TURBEVILLE - Drastic cuts in educational funding have not only hurt poor school districts academically, but those same cuts have also caused athletic programs to suffer.
"Our athletic program does not take precedence over academics," said former …
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"Our athletic program does not take precedence over academics," said former East Clarendon High School Principal Dwayne Howell. "And it never has. We're proud of our academic program, but we're proud of our athletes, too."
Howell said the dressing rooms used today by the Wolverine girls' and boys' basketball teams as well as the visiting teams' dressing room were built in the mid-1950s with very little renovations done to those rooms during the past half century.
"Just look at our boys' dressing room," Howell said as he stood amid dozens of chairs and tables in what looked more like a storage room than a dressing room. "This is where our boys prepare for a game."
Howell said that before a Wolverine girls' basketball game, the team can get ready in the boys' dressing room but they'll need to walk through the gymnasium to get to the visitors' dressing room to use the restrooms.
"Our students don't dress for PE because we don't have dressing rooms," he added. "We have six teams that fight for space on this court, and we don't have anywhere for them to get dressed."
Howell said he knows the district is strapped for money with the cuts in education funding and the high costs of facility maintenance.
"The money simply isn't there to spend on those dressing rooms," he added. "That is why we're working to get those rooms repaired and functional through donations."
Howell and ECHS alumni Donald Hardy have teamed up to raise the money needed to get the dressing rooms repaired and renovated.
"We've had some big-name coaches come through those doors," Howell added. "We've had Dawn Staley and others. It's embarrassing to have them see the shape those dressing rooms are in now. It's critical that visitors see us at our best. We don't leave litter on the grounds. It's the same thing on the inside. "
Howell also added that while the gymnasium area was built for athletics, it's more than that to the Turbeville community.
"That gym is the place the community comes to for community events," Howell said. "It holds classes every period of the day, assemblies, career day, graduation and basketball and volleyball games, but it also holds dinners, veteran programs and events that bring the community together. When I was principal and we had career day in the gym, the PE teacher had to find somewhere else to hold class."
Howell said the gymnasium is also used as a shelter during weather emergencies.
"We have just one working shower in the nurse's office and three working showers in the weight room," Howell added. "What about those folks using the gym as a shelter? We don't have the necessary facilities."
Howell said he hopes that folks understand that he's not finding fault with the school district.
"They are doing all they can with the money they have," he said. "The students have helped take care of the dressing rooms, gym and schools, too."
The dressing rooms are in such poor condition that patching is no longer an option, Hardy added.
"We need to improve them," he said. "Where the money is going to come from is a dilemma, but it's an improvement that needs to be addressed before it gets even worse, if that's possible."
"We don't have any industry," he shared. "Our taxes are already high. The money from the school's Booster Club is great, but it helps with all athletics. We're just asking those in the community especially with ties to our school to donate what they can to help with this project."
"The size of the donation doesn't matter," Hardy added. "We want to do this for the school because the district doesn't have the funds to do it. No donation is too small."
According to how the money for the renovations and improvements comes in, Howell and Hardy agreed that the project may need to be done in stages with the first stage devoted to improving the boys' dressing room and adding a girls' dressing room nearby so that the present plumbing can be used for both areas.
"The best scenario economically would be to complete the projects at one time," Howell said. "But we'll see how that goes. Don't forget that the money you donate is tax deductible."
The donations can be made in memory of or in honor of an individual or individuals. Plaques noting these donations will be placed outside the dressing rooms.
Donations can be made by check. Make the check payable to Clarendon School District 3, and in the memo area write "for dressing room repair." The checks can be mailed to Laura Fleming, CSD3, Drawer 70, Turbeville SC 29162.
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