, tennis and track. But these three schools have very limited facilities other than their gyms, Webb said.

“Currently we bus many teams to the recreation department facilities for practice, and no competitions are held on campus at any of our middle schools,” he said.


Community effort

So, in an effort to reach more middle-schoolers and other young people, school officials are working with other organizations to design a program that will stretch beyond school hours.

“The vision is to build a multipurpose, multiagency complex for students, children and citizens in Bulloch County,” Webb said. “This partnership involves the Bulloch County school system, the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department, the GSU coaching-minor program and some other agencies that I’ve since been able to talk with that are very interested in coming aboard.”

The Georgia Southern University program of study he mentioned could be a source of college-student coaches. The “other agencies” include the Statesboro Police Department and Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, interested in officers volunteering with student athletes. Statesboro Chief of Police Mike Broadhead, like Parks and Recreation’s Rollins, attended the BOE meeting to show support but did not address the board.

Webb’s slide show suggested a daily schedule for use of the athletic complexes. The school would use them for educational purposes, such as physical education classes and outdoor classrooms, during school hours. From 3:30 until 5:45 p.m., each school could continue to use its athletic complex, including for school-sponsored sports.


‘Intercounty’ sports

“So here’s the concept,” Webb said. “We keep the school team for eighth-graders. Those teams continue to participate in the region competition just as they do now in all those sports. But for sixth- and seventh-graders, we create an intercounty program in all sports.”

Each school could have two to four teams that would practice each afternoon and then compete against other schools without ever having to leave Bulloch County, he said.

From 5:45 p.m. until 9 p.m., Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation would also get to use the complexes for youth and adult programs. This would result in less travel time for citizens who live near these schools, Webb suggested.

The complexes would be jointly maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department and the school system grounds crew, and Parks and Recreation will also provide equipment, he said.

The Board of Education was not asked to vote on the proposal last week, but is expected to vote next week on approval for the design team to create detailed design and construction documents.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


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