Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said the district’s Activities Director, Keith Cornell, and Community Education Director Mary Ellen Barthel have been approached about dome rental for next year. Specifically, they received inquiries as to whether the school district would allow dome rental after 6 p.m. on Wednesday evenings. This would go against current district policy 510, which states the district cannot rent classroom, field or facility space to any youth organization past 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. This policy has been in place since at least 2003.
The school board does not intend to look into any policy changes related to school-sponsored sports or activities on Wednesday evenings, but they have agreed to consider the possibility of renting facility space to outside youth organizations at that time. Foucault said there are several youth sports leagues, unaffiliated with the school district, who currently practice Wednesday evenings. Youth soccer, baseball, lacrosse and hockey already do, but they must travel to neighboring communities for facility space with the exception of hockey, since the rink is managed by the city of Albertville and Albertville does not have a restriction on Wednesday evening rentals. She said basketball has inquired about renting gym space Wednesday evenings in STMA because they cannot find space elsewhere.
Foucault said that continuing the ban on Wednesday evening facility rentals would cost the district an estimated $19,200 per year in dome rental fees between November and April alone. They could bring in additional revenue by renting other fields and gyms that evening.
She said 8 of the 10 Mississippi 8 conference schools allow Wednesday evening facility rental, with STMA and Princeton being the two who do not allow it. North Branch allows it for half of the year. The vast majority of metro-area districts also allow it, she said. Foucault said she’d like the board to consider changing the policy so they can do so, as well.
“These groups are already practicing Wednesday evenings,” Barthel said. “Right now they go to neighboring communities. If we won’t rent on Wednesday nights they have to go somewhere else.
We’re just hearing more and more [requests] and we’d hate to see them use our facility a couple days a week and have to go somewhere else just because we can’t do Wednesday nights,” Barthel added.
However, board chair Drew Scherber put the brakes on the conversation, saying the issue has come up in the past and was met with sizeable opposition from some community members, who wanted the evening reserved for religious education classes or for no activities.
“The room was filled, and I think we need to give those folks a chance to come back,” Scherber said. “This has been in place forever, and we need to give the community time to process this and give some feedback on this. There’s value in that.”