New CHS auditorium proposed

Superintendent,principal say it’s needed

By:John Tredrea
   Hopewell Valley Superintendent of Schools Robert Sopko, Athletic Director Steve Timko and other officials say the basic needs of physical education classes and athletic teams at Central High School have far outstripped the capacity of the school to meet them.
   A new gymnasium, locker rooms plus office and storage space, for a total estimated cost of $3.15 million, would bring the school up to speed and keep it there for most of the next decade, and perhaps longer, they added.
   Expected to be voted on by the school board at its June 12 meeting is a package of school construction projects that includes the new gym and its support facilities.
   The new gymnasium would be 9,966 square feet, big enough for two physical education classes to be taught at the same time. The school also would continue to use its existing, 7,630-square-foot gym.
   The new gym would enable Central High to puts its physical education classes “in conformity with CEIFA (the state Comprehensive Educational Improvement Financing Act),” Dr. Sopko said. “Right now, we’re putting too many kids in PE (physical education) classes, in a gym that’s too small for them.”
   During the past few months, Dr. Sopko and other officials have stressed that having two teaching stations in the new gym would be a key factor in enabling the school to handle enrollment increases expected during the next decade. Always having two physical education classes in session would take substantial enrollment pressure off the rest of the building, is the reasoning behind this position. Having only one station has been considered, but it seems clear the school board has nixed that option, having cast straw poll votes against all plans that included it.
   Due to enrollment increases that already have taken place and the addition, over the years, of new interscholastic sports teams at the varsity, junior varsity and freshman level, finding places for practice, competition and storage has become an increasingly vexing problem, Mr. Timko said.
   Mr. Timko, Hopewell Valley’s athletic director for about 20 years, said practice sessions for Central High teams now stretch out until 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. They would end at least two hours earlier if the new gym were built, he said.
   In addition, the high school would be able to stop sending its wrestling team to Timberlane Middle School, and its boys freshman basketball team to Bear Tavern Elementary, for practice. This change would have the added benefit of freeing up space, now used by those teams, for Timberlane and Bear Tavern students and families, Mr. Timko said.
   With the new gym, the high school “could play a freshman boys and freshman girls basketball team at the same time, with limited seating (with the bleachers in the gym not fully extended away from the wall),” Mr. Timko said. Freshman and junior varsity wresting could also compete simultaneously, he said.
   The proposal expected to be voted on June 12 also includes new and renovated lockers for physical education students and athletic teams. “Of the 675 boys lockers we have now, only 275 are big enough for heavy duty equipment like pads and lacrosse sticks,” Mr. Timko said. “If you go into this area now, you’ll see this equipment left lying all over the floor, for lack of another place to put it.”
   In the new gym, a space of 6 feet would be left between the front row of bleachers and the basketball court’s out-of-bounds line. The space in the existing gym is 2 feet, which does not sit well with Dr. Sopko or Mr. Timko. “We think that’s a safety issue,” Dr. Sopko said.
   A routine aspect of basketball games is that players diving for loose balls sometimes land well over 2 feet beyond the out of bounds line. In the existing gym, this means they would land either on spectators or the bleachers.