EHS comments on gym expansion proposal


Photo courtesy of Alice Adams.

Liza Duerholz, Editor-in-Chief

A proposal to reconstruct the Emmaus gymnasium sparked conversations amongst Emmaus students and faculty about the gym’s safety and functionality.

 During the March 7 school board meeting, the architecture firm KCBA Architects presented their findings in a “District-Wide Facilities Study” they conducted from June to September of this year. One of the large proposals they presented was switching the location of the gym and auditorium. The rebuild would expand the gym into the parking lot outside the current auditorium and give the auditorium direct access to the music suite. Currently, the gym is about 9,800 square feet and seats 760 people; the auditorium is 8,600 square feet and seats 750. With the new proposal, costing around $16 to $21 million, the gym would have 20,000 square feet and seat 2,500 and the auditorium would be 9,800 square feet and seat 900. The student body numbers around 2,800. 

On March 14, sophomore and member of JV basketball team Ashlyn Mugavero attended the board meeting to address her concerns regarding the immediate and long term concerns of the gymnasium. Mugavero’s efforts started as a school project, alongside sophomores Lane Bassett and Julie Murgitroyde when her teacher encouraged her to take it to the board. 

Concerns Mugavero addressed included: lack of seating for spectators, limited space on the bench for players, a bubble forming on the sidelines, and the slippery conditions of the floor. 

“When members of the girls team went to the boys basketball game, we had to sit on the steps. This becomes a major safety problem if an emergency were to come up,” Mugavero said during the March 7 board meeting. 

In response to Mugavero, superintendent Dr. Kristen Campbell referenced the facilities study for issues with size and took note of the immediate safety concerns. The bubble has since been removed. 

Boys basketball coach Steven Yoder believes a gym expansion is “overdue,” considering the current community population. Concerned with the size and condition of the gym floor, he does not know if the team can “continue to thrive” with its current state.

 “I would say we’ve had issues with that floor due to leaking in the main gym probably six to eight times. So, it’s been a challenge,” Yoder said. “We talk a lot about just focusing on what we can control. And whether we’re in the main gym or the aux gym, or we have to go over to Eyer or LMMS, or even play outside sometimes, it is what it is and we don’t make excuses.” 

Even with issues of size and flooding, Yoder and the team “make the best of it,” embracing the “homeliness” of their court. “Basketball is a great home court advantage,” Yoder said. “When you walk in the gym, it has a personal feel to it because it’s kind of quaint and small and it gets very loud.” 

Sophomore varsity player Will Barber shares a similar home court sentiment but believes a new gym would bring “a new vibe and energy” that would “motivate people.” “It’s small but we like it. Sometimes at practice, the court [is] slippery, but in games it’s fine… Sometimes when it rains, there’s a lot of leaks in the roof, so we have to use the aux gym… that’s only a couple of times a year,” Barber said. “I don’t really think it affects us, we just play how we play.” 

EPSD Facilities Director Steven Onushco sees the many logistics that go into a complete rebuild of the gym and auditorium. The priority of renovations first goes to adjustments involving the “most individuals” and the “least disruption to the daily learning environment.” 

“The reality is, any of the ideas in the facility study that include major construction would be several years–at least three years,” Onushco said. “This is a reflection of the administration wanting to have community and staff input first.” 

He believes discussions to gain this input could occur within the next few months. In terms of immediate concerns, Onushco plans to address the leakage issue by repairing the roof and floor. If the gym stays where it is, the school will “sand, strip, refinish, and re-strip the current floor.” 

“I don’t know if there’s been an ideal time to do it, but I don’t know if there ever is going to be an ideal time to do it,” Yoder said. “It’s probably time to sell the taxpayers on the fact that the students, and the school district in general, need an upgrade.”