Monroe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman said he will consider whether to let a homeschool basketball team use the old Monroe Academy gym for games when it is idle. Parents appealed to the Board of Education at its March 10 meeting after their initial request to the school system was denied.
Deedee Shaw of Forsyth said the teen-aged team includes 12 families. The team has had to drive to Warner Robins to rent a college gym for games. They practice in various church gyms. Shaw said they asked Robert Lindsey, Mary Persons athletic director, if they could use the old Monroe Academy gym because they understood that it was used less than other gyms owned by Monroe County Schools. Lindsey referred the request to Assistant Superintendent Jackson Daniel who denied it because they were not affiliated with a school staff member who would be at the gym during its use.
Shaw said the group has a staff member who has agreed to be on call, and the group is willing to pay a staff member in order to use the gym.
“We are just asking for our children to get consideration,” said Shaw. “We pay taxes in Monroe County.”
“We want to accommodate as many children as we can, but we have tons of different sports,” said Hickman. “Gyms are back ups for rain days. We don’t want to over-extend ourselves. We don’t want someone signed up and then our kids need it.”
Hickman said Monroe County Schools partners with the Monroe County Recreation Department to allow its teams to use the old Monroe Academy gym for practice and suggested Shaw and Hartman work with the Recreation Department about using its gym and its partnership with Monroe County Schools.
Shaw said the younger homeschooled children play on Recreation Department teams, but the Recreation Department doesn’t have anything available for the older youth. She said the team is used to practicing as late as 9 p.m. to work with the churches where they practice. She said they are also used to being flexible when the churches schedule other events and they have to change their practices. She said their season is only 10-12 games.
“We’re just asking for a time when the gym is not in use,” said Shaw.
“As a former coach, I’d hate to have it leased out and need it,” said Hickman.
Hickman then said he was worried about other groups in the county asking to use school facilities. He said when it isn’t a coach using the gym, someone from the school system has to open the gym and close it. He asked Shaw to give him a schedule of times the homeschool basketball team needs the gym. She said she would do so, but she is trying to fit in the school system’s schedule.
“Do we have a schedule for the Monroe Academy gym?” asked Board of Education member Greg Head.
Hickman said there is a schedule for the gym during basketball season and there are some activities when Mary Persons JROTC uses the old Monroe Academy gym.
“What if we schedule it and our team makes the playoffs?” said Hickman.
“We already work with that at the churches. We would never take it away from you if you have something come up,” said Shaw. “We were trying to fit in with your schedule.”
Head asked Shaw if the homeschool team/league has insurance. Shaw said yes, they are bonded.
“We can’t work it out tonight,” said board member J.P. Evans. “You get back with her and work out a schedule.”
Another parent, Ramona Hartman, then spoke briefly, introducing herself as a long time resident of Monroe County and noting her grandson is a 6th generation Monroe Countian. She reaffirmed that the team is bonded and has met all of the state requirements to be a legitimate organization.
“We just want a fair share,” said Hartman.
“The superintendent is in charge of facilities,” said BOE Chair Nolen Howard. “Let him look over it.”