The slow progress of the Alan B. Shepard science wing construction was an issue of concern at the Community High School District 218 board meeting Monday.
The project, originally planned for completion in early fall, hit a major delay this summer and may not be complete until spring due to poor soil conditions which were discovered when digging began for the new foundation. Superintendent John Byrne said initial soil samples indicated that the ground would have problems and funds were allotted for it in the budget but the extent of the problem was not foreseen.
“It looks like chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream,” Byrne said. “There is a silty, clay-like material that runs through the good soil on the property. We weren’t sure how much of it there was and we happened to hit a giant swirl of it when we started digging.”
Board members described the material as spongy clay, which absorbed and held the ground water, making the area difficult to build on. This situation caused a six-week delay in construction. Sump pumps and the sun were used to dewater and dry out the clay-filled soil
Byrne said he was happy that in the last two weeks the progress was “multiples better” than in previous weeks.
The main entrance and office reconstruction on the building’s first floor were not subject to as many delays and are still scheduled to be completed sometime in October.
Code of conduct tabled
The board voted to table the approval of the district’s new athletic code of conduct after receiving parental complaints that the document was not representative enough of the students it applies to.
The proposed code was penned this summer by the athletic directors from Shepard, Richards, and Eisenhower and lays out specific punishments to be given to athletes who fail to keep grades up or who are caught breaking the law or school rules. Some parents however, felt the writers of the policy did not have enough appreciation for the situations of some of the student athletes, particularly those of Hispanic and African American backgrounds, and requested the policy be reviewed and possibly amended with parental input.
This suggestion was supported by board member Johnny Holmes, who said “It’s common sense that people making rules for a diverse group should have to represent all the people they are serving.”
In addition to a select group of parents contributing to a revised document, Holmes suggested that one of the board members should be on the committee so the board would have more of a say than just voting to approve someone else’s ideas.
Among the other issues Holmes had with the proposed code was the possibility of students being subjected to “double jeopardy” because certain legal and behavioral offenses would fall under guidelines for punishment in both the student code of conduct and the athletic code of conduct.
Hypothetically, Holmes offered the example of a student caught stealing. Like all students he or she would receive a week-long suspension which would include the inability to participate in any school activities in that time, including athletic competitions.
However, if the student was an athlete, the athletic code of conduct might also require a three-game suspension for the same offense in which case both punishments would be carried out and the student would be forced to miss the week of school and three games (though would be required to attend practice once they returned to class). This, Holmes argued was putting more weight on athletes than other students and could be seen as unfair.
Other perceived problems of the proposed code were the ambiguity on if students would be held to it year round or only during their athletic season and the issue of coach accountability. Since a student could be punished for an ejection or unsportsmanlike conduct during a competition under the new code, it was suggested that some form of punishment also be laid out for coaches who are removed from a game since they are supposed to be role models for their athletes.
The board approved a request from Richards high school to place a plaque by the tennis courts in memory of Matthew Gavin. Gavin, who taught social studies and coached tennis and scholastic bowl for Richards, died in of cancer in the spring at the age of 32.