A group of Freeman parents felt so strongly that students needed a bigger gym at the refurbished high school that they raised the $81,000 required to expand the building.
Construction on the high school is expected to start in late April or early May. In an effort to save money, the school district planned a gym with an 84-foot floor, the minimum allowed in regulations. “We tried to be very transparent with the community that we’ll build what we need, not what we want,” said Superintendent Sergio Hernandez.
“Nobody really caught on that our box wasn’t going to be big enough to accommodate a 94-foot floor for basketball,” said parent Tom Main. “There was a group of us that felt it was important for the district in the long run to have a floor that size.”
Most schools that build new gyms have 94-foot floors, which is the maximum allowed, said Main. Most regional and state tournaments are played on the larger floors and all District 81 schools have the larger floors. Making players practice on an 84-foot court and play on 94-foot courts creates problems with strategy and also with the conditioning of players, Main said.
“It’s an extra 5 feet between the three-point line and the half-court line,” he said. “You’re getting an extra 10 feet every trip. If you’re practicing all the time on an 84-foot floor, you’re not accustomed to covering that extra space. It can be a big difference.”
A larger gym will also seat more spectators and can be helpful in wrestling matches and at graduation. Having a big gym might also make the school eligible to host regional tournaments, Main said.
Main and other parents asked the school board in January if the gym could be expanded. The board told the parents that the gym could be expanded if it didn’t cost the district any extra money and didn’t delay the construction schedule, said Hernandez. “The group felt that a bigger gym would better serve the community,” he said.
The group was able to quickly raise $31,000 from other parents. In order to present a check to the school board right away, eight donors pledged the remaining amount on a short-term basis.
Main said there are plans to host a golf tournament and auction on Oct. 10 at the Circling Raven Golf Course to pay back the donors that fronted the extra $50,000.