Sparks is the only high school in the district that does not have a full-sized auxiliary gym. That presents challenges in itself, but the Rail City’s oldest high school, still gets some use out of its pint-sized secondary gym. It holds P.E. classes as well as some wrestling and dance team practices in the small gym.
In a perfect world, Sparks High coaches and administrators wished their campus had a full-sized secondary gym, preferably far enough away from the main gym that it would not need to be shut down during every renovation project. SHS AD Rob Kittrell noted that Wooster and Hug, two other older district schools have full-sized auxiliary gyms.
“We’d prefer to have an auxiliary gym like the rest of the schools have,” he said. “One we could actually hold a basketball practice in. But we know that’s not going to happen without us raising the money ourselves. You can even look at the district’s two other corridor schools, they both have usable auxiliary gyms. We ship our freshmen teams to the middle schools and we’ve been fortunate to use those.”
Still, in recent years, even hosting small team workouts or PE class in the Sparks’ small gym have become a challenge at times given the old school’s leaky roof. But those woes should be coming to end. School district maintenance crews are in the process of replacing the portion of roof that covers both of the school’s gyms as well as the locker rooms and hallways in between.
Kittrell estimated it has been more than 20 years since the roof was last replaced. He added that while the roof doesn’t seem to be leaky over the Railroaders’ main gym, it’s definitely outlived its usefulness.
“It’s just old. It’s time to be replaced,” Kittrell said. “It has leaked in our small gym and the hallways. We’ve been pretty fortunate.
“Everyone who uses the small gym seems to wind up catching the leaks pretty quick and we’ll throw a garbage can under it. A few years back when we had the heavy snow over Christmas break, the snow melted. The roof leaked and we had one corner of the auxiliary gym floor that got warped because we didn’t catch it in time. When you put garbage cans up to catch a leak or whatever, you have to work around it. That’s become a pain. You get by as best you can with what you’ve got. You can allow it to be a hindrance or you keep going.”
The leaky roof caused inconveniences, but now that it’s being fixed, it’s still causing hurdles for Sparks coaches and athletes. Due to the age of Sparks High, every remodeling or renovation project there forces school officials to shut down all or part of the school due to the dangers involved in asbestos removal. Thus, the school’s gyms are locked up and shut down for the summer while crews remove asbestos and replace the roof.
Sparks High’s boys basketball program is holding summer open gym workouts on the school’s outdoor asphalt courts.
Additionally, the Sparks High gym has windows high on its south wall that create very uncomfortable glares during some periods of the school day. Those were set to be replaced during a massive window upgrade project at the school last summer. However, that part of the project did not get finished. Kittrell said that the remainder of that replacement project is on the schedule for some time in the next five years, but the school’s veteran AD said it’s a catch 22 situation.
“I know it’s on the schedule to get done, but when they do that, that they’ll have to shut everything down. When that happens, our teams have nowhere to practice.
“It’s kind of a give and take. The last few summers we’ve been out of our gyms. We may get back in toward the end of July, but it’s frustrating our teams aren’t in the gym. They should be in there practicing. That’s the give and take of replacing anything here. The district is careful. We’re not supposed to punch a nail in the wall before someone comes to check it out.”
Kittrell knows when renovation projects like the roof replacement are finished, the school will be better off, but that does not make it any easier in the interim. Kittrell attended and graduated from SHS. He has taught there and is now an administrator there. It’s safe to say, he’s invested in the school. Now, he’s hoping to spur some interest in promoting more athletic improvements at the school.
“We’re under new leadership,” he said, alluding to the appointment of Kevin Carroll as the school’s new principal. “We’re going to sit down next week and talk about some stuff I’d like to see done in the future. Hopefully, we can start raising some funds and go from there. A couple things I’d like to see done are some improvements to our softball field and our weight room.”